Mentoring is an overlooked saviour for diversity and the talent gap
Human resources programs often talk about the value of mentoring in growing talent in an organisation. Having nearly 20 years of global Human Resources experience, most recently at Sizmek, I am more convinced than ever that mentoring can solve a number of challenges.
In an industry beset with high turnover and uneven morale, executive managers need to invest in programs that nurture and develop people. This especially applies to those from diverse backgrounds, and female talent.
The statistics show that women in management do not move into leadership positions 76% of the time. Furthermore, most of the leadership roles are in areas where women traditionally perform well, such as marketing, or my specialist field of HR. We need to create a reason for young female talent to stay at an organisation and create an environment where they can aim for the top of their field.
One way to effect change is to introduce a mentoring program, led by key leaders within the business.
We are embarking on such a program at Sizmek, led by 25 leaders across the company. This invite-only mentoring program will run for six months. We often find such success with these types of program and encourage the mentor/mentee relationship to continue after the six month time period.
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One of the benefits of female mentoring is to create confidence for them to say yes to opportunities, and to develop their personal career roadmap.
I also believe that if your aspiration is to get to a management or leadership position, your mentor should be a valued leader. A crucial element is to recognise where a person is at in their career development and help them grow their success.
Furthermore, a mentor does not need to come from your particular field, expertise or job area. That’s the role of your immediate supervisor. The mentor should be able to bridge the gap of where you want your career to go.
My personal mentor is a seasoned female company president who works in the retail and publishing arena. Over the past ten years, she has helped me further develop my skill set in areas where I have less experience, as we both hold different positions within our companies. Her continued dedication to helping me grow both personally and professionally has had an incredible impact on my career development.
We need to hire more women in leadership roles. The way to do that is to show people that anything is possible. We have to grow the pool of senior women in digital media. There is a lack of confidence across the globe. They are too scared to ask for pay rises. We need to give them the tools to step up and get women to value themselves. There are a lot of males in this industry, and they should be mentors too.
We have over 45 other initiatives in place at Sizmek that aim to build a more connected workplace. The programs include various diversity and inclusion initiatives, employee recognition programs, and executive engagement strategies.
Our diversity and inclusion initiatives have a special focus on our female employees, and we’ve continued to roll out opportunities for the women of Sizmek to shine. Our next global company sales conference will include a women’s break-out series, while we are also setting up virtual fireside chats and roundtables, where women can ask questions of our executive female leadership. I’ve already led a fireside chat, and was asked a range of personal questions, such as ‘how do I juggle being a mother and a global executive?’ To me, this demonstrates that the appetite for mentoring programs exists.
I was mentored at a pivotal period in my life when I landed a job in New York for a global company. It required a lot of expertise in finance and sales, which was outside my area of expertise. My mentor was able to bridge the gap and help me navigate through this time in my career. How can you help people grow? By helping them look further ahead, and understand their own possibilities.
The personal connection forged via a mentoring program can be intensely valuable for both the employer and the individual. It’s not going to work 100% of the time. But it’s better than having nothing in place. And, in a competitive market for talent, it could be the difference for companies seeking to develop their next generation of leadership.
Lisa Craven is global people officer, Sizmek