How to Improve Diversity and Inclusion with Reverse Mentoring

1 minutes

It’s natural that companies want their employees to feel nurtured, valued and supported. But it’s only a successful effort if everybody is feeling that way.

A diverse and inclusive organisation is therefore one that employs and equally supports people of all genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, ages, backgrounds, appearances, and languages.

There are many ways companies can be actively improving their inclusivity in order to achieve a truly diverse workplace. One of those ways is by using mentoring for diversity and inclusion.

The benefits of mentoring are extensive. But by utilising mentoring for diversity and inclusion, you can make a deeper impact. In this guide, we’ll talk you through how mentoring can support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and provide some tips from our learnings here at Guider.

But first…

Why is diversity and inclusion important?

Everybody navigates the world differently. Our characteristics – both physical and personal – affect the way we experience life, resulting in a vast range of perspectives.

In order to best understand anything (be it a problem, a method, or an experience) we need to have as many of these perspectives involved as possible.

Seems intuitive doesn’t it?

Unfortunately not. When managers were asked for factors stopping them implementing diversity, many quoted the worry that too many differing opinions would hamper productivity.

When the reality is, diversity in organisations has been proven time and time again to have a positive impact on innovation and success. When it comes to decision making, diverse teams outperform both individual and non-diverse teams, making better business decisions every time.

Naturally, this positively affects the bottom line. A study by BCG found that companies with diverse management teams make 19% more revenue, showing how D&I is not limited to an HR goal, but is ultimately good for the economy.

We’ve written another handy guide on Racial Diversity in the Workplace, which includes actionable tips for businesses to step up and tackle systemic racial inequality.

What is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that diversity and inclusion are different things:

  • Diversity is the goal for a workforce to be made up of a broad variety of people.
  • Inclusion is a method to ensure everybody is equally factored into that group.

So, despite diversity and inclusion being grouped together, the way to tackle these issues can actually be contradictory.

For example, if you’re looking to run a mentoring program to increase diversity, you may select a particular minority group and pair individuals in that group with mentors in order to achieve a goal. However, this will not be inclusive if you only make the program available to that one group.

This is something to be aware of before you group them together and set up a ‘Diversity and Inclusion Mentoring Program’.

11 Examples of inclusion

What does inclusion look like in real-life? Here are 11 examples of inclusive behaviours at work in action:

  1. Make sure everyone is heard. Noticed someone was interrupted in a meeting? Actively direct the attention back to that person to give them the chance to finish speaking.
  2. Create a collaborative environment in which everyone can contribute ideas.
  3. Set-up pronoun options on your company communications tools.
  4. Make sure everyone has the chance to speak in meetings by actively inviting them to talk.
  5. Allow people to select their best ways of working for example 1:1 meetings or a quiet environment for working.
  6. Practice active listening with your colleagues.
  7. Focus on fostering psychological safety where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
  8. Openly give credit for ideas and success to the correct person.
  9. Create channels for open feedback that go both ways.
  10. Provide non-alcoholic drinks options at company socials as well as food options that take into account dietary needs..
  11. Implement a bank holiday exchange scheme that means people can celebrate the religious holiday of their choice each year.

What is equity and equality in the workplace?

Another pair of key terms is equity and equality. With diversity, equity and inclusion or diversity, equality and inclusion often grouped together you may wonder what these words mean.

  • Equality means giving everyone the same opportunities and resources.
  • Equity means allocating opportunities and resources so that everyone can achieve the same outcome.

As you can see, these two terms are similar but not the same. Aiming for equity will mean paying greater attention to the way that you allocate your time and resources. This accounts for the systemic inequalities and barriers that exist that cannot be overcome with the same resources.

Find out more about the benefits of embedding mentoring in your diversity and inclusion initiatives with Guider.

How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace through mentoring

Workplace mentoring programs are a great way to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. As we’ve outlined, there are differences between the key terms, so the way you approach setting up your programs will differ depending on who you are trying to support.

Let’s look at some examples:

Mentoring for Diversity – aka Reverse Mentoring

The aim of mentoring programs for diversity is to support and empower minority employees in their career progression, developing their skills and network to increase leadership succession.

This typically involves pairing high potential employees from minority groups, with senior management level employees to diversify the talent pipeline within organisations. This is known as reverse mentoring for diversity and inclusion. The other types of mentoring an be used for diversity mentorship programs too, but reverse mentoring is often the most common.

As with starting any mentoring program, businesses looking to implement a diversity mentoring program must first outline the goals. Try and be more specific here than just ‘fostering a culture of diversity’ – perhaps you’re looking to increase employee retention within a minority group, or encourage more black women into leadership roles. Whatever the goal is, define it before starting and understand how you will measure success.

Depending on the goal, size of organisation, and current diversity status, the way the program is set up will differ. In order to avoid the contradiction of a highly-exclusive diversity program, you can make it open but prioritise the under-represented groups that it is aimed to support.

For a full step by step guide to setting up a mentoring program, check out our full guide:

Read our guide: How To Start A Mentoring Program

Mentoring programs for inclusion

Alongside a tailored diversity mentoring program, HR and L&D teams can also run mentoring programs supporting a culture of inclusion. You can utilise your employee resource groups (ERGs) to promote and recruit participants to your program.

A good example of where mentoring for inclusion can have a real impact is age discrimination within the tech industry. 41% of IT and tech workers have witnessed age discrimination in the workplace, and 32% fear losing their roles due to ageism.

In this case, a number of companies have seen great success from reverse mentoring. Younger employees mentoring older employees and supporting them in their learning of digital skills can be hugely beneficial to everyone involved.

In this kind of mentorship, the younger employee will naturally also learn a lot, creating an inclusive culture of learning and development.

By making mentoring an integral part of your company culture, you will naturally foster the sharing of knowledge, aspiration and development amongst all your employees, contributing to a diverse and thriving workplace.‍

Our eBook covers reverse mentoring, and mentoring for diversity and inclusion.

‍Striving to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce should be a number one priority for all businesses.

While external training and courses may have a positive impact, particularly with leadership teams, the best way to enact change is through the people already within the business. This is where diversity and inclusion mentoring can really make an impact.

Mentoring harnesses the people in an organisation to learn and grow together, to share experiences and knowledge, and level up inclusivity in the workplace across the board. That’s why mentoring is such an effective method to support diversity, equity and inclusion in your organisation.

Want to find out how Guider can help? Book a demo now to speak with our reverse mentoring experts.

Read more:

LGBTQ+ Mentors in History

Reverse Mentoring a Complete Guide

Tackling Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

DE&I Statistics to Bookmark in 2023

Unlock the Power of ERGs in Your Workplace

How to Build Psychological Safety at Work

How to Avoid Rainbow-Washing This Pride Month

6 Effective D&I Strategies to Implement 

The Complete Mentoring Toolkit

Everything you need to create and scale an effective workplace mentoring programme. Includes: setup checklist, matching guide, expert advice, proving ROI and much more.

What's next?

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