L&D leaders everywhere know all about the positive impacts mentorship programs can have for mentors, mentees, and our organizations. The proof is in the pudding–we’ve been connecting people and growing these types of relationships for centuries.
But how can you scale a mentoring program to ramp up the benefits your mentors and mentees need? And what’s the best way to help your organization live its commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion through mentoring?
At My2be, Co-Founders Adam Mitcheson, CEO, and Damien Shiells, CTO, are on a mission to make workplace mentoring better for everyone. In the latest episode of the L&D Podcast, we spoke to them about how workplace mentoring helps people to learn by stealth and achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
If you’re saving the podcast for later, we've distilled the main takeaways below.
As Damien knows from personal experience, workplace mentoring is crucial in developing mentees’ confidence and helping them set their expectations in their career journey.
After completing a computing engineering degree, Damien simply took the first job that came his way. “That decision really set me back a few years,” he says. “If I look back on that experience, had I had a mentor at that time, my path would've been much smoother to where I am today. I wouldn’t have made the same decision.”
With access to the right mentor, Damien would have been a little clearer on his career expectations. It would have given him the confidence to ask questions like: is this the right company for me? Will people support me? Are there tools here to help me develop?
“It would've given me even more confidence to say, ‘I can do that. I can definitely achieve what I really want to do’,” says Damien. “So overall, I think it comes down to confidence both from myself and hearing from other people.”
But as important as mentoring programs may be, they aren’t always set up to succeed. So, how can we make mentoring better?
Looking for practical tips on getting your own mentorship program up and running? Check out our free ebook!
If I had had a mentor at that time, my path would've been much smoother to where I am today. I wouldn’t have made the same decision
Adam and Damien co-founded My2be based on their experiences in the corporate world, how they benefited from a mentor experience, and how life-changing it was for both of them.
“Damien and I have known each other since we were 13,” says Adam. “We realized that mentoring was a mission that made sense to go on together, especially as I'm a non-technical person and Damien is the genius of the technology in the company.”
When Adam and Damien first set up the My2be platform, they recognized the importance of mentoring in many different sectors. “The main traction point was enterprise-level organizations wanting to develop their people internally. That’s why we’re focused on helping enterprises develop their people by taking the heavy lifting out of mentoring.”
This helped Adam and Damien to identify the biggest problem organizations face with mentoring: managing a mentoring program manually at scale–matching people, checking if they’ve met and connected, and how the mentorship is going–was practically impossible.
“Ultimately,” says Adam, “there are so many intangible benefits of mentoring. How do you then extract that from a manual process? That’s when Damien and I got together. We looked at it from a technical point of view and said scale is the solution.”
“And that's exactly what we do with businesses,” he says. “We take the heavy lifting out of mentoring. We have a really successful matching process where around 90% of the matched people will actually carry on their relationship post any formal program.”
So, why do Adam and Damien believe learning through mentoring is so much more effective than other methods? As they say, it comes down to ‘learning by stealth’.
In Adam’s experience, learning through mentoring is a much more organic and natural way of learning, because it isn’t forced.
“We know L&D platforms are improving,” says Adam, “and that there are many that are getting better. But I think that ‘login, tick the box, you've done your course, you've passed the test’ approach doesn't have that much of an impact on people. It's not actually helping them develop skills.”
“Something that's also been lost in the move to hybrid was that organic and osmosis learning where you sit with someone, you understand how they operate, and you understand what they do on a day-to-day basis,” he says.
For Adam and Damien, this learning by stealth through mentorship happens in three different ways.
For Adam, mentoring helps people learn because it’s about sharing experience and leaning on someone else’s experience to solve problems.
“Whether that's someone at a senior level or just a bit in front of you, or a peer with a different perspective, you're gaining different insights, learning about different things and different ways of operating,” says Adam. “It can be a lot more helpful to see this in action rather than just reading about it.”
Next, mentoring also helps in the stealth way of developing skills.
As Adam explains, the personal nature of mentoring also lends itself well to the improvement of soft skills.
“Having that sounding board for someone gives them the confidence to go and share that information with their manager, their seniors, or their peers,” he says. “They can say, ‘I've got the confidence because I've shared this thought, and it wasn't just dismissed as a stupid idea’. This confidence in communication is a great example of mentorship developing soft skills as well as core competencies.”
Finally, Adam explains another stealth learning element is developing mentors, not just mentees. “Mentors often go into a mentoring relationship purely through the goodness of their heart thinking: ‘this is something I know will help someone, so I'm willing to give up my time’. But it’s more than that.”
“Statistically, mentors actually do better out of the relationship than the mentee. They develop their leadership skills. They have a higher rate of promotion and pay rise due to being a mentor. And that catches many people off guard, and they think, ‘Well, I never looked at it like that’.”
Statistically, mentors actually do better out of the relationship than the mentee. They develop their leadership skills. They have a higher rate of promotion and pay rise due to being a mentor.
As Adam says, mentorship programs offer a great way for organizations everywhere to drive a stronger commitment to DEI.
“From a diversity perspective, a lot of companies we speak to have managed to figure out being more inclusive in their hiring processes. The problem is, when they get people through the door, there's no inclusion element. They're not feeling like they really belong. Mentorship programs can really give you that sense of inclusion and belonging.”
According to Adam, the onboarding process is the perfect time to connect a mentee with their mentor, as this is when you’re introducing new hires to their manager and team.
“Here's your mentor from a different department who you can have as a sounding board. Who can help you understand the wider company, get a bigger picture perspective, and can then help you feel included in the business as well,” he says.
Mentorship programs can really give you that sense of inclusion and belonging.
Adam finished by offering a great example of how mentorship impacts inclusion: My2be’s work with their client Box, whose mentees belong to the employee resource group (ERG) furthering representation of diverse groups within the company.
“But the mentors weren’t just from that ERG,” says Adam. “They were from across the wider business. They had to complete unconscious bias training to be part of the program and qualify, but other than that, they could be part of any demographic in any section of the business.”
“And that was really powerful in the end, and one of the best outcomes we've seen. Many of the mentors, for the first time, were exposed to the unique challenges faced by those underrepresented people,” says Adam.
The program led to a culture of allyship and sponsorship as the mentors got better insight and understanding and became conscious of others like their mentees. “Mentorship creates that education, that awareness, but it has that ripple effect into greater equity and inclusion because you get the people who are then going to be given those opportunities.”
“And then, when it comes to the next program, the mentees who benefited from that become mentors. So, you get that wider, diverse pool of people who are acting as mentors.”
Mentorship creates that education, that awareness, but it has that ripple effect into greater equity and inclusion because you get the people who are then going to be given those opportunities.
Setting up a workplace mentoring program can seem like a huge project. But it doesn’t have to be–that’s the key takeaway Adam and Damien have for L&D leaders.
“Our job is to make your life easier, not to give you more work,” says Adam. “We can help you deliver your mentoring program. We can help you deliver on DEI and your talent retention. It all starts with recognizing the huge benefits mentorship can have.”
For more inspiring and actionable L&D stories like this one, be sure to check out our other episodes of L&D Plus. And if you're looking for more great L&D resources and insights, come and join the L&D Collective and connect with other learning leaders!