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Mentorship, memorably described as “a brain to choose from, an ear to listen to, and a nudge in the right direction,” is a surefire way to accelerate your career to success. Colette Doyle hears how those who participate in such programs can benefit not only professionally, but also personally.

In business, mentoring has long been known as a way for the more experienced to impart words of wisdom to those just starting out. Now it has evolved into an important tool in the fight to achieve DE&I in the workplace. Color of Research (CORe) is an advocacy group for the inclusion of ethnic professionals in the market research industry that launched the second wave of its mentorship program last summer.

One of his mentors, Rajdeep Chana, senior director of business development at Lucid, says the program came about because people of color in the industry felt there was a real lack of mentors who shared their lived experiences.

“By connecting research professionals who were struggling with issues of bias in their organization, facing microaggressions and, in some cases, serious issues of discrimination, we felt we could finally bring the support that has been missing for too long in the industry,” she comments.

Help break down barriers

Nicole Duckworth, Head of Europe at PRS In Vivo, recently joined the Market Research Society (MRS) mentorship program and notes that while it is generally accepted that inclusive teams are more productive and engaged and that Diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams, the unconscious bias challenge is known to undermine this.

As she observes, “mentoring provides a safe space for individuals to explore what can get in the way of creating an inclusive workplace. It also allows people in an organization to learn and grow together, share experiences and knowledge, and create the desired culture.

Eva De Arriba Calero is Director of UK Middle Market Sales Development at American Express and is also a Mentor on the Core Advisory Board of Be the Business, a government-funded charity set up to help small businesses improve their productivity.

She notes how a mentorship program can positively impact diversity and inclusion in the workplace by “being bold and having the courage to challenge the way organizations attract and retain employees by improving their vision, mission and values ​​and encouraging a more open and diverse mindset.

Chana argues that mentoring is key to achieving a more diverse workforce — and has the stats to prove it. “Mentoring can promote equality, it can increase retention of minority ethnic groups and drive greater engagement, leading to successful and successful business.

“Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentorship programs increased minority representation at the executive level from 9% to 24% (compared to -2% to 18% with other diversity initiatives). The same study found that mentoring programs also significantly improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women — by 15% to 38% compared to non-mentee employees. »

Staff retention and well-being are additional assets

Of course, it’s not just the issue of diversity and inclusion that mentoring can have a positive impact on, as Duckworth points out. “At the corporate level, mentorship programs can have a significant impact on human interaction and are likely to lead to a sense of individual fulfillment by fostering a better understanding of colleagues. This understanding is sure to make the organization a much more rewarding place to work, thereby increasing staff retention. »

De Arriba Calero agrees, noting that mentors can confidentially help a mentee discuss challenges and offer different perspectives on how to solve them. “For example, how to create career progression plans within teams with a focus on diversity and inclusion.”

Mentoring also has its benefits when it comes to employee well-being, according to the Amex executive. “This can raise awareness among management of the various challenges faced by employees during the pandemic, as well as encourage openness about mental health issues and how organizations can better support their teams.”

Georgia Prorok, director of business development at Pureprofile, believes the mentorship has helped her thrive in her role after her career was derailed by Covid-19. Prorok was named an MRS Research Hero for her “spirit and positivity” in returning to work after being hospitalized in March 2020 with an extremely severe case of Covid which saw her, at one point, fall into a coma potentially fatal.

She is participating in an informal mentorship program with her boss, Pureprofile MD Tim Potter and is excited about the benefits. “From day one, Tim and I have had a mutual respect and honest relationship where effective communication has been absolutely essential. I feel like I was always able to confide in him and he encouraged me to make my own decisions. and choose my own career path.

“Our work dynamic allows me to focus on what I do well, but also recognize other areas that may not come as naturally to me, such as keeping track of administrative tasks. Thanks to this, I was able to evolve within the company.

How mentors and mentees can reap the benefits

The benefits for mentees may be obvious, but mentors also have a lot to gain, as Duckworth explains. “It’s important to remember that effective mentoring not only develops the mentee, but also rewards the mentor. The benefits of participation are manifold and include professional and personal elements.

“I welcome the chance to give something back and experience the joy of seeing someone succeed. Mentoring others promotes self-reflection on my own learning journey, and meeting new people with different ways of thinking often provides a fresh perspective on challenges. »

De Arriba Calero adds, “I’ve always had a passion for learning and helping others realize their full potential. Seeing my mentees solve their challenges, achieve their goals, make positive changes and grow in their careers, brings a great sense of accomplishment and immense joy to my day-to-day role.”

And it’s not just confined to professional perks; mentoring can also improve your personal life, as Prorok explains: “After I left the hospital, I had to enter a rehabilitation center to relearn how to walk and talk. It was without a doubt the most difficult period of my life. Tim has allowed me to focus on my recovery without having to worry about going back to work.

“Having that faith and encouragement has helped me immensely in my transition. I was lucky to have a manager and mentor who cared about me and took the time to understand my perspective.

For Chana, the connection runs even deeper: “For our members, race is part of who we are, so personal and professional become one when discussing the challenges we face based on the color of our skin. “

The right skills for the job

So what are the ultimate skills every good mentor should have? “I think having confidence in the mentee to be able to learn and make decisions on their own is fundamental to successful mentoring,” Prorok says.

Channa thinks the key attribute of any mentor is their ability to listen, while Duckworth lists some essential traits. “There are many areas that are important in a mentoring relationship, but some of the main ones are confidentiality, an agreed goal and transparency.”

She concludes: “I have been privileged to have wonderful mentors who have had a significant impact on my career trajectory. I now feel able to repay that and support others in our industry.