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Peer Mentorship- Is the Secret Sauce to D&I Programming and Strategy

So many companies have asked me, what is the secret sauce to D&I programming and strategy? I tell them over and over again, it is peer mentorship programs. Many companies see the value of peer mentorship if they have had a positive mentor relationship in the past both professionally and personally. Others are still skeptical that it is truly the secret sauce. I share this advice, if we have learned nothing about this past year, we have been schooled by this pandemic that we need human connections, especially in the workplace.

We know that mentoring can foster inclusion, especially at this pivotal moment in history. I have been working remotely for many years, so I am accustomed to working remotely. However, I can’t imagine those of us who were suddenly thrust into a remote workplace because of the pandemic, what they may have felt. I am sure it took some adjustment, and it felt foreign or even strange looking at you leaders and colleagues in square boxes on a screen.

As a mentor, for over a decade I find it to be a rewarding experience. Over the last year, the focus of mentoring has been focusing on my mentee’s mental health. There is just so much going on in our lives today.

What is the importance of mentoring? Mentoring is a way that helps people build professional social capital develop teams of allies, give employees a sense of career navigation ( inspire to aspire), and especially for new employees coming into an organization. It gives them a road map to navigate culture corporate norms of the internal dynamics and politics in any organization.

Over the years, I have created and implemented successful and sustainable peer mentorship programs. The intent was originally focused on helping organizations specifically with onboarding/retention. But I realize this was also the secret sauce to D&I programming and strategy. Let’s face it, companies invested in DEI, know by now humans are the asset. The focus and major investments are in hiring diverse talent, and how they can retain and advance them, I have worked with several companies with very ambitious goals and targets regarding diversity and inclusion. Companies, my firm has partnered with are realizing the mentoring can be the way to authentically engage talent and retain top diverse talent. However, we need to be intentional about demonstrating how you create and implement peer mentorship program. The most successful peer mentorship program is peer-to-peer mentoring. Peer-to-peer mentoring is offering at all levels throughout the organization from executives, senior leaders, junior team members, etc. This is a phenomenal way to amplify employees’ voices in decision-making and to creating a more inclusive environment that reflects real-time actual experiences in the workplace today. This gives employees a real seat at the table, especially when there are not in every room. If a peer mentorship program is done with intent and with a diversity lens- it can be used as a great way to help people get past their bias, whether it is generational, racial, or gender bias. That is why peer mentorship is the secret sauce because the power of mentorship can change our minds and behaviors.

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