The power of mentoring to support diversity, equity and inclusion within companies

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has proven to be a valuable organizational lever in many companies. The benefits are numerous, as explained by a group of experts in Forbes: better financial performance, increased capacity for innovation, a better sense of team belonging, more caring and collaborative teams, increased staff retention, etc.
The labour market is increasingly diverse, with workers of different ages, backgrounds, languages and genders. To support a changing world of work, companies need to build an inclusive culture.
Mentoring to support your EDI initiatives
A really interesting article published in 2016 by Harvard Business Review showed that mentoring is one of the most beneficial initiatives in an organization. Mentoring is based on a voluntary, free and confidential relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) shares their knowledge and expertise to help develop another person (the mentee) who wants to grow their skills and abilities. For example, there has been a significant improvement in gender equity in the workplace for organizations that have implemented mentoring. It has also been documented that mentoring increases the possibility of advancement of team members from under-represented groups. Research shows an increase in promotions and retention of minorities and women from 15% to 38%.
Why is it important? Mentoring makes it possible to develop meaningful links between people in EDI situations because it is based on an interpersonal relationship, based on respect and discovery of the other. The mentoring relationship is therefore not only focused on the development of skills, but also on the development of interpersonal skills and know-how.
In addition, mentoring increases contact between different groups, making the implementation of EDI initiatives more concrete. It develops both the under-represented and the more represented and is equally beneficial to mentors and mentees.
It also enhances the transmission of experience and knowledge between people with diverse profiles and naturally creates a lasting relational commitment, compared to the one-off aspect of several EDI interventions, such as diversity training or hiring policies.
An example of reverse mentoring to stimulate generational diversity
What might a use of EDI mentoring look like? My team at Elo Mentoring worked with Medtronic France, a world leader in medical technology, who needed a solution to facilitate intergenerational collaboration and management of the beginning and end of their team members’ careers. The company had identified reverse mentoring (mentoring where the mentors are younger than their mentees) as a way to support the older generation in their digital development while facilitating creativity, innovation and mutual support.
“If the aim of the program is to foster inclusion, this also includes the management team behind the initiative.”
Although familiar with technology and occasionally trained in digital skills, since the pandemic, some older workers have been confronted with issues related to remote work and the use of new technologies. Thus, these new ways of working have required change management for this specific group of employees.
Mentoring started as a six-month pilot project with 10 mentors and 10 mentees. This test phase allowed the project team to become familiar with the recruitment, training and coaching processes involved in a mentoring program, and to identify the tactics that work best and to recognize a need for a mentoring platform to facilitate participation by all. The pilot project has seen an acceleration of learning, an increase in the digital skills of senior employees, and even the innovative use of mentoring to help prepare for internal job interviews. As a result of this success, Medtronic was able to extend its mentoring programme to all of its employees throughout France, which represents more than 800 people.
Conditions for successful mentoring programmes in the context of EDI
As we’ve coached companies that wanted to use mentoring to support EDI, a few conditions for success seem essential. First, consider creating a diverse project team that reflects the goals of your mentoring program. If the aim of the program is to foster inclusion, this also includes the management team behind the initiative.
It is also important to train your mentoring program participants on mentoring and EDI. This will allow them to develop a mentoring relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and to understand the biases that may come into the relationship, so they know how to deal with these situations.
Next, it is recommended that you do a pilot project. This allows you to test a strategy on a small scale to see what works and what needs to be changed before launching your program more widely. To do this, refer to the performance indicators you selected at the beginning of the rollout and collect feedback from mentors and mentees.
Ready to get started?
EDI mentorship can be a powerful tool to create organizational change and support all employees. To help your organization get started, check out Elo’s free guide on the best practices to implement a successful mentoring program.
Ultimately, in today’s global marketplace, diversity initiatives are no longer just an asset, but a business imperative. Make virtual mentoring an integral part of your corporate culture. By following this path, your organization will have the opportunity to discover talent that may not have otherwise emerged, and establish an organizational culture that is naturally supported by lasting interpersonal relationships.
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