As the workplace—and how work gets done—continues to evolve, it’s become clear organizations that want to continue to grow and prosper in the coming years and decades will need to have a more diverse workforce. Part of this is demographic shifts. Americans are just more diverse than ever before, and there will not be a single racial majority by 2055, according to Pew Research. Part of this is also to demonstrate a level of openness and acceptance with the aim of attracting and retaining top talent.
Despite improving levels of diversity in recent years, many firms still have a long way to go. This is particularly true in terms of corporate leadership. For example, a 2018 Deloitte study found that only 34 percent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats are held by women and minorities. Looking at the CEO-level, the level of diversity is even worse. There are only 33 women CEOs and four black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies. Looking at the other end of the spectrum—startups—things are only moderately more diverse; 77 percent of startup founders are white, women-led startups receive only nine percent of all venture capital, and only one percent of VC-backed founders are black. Even Asian founders, the second largest demographic group, make up less than 20 percent of all venture-backed founders.
This highlights that firms not only face a challenge to increase diversity levels, they’re struggling to properly mentor and mold the next generation of corporate leaders. And those who ignore this challenge are likely to underperform those who embrace it.
Luckily, there are some things every organization can do to improve diversity and mentorship. Here are a couple of key actions companies can take that, while seemingly small at first, can have a long-term positive impact.
Foster Diversity with Peer Networking
One key challenge to promoting diversity in an organization is ensuring that minorities and women actually feel welcomed and valued for their work—and not their minority status. It’s essential to bring these people into the company culture so that they can, in turn, help others.
That means that it’s essential for minorities have a platform to connect with each other, socialize, and discuss topics that are important to them, mentor and encourage each other, and bring issues to the attention of their peers and superiors alike.
But minority colleagues can connect over more than just their minority status. In fact, it’s essential to connecting them so that they can tackle common challenges, such as managing certain projects, employees, etc. Groups can form around topics relevant to working parents and other common work/life balance challenges. The goal here is to strengthen the ties among employees, so that they feel truly integrated into the company culture and can support each other.
What’s more, there’s a ton of data that can be gleaned from these groups in unique ways that will help firms continue to engage with them. First, there’s the raw data that can be mined to get to understand minorities better, including demographic, needs, and interests. Using polls, an organization can gather minority views on topics relevant not only to them, but to the company at large. They can also use the platform to hold focus groups, even with a direct line to company leadership if desired.
Ultimately, a platform for connecting minorities to each other and to peers throughout the company can provide better insights into how to engage them, which in turn can help them thrive in an organization.
Facilitate Mentoring through Connections
In order to improve mentoring, it needs to be an important part of the culture. That means that organizations need to promote managers who naturally take a nurturing approach to their employees. But managers aren’t the only people with the ability or knowledge to mentor. There are plenty of employees in organizations who aren’t in management but still have a commanding level of knowledge and expertise.
One important step to help firms tap into this knowledge and nurture more employees is to develop a buddy system, where new employees are matched up with veteran employees to learn the ropes. Additionally, employees can be matched up to each other based on nearly any criteria the organization finds helpful. Subject matter experts can be matched up with those who want to learn more about a specific topic. Older employees can be matched up with younger ones. Employees can meet peers and cross-train each other in their respective duties, exchange information on what they’re working on, and even organize online brown bag lunches to share news and trends in their respective areas of interest and expertise.
Ultimately, companies will achieve higher levels of diversity and better mentorship by embracing diversity and providing a platform for groups of employees can communicate, share resources and knowledge, and simply socialize.
Luckily, Zenvoy offers all the features needed to make this a reality. Check out our demo to see how Zenvoy can help your firm can connect employees better and position themselves for growth in the future.