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How to Build Workplace Inclusivity with Mentoring

Are you looking to benefit from the skills of a more diverse workforce? That’s great, yet it may take more than a change to the traditional recruitment process. To help every employee feel that they belong and can thrive, you may need to provide appropriate support. This can include flexible working opportunities, adaptive equipment and mentoring. In this article, we look at the role mentoring plays in building workplace inclusivity.

Recruiting Diverse Talent

Doesn’t it seem logical to build a team based on people’s capabilities? Yet, all too often a person’s background, academic achievement or ability to talk the talk in an interview is what gets them the job. This has resulted in a complete lack of diversity within most industries and a missed opportunity to fill the talent pool.

Yet things are changing. Through legislation, flexible working and a desire to do better, many companies now recognise that they can gain a competitive advantage of an inclusive workplace. There is a realisation that fresh perspectives, alternative ways of thinking and different life experiences are necessary for a strong and effective workforce.

However, being open to candidates from varied backgrounds doesn’t mean that they will apply or feel confident in an interview. And, if you do get the recruitment process right and make an offer to an individual from a different cultural background, with neurodiversity or a disability, you can’t just expect them to fit in. You need a work culture that promotes psychological safety. That is a place where they feel that they belong and are enabled to perform at their best.

A Focus on Mentoring

It is well documented that managers and employees with access to mentors outperform those without. Mentored employees also report higher career satisfaction, as well as being more productive and loyal. Further benefits were researched by Dr Ruth Gotian and are shared in A Complete Guide to Effective Mentoring.

A mentor’s role is to be a guide by your side, helping to nurture your talent. When you have a mentor to help negotiate the pressures and challenges of the job, it’s an empowering way to embrace a new role or responsibility. Mentoring provides you with a sounding board, someone who helps you consider appropriate ways to handle difficult situations and how best to apply your talents. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had this support?

Mentoring for Inclusivity

Much of my mentoring work has focused on supporting new managers to take on leadership roles. In most cases, their knowledge and experience have led to them being promoted. Yet, they often have little or no experience in engaging and motivating a team or resolving issues. As a mentor, I help them to see matters objectively and handle situations that arise.

More recently, I’ve been asked to mentor employees with neurodiverse conditions. My role has been to help them navigate the nuances of workplace and colleague or customer interactions. By getting to know the individual, I encourage them to express their needs, strengths and ambitions. When they do this, it helps employers and colleagues to adapt and make the workplace more inclusive.

The behaviours and actions of a neurodiverse person likely seem odd to you and it’s the same story from their perspective. Yet, a mentor can help bridge the gap. And, given the tools to perform, these diverse individuals might be your most technically-minded, creative or innovative employees. They could be the natural problem solvers or those who can be relied on to spot an error or issue. Their unique approach could be exactly what you need to grow the business.

If you want to find out more, I recommend reading the results of a CIPD employer and employee survey* on the impact and experiences of becoming a neuroinclusive workplace.

What is Access to Work?

All employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments to break down the barriers that have traditionally prevented diverse individuals from entering the workforce. It is important to try to accommodate an employee’s request for equipment or flexible working arrangements that make the workplace accessible. The bonus is that these adaptions may also benefit other employees or customers.

However, if an accessibility request extends beyond a reasonable adjustment, it is worth exploring whether the employee meets the criteria for an Access to Work grant. If eligible, this can be spent on specialist equipment or support services that the individual needs. The support services include a neurodiversity mentor. There is an Access to Work Guide for Employers if you want to find out more.

Building Workplace Diversity with Mentoring

So, mentoring is an effective tool in helping any employee to adjust to a new role, address challenges and discover how to effectively apply their talents. Leadership mentoring is an asset to new managers, but a mentor can also support diverse employees to adapt to the work environment.

* https://www.cipd.org/uk/knowledge/reports/neuroinclusion-at-work/

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