Meeting in a Box: Mentoring/Talent Development

September 26, 2013 6:11 pm

Meeting in a Box: Talent Development

This Meeting in a Box tool is designed for distribution to D&I staff, executive leadership council, HR leaders and business partners, and resource-group leaders. You may use portions of it or all of it. Each section is available as a separate PDF; you can forward the entire document or link to it on DiversityInc Best Practices; or you can print it out for employees who do not have Internet access.

This month, we are giving you information on how to implement successful talent-development and mentoring programs, including sponsorship, for people from underrepresented groups. We include best practices from DiversityInc Top 50 companies with demonstrable results in management promotions and retention.

Our research shows a key correlation between three initiatives and diversity in management demographics—mentoring/sponsorship, resource groups and authoritative diversity councils that set human-capital goals. For more details on these initiatives and case studies from companies doing this well, see our Web Seminar on Talent Development with Wells Fargo (No. 25 in the DiversityInc Top 50) and The Coca-Cola Company (No. 38).

[CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full Meeting in a Box, our diversity-management training and educational tool available only to Benchmarking customers and DiversityInc Best Practices subscribers.]

1. Mentoring/Sponsorship

The most important aspects of a successful mentoring program are that it be formal and cross-cultural, that mentors and mentees be given cultural-competence training, and that there be checkpoints and metrics to assess success.

  • Formal vs. Informal: All of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies now have formal mentoring (compared with 72 percent in 2005). They have learned that informal mentoring can’t be controlled and can lead to employees’ getting the wrong messages from disgruntled mentors. Formal mentoring means the company assigns and monitors pairs, creating cross-cultural (by race, ethnicity, gender, orientation and disability) pairings as much as possible to ensure bidirectional learning. It’s also important to reach the maximum number of managers so the program has significant impact.
  • Cultural-Competence Training: If mentors and mentees aren’t aware of pitfalls, as demonstrated in our popular “Things NOT to Say” series, they can inadvertently offend each other and torpedo the relationship.
  • Checkpoints and Metrics: Without metrics to assess success, your organization has no way to understand what is working and what is not or to make the case for more resources for the initiative. The most successful metrics are engagement, retention and promotions compared with those not participating in the program, broken down by race, ethnicity and gender.
  • Sponsorship: While you can’t assign protégés, companies increasingly are mandating that their senior executives must sponsor at least one high-potential from an underrepresented group, and linking that to the executives’ compensation.

Guided Questions for Staff

What percentage of your managers is your mentoring program reaching? Are you able to include virtual mentoring to reach managers in remote locations?
Assess whether your program has maximum impact or is just affecting a few people. If you have limited mentees, are you ensuring that those who are not invited to participate remain engaged?

How are you ensuring as many cross-cultural pairings as possible? What types of cultural-competence training are you offering mentors and mentees? What is your process if a mentor or mentee relationship isn’t working out?
Examine the racial/gender breakdown of your pairings and whether there is sufficient mix. Also factor in orientation and disability if possible. Assess the type of training you are offering and whether it is effectively eliminating cultural barriers. Examine the engagement, retention and promotion rates of mentees versus those who have not participated and share the results with senior management.

Have you considered sponsorship? If so, how are you encouraging your senior executives to find cross-cultural protégés?
Do your executives understand the difference between mentors and sponsors? Are you exposing them to high-potentials from underrepresented groups? Are you giving them a toolkit or guidelines on effective sponsorship as well as cultural-competence training?




2. Resource Groups

Almost all DiversityInc Top 50 companies use their resource groups to identify talent (externally and internally) and help develop leaders. The groups themselves offer a tremendous opportunity to cross-train people with new skills as well as to give them chances to work with other business units and have exposure to senior leadership, often through the executive sponsors.

The selection process for group leaders is important and should involve HR as well as the individual’s manager, to get buy-in. It is very difficult for employees to succeed as resource-group leaders unless they have support from their supervisors and are given sufficient workday time. Data correlations and interviews with leading companies show value in linking the employees’ performance in the resource group to performance reviews.

Guided Questions for Staff

How do you select your resource-group leaders? Does HR have a role? Are you limiting the group leadership to people who have already demonstrated leadership within the organization?
Resource-group leadership is critical to talent development. Having resource-group leaders meet periodically (four times a year is most common) with the CEO and senior team allows group leaders to develop confidence and contribute at a higher level.

Are you using your groups to help recruit new talent? Do they attend job fairs at colleges and professional organizations? Do they help on-board new employees?
Resource groups have proved invaluable at helping to engage new employees and make them comfortable in the corporate environment. They also help acculturate families and improve retention rates.

What type of training do you offer your resource-group leaders?
Are they gaining help in developing leadership skills and in understanding how to succeed in the corporate culture? Consider programs such as Kraft Foods’ JumpStart that address leadership and situational-awareness needs.

Resource Groups



3. Executive Diversity Council

To succeed at talent development, an organization needs business goals that are established and supported by senior executives. In the case of D&I initiatives, DiversityInc Top 50 companies increasingly set council goals to increase resource-group and formal-mentoring participation as well as to increase the diversity of managers and those in the pipeline to executive roles. Council members’ compensation is frequently tied to those goals being reached on an organizational and business-unit level.

Without accountability factors, set by an executive diversity council, organizations often treat diversity goals as “soft” and “the right thing to do” instead of valuable ways to improve the business. At more than half of the DiversityInc Top 50, the CEOs chair those councils, sending the message that the business imperative for diversity comes from the top.

Guided Questions for Staff

Do you have an executive diversity council? If so, is it chaired by your CEO?
How involved are your senior executives with your diversity initiatives? What kind of exposure do they have to high-potentials from underrepresented groups?

Does your council set human-capital goals?
If so, is executive compensation linked to those goals? How else are your executives evaluated on talent-development goals? If they are mentors or resource-group sponsors, are they accountable for mentees’ and groups’ successes?

Executive Diversity Councils


[CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full Meeting in a Box, our diversity-management training and educational tool available only to Benchmarking customers and DiversityInc Best Practices subscribers.]