Experts share four best practices for creating successful mentoring matches.
By Sheryl Estrada
Taking a page from online dating sites may seem an odd tactic for a large corporation to take when it comes to a mentoring program, but it’s just one of many successful strategies for creating the best mentoring matches.
Companies that are mentoring pros take an innovative and disciplined approach to mentoring programs and have integrated them with other diversity and inclusion initiatives, including employee resource groups.
Below are five best practices, and advice, that will provide guidance for your organization.
The insights were culled from a recent panel discussion at DiversityInc’s Top 50 event, and a video of learning session titled “Disciplined Mentoring Programs” can be seen here:
1. Tap into Employee Resource Groups
Effective employee resource groups can be a vital component of robust mentoring programs in turn advancing talent development objectives.
Daphanie Pointer, supplier diversity manager at Monsanto (No. 43) said members of Business Resource Networks (BRN) at the company are used as subject matter experts for the its innovative supplier mentoring program for certified diversity suppliers.
For example, BRN members lead the sessions for Monsanto’s environmental health and safety training conducted for its certified diversity suppliers.
“We’re tapping into our organization to look for these experts who have best practices to educate our suppliers, so they can grow their business, take this information back into their companies and expand,” Pointer said.
Employee resource groups at Abbott have enabled mentoring circles, which allows an employee to learn cross functionally, cross culturally and cross generationally, said Marlon Sullivan, divisional vice president of talent and development, Abbott Laboratories (No. 14 on the 2016 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity)
“We have millennials, we have baby boomers, we have all those in between and the power of learning is the diversity of those sitting around the table,” he said.
2. Mentees Should be Encouraged to Seek Mentors
Employees should feel empowered to initiate mentorships, Sullivan stressed.
“We’ve been able to create a technology program similar to Match.com, which allows employees to go out and look at individuals, their background, their experiences … it allows them to very quickly click a button and creates a formal introduction via email,” he said. “The mentor can say ‘I’d love to do it,’ or they can respectfully decline.”
“[Mentorships] can be extremely informal,” said Rosalia Thomas, director of human resources at IBM (No. 20) “You do not have to be identified as top talent with CEO potential, with ‘x’ number of years in [a certain] technology to be considered someone who is ready for a mentee-mentor relationship,” Thomas said.
She suggests to IBM employees, as early in their career as possible, to seek mentors. If you see someone you want to emulate, contact the person and tell he or she what you’d like to learn, she said. Thomas also offered that the mentor you choose doesn’t have to be from inside your company.
“Most human beings like to teach one another, you just have to create the opportunity,” she said.
3. Mentoring Programs Can Support Varied Company Programs
Applying lessons learned from successful mentoring programs to other company programs, such as recruitment and supplier diversity can be beneficial.
Pointer said that from a supplier diversity perspective, Monsanto is looking at its best practices from last year, and this year, implementing many lessons learned.
She offered the example of the company’s application process.
“Last year we used a different tool to have the suppliers apply for the program,” she said. “This year we’re using our e-procurement tool, and this is giving the suppliers an opportunity to use a tool that we actually use for our sourcing.
While, Sullivan said Abbott’s mentoring programs for entry-level employees has been helpful when recruiting on college campuses.
He said being able to “show that you have millennials who are actively working and engaged and excited about what Abbott does and about their longer term career” has enhanced the company’s brand.
4. Have Multiple Mentors Throughout Your Career
“You should have multiple mentors and they’re even more important once you get higher in your career,” said Thomas.
She was born in Cuba, and at 10-years-old her family came to the U.S. settling in Atlanta, Ga.
“When I joined the IBM Corporation at 21 years of age … I didn’t fit into the corporate environment because I didn’t experience the corporate environment growing up,” Thomas explained.
At IBM she said white males took her “under their wings,” and trained her, giving her “the right tools to be successful at [the company].”
Thomas commented that regardless of your nationality, skin tone, abilities or sexual orientation, human beings can learn from one another.