While most companies today would state that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a business priority, a gap in employee advancement persists. A recent Gartner survey of more than 100 HR leaders reveals that 88 percent feel their organization has not been effective at increasing diverse representation.
Underrepresented employees can face challenges in the workplace when it comes to inclusion and career advancement. To combat these gaps in DEI, many companies have taken to mentorship.
Why is mentorship training important?Mentorship has proven to be critical for the advancement of underrepresented employees. However, most people need a little guidance to embark on a productive mentoring relationship. Only 35 percent of organizations say a majority of the mentors in their organization are highly effective, according to HR.com's 2021 State of Coaching & Mentoring Report. Despite this reality, 53 percent of organizations don't provide formal training to their mentors.
Before your organization launches a mentoring program to advance DEI, it's important to ensure your mentoring participants are supported. Just as employees need support and guidance from their manager, mentors and mentees need the proper resources to be effective. With no direction or guidance, program participants are left to "wing it," which leaves the impact of your mentoring program up to chance.
What does effective mentorship training look like?Proper mentorship training provides a pathway to successful relationships and employee development. Therefore, it's essential to provide an ecosystem of resources that supports the mission of the program and the unique dynamics of your participants.
Giving your DEI program participants the resources they need to succeed from the jump allows them to take learning at their own pace. From courses and mentoring best practices to webinars from industry thought leaders and customized articles, robust training content gives participants a roadmap to decide what they want to get out of their mentorship training, making their learning more relevant and meaningful.
Research has shown that self-paced learning can lead to improvement in memory, performance, and knowledge retention. When participants have access to various modes of learning whenever they need it, they're given the option to take their mentoring initiatives into their own hands. Giving mentors and mentees these resources instill a sense of ownership and allows participants to continue developing as they progress through their mentoring relationship.
Only 21 percent of organizations say their mentors are highly effective at holding difficult conversations. When focusing a mentoring program around your DEI strategy, it's important not to shy away from preparing your participants to discuss these issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and beyond.
Giving your mentors and mentees customized resources to tackle these sensitive conversations is imperative to the success of your DEI initiative. With custom content intended for specific use cases, organizations can present applicable context for their program participants. Let's look at another example.
Let's assume your organization is leveraging a reverse mentoring format (junior team member mentoring exchanging skills, knowledge, and understanding with a senior member) to improve Black employees' retention while also building empathy and understanding across generations and demographics. The needs of this mentoring relationship are quite different than if the format were the other way around – so should be the training materials.
Training curriculum and resources that better speak to and guide this relationship allows the mentor to easily relate the training to their mentoring tasks and milestones, leading to more productive mentoring and outcomes.
A major challenge in business today is to drive learning that delivers lasting impact. Many companies waste tons of time, effort and money on training budgets in which learning never gets applied to the job. That begs the question, how do you gauge whether learning materials are being retained and/or demonstrated in the workforce?
According to SurveyMonkey, many employees want their employers to develop a comprehensive learning plan with each employee and provide continuous learning programs.
When organizations truly champion DEI, they're advocating for a continuous learning culture. As part of mentorship training, knowledge assessments should be a constant cycle of courses, quizzes, and open discussions to make learning a key part of the organization.
Whether it's quizzing participants on understanding of an article or having them complete Harvard University's Implicit Association Test to determine unconscious biases, knowledge assessment is a vital part of mentorship training to help mentors and mentees strengthen their mentoring capabilities and recognize areas for improvement within themselves and their organizations.
Mentoring is a main conduit for support and knowledge transfer and drives a culture of empathy and belonging. By developing a tailored mentorship training strategy, organizations can increase the likelihood of program success and ensure quality control and intentionality across the company.