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Mentorship and Allyship: Navigating Toward Diversity and Inclusion

Mentorship and allyship are critical considerations for any business aiming to be viewed as an inclusive, best-in-class workplace.

If there were ever a time to address allyship and mentorship it’s now. Social unrest in response to blatant injustice, specifically toward the Black community, has moved many organizations to new levels of action toward improving diversity and inclusion within the workforce and in communities where those organizations are operating. Companies are asking – What can be done to foster increase diverse demographic representation, nurture the careers of employees from underrepresent groups and create a greater sense of inclusion and belonging?

For organizational leaders, the importance of mentorship and allyship to employee development cannot be understated in addressing these and similar questions.

How Diversity and Inclusion Can Factor Into Mentorship

The importance of mentorship — that is, a formal or informal program that pairs a seasoned professional (a mentor) with another (a mentee) for the purpose of sharing their professional knowledge, skills and experiences — can be demonstrated in a number of ways. In a successful mentorship, a mentor can help their mentee learn the ins-and-outs of a role, department or organization faster and more effectively. A mentorship program can also serve as a way to develop historically underrepresented talent for leadership roles.

From a diversity and inclusion (D&I) standpoint, mentorship can give underrepresented employees exposure to opportunities and create a springboard for future sponsorship. For example, if data demonstrates that women or people of color are not well represented in the ranks of leadership, a mentorship program can be designed with specific development goals, coaching and/or advice on stretch assignments with career progression to more senior leadership roles in mind.

Mentorship, with a diverse lens, can also help foster a culture of inclusion. A mentor and mentee have an opportunity to cultivate a deeper relationship with someone who might be very different from them. So it’s not just about the representation statistics. It’s about literally making space for people to show up in an organization in the fullness of who they are.

At ADP, we are deeply committed to diversity and inclusion. For example, we have specific goals for representation of women and people of color in the executive ranks. We’re also deeply committed to driving associate inclusion and belonging, which allyship and mentorship are integral to.

Mentors are expected to be inclusive leaders by doing the following:

Evaluate their own respective professional networks. Who are the people that help you round yourself out, help you get your job done and help you with your career progression? Assess this group, and if the people in your network are mostly similar to you, you’re likely doing yourself and those you mentor a disservice. As leaders, we are charged with examining our networks in this way and encouraging others to do the same.
Disrupt unconscious bias. While there is no singular definition for this term, unconscious bias is generally thought of as the assumptions a person might unknowingly make about a person or group of people. These biases show up with us every day and we must do the work to ensure our unconscious biases do not impact how we view talent. Mentors should educate themselves on the subject matter and take steps to “disrupt” those unconscious biases.
It’s important that mentors remain vigilant around not letting their biases — unconscious or not — interfere with how they provide guidance to their mentees. Organizationally, ADP has made a commitment to broaden education on unconscious bias. ADP’s CEO, Carlos Rodriguez, signed the CEO Action Pledge in October, 2017. As of this writing, we’ve trained roughly 800 leaders within the organization, and have a goal of reaching all leaders over the course of our next fiscal year. This is being done to create awareness, as well as to provide the tools and resources needed to disrupt unconscious biases.

What Allyship Can Mean for an Organization

In the context of the workplace, allyship refers to support and advocacy for colleagues from underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ+, women, the differently-abled and people of color. Mentorship often focuses on strengthening workplace relationships centered on career progression, and allyship can function similarly. At its core, allyship is about consciously taking steps to eliminate individual and systemic barriers that underrepresented groups face in the workplace.

For example, ADP recently formed a “Men as Allies” network. This initiative will help support mentoring and targeted leadership development programs through greater advocacy and sponsorship for women and people of color. Allyship is critical to business success, as it promotes a culture of inclusion that extends beyond the D&I function where leaders drive performance and innovation through higher engagement and employee belonging.

Business leaders can also create and execute on allyship strategies that make sense for their particular areas of responsibility. These are a must-have, as executive buy-in is necessary for any program — D&I-centered or otherwise — to be successful. A commitment to allyship is a commitment to use your voice and create greater equity in the workplace.

Mentorship and allyship are critical considerations for any business aiming to be viewed as an inclusive, best-in-class workplace. Well-crafted programs driven by executive support and accountability can help organizations achieve this.

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Miniature US and Military flags sit on the corner of a table with a stars and stripes ADP plaque in the background.

Through the Deepest Valley: 4 Critical Skills Veterans Bring to the Future Workforce

ADP executive Harris Morris says the veteran workforce has a lot to contribute to organizations during these challenging times and beyond.

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

When Sun Tzu composed this line, he didn’t have the coronavirus in mind, but the quote applies today just as much as it did when it was penned in The Art of War in the fifth century BC.

After more than 22 years in the Armed Forces and 8 years serving in various diversity initiatives in the private sector, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between today’s complex environment and the skills and talents of the 250,000 veterans entering the workforce every year. It’s critical for organizations to understand the valuable contributions veterans can make in emergency or challenging situations.

Here are four critical transferable skills veterans can bring to organizations adapting to the COVID-19 environment or other challenging situations:

Skill #1: Stability During Emergencies

First and foremost, any person who has served in the military has persevered in a situation where their world could be thrown upside down at a moment’s notice. From the first step off the bus at boot camp, to their first experience with deployment, they’ve been training in preparation for the unexpected. Veterans are trained to act and respond in extreme circumstances and to adjust to rapidly changing situations.

Keeping cool under pressure and relying on your knowledge and skills when you don’t know what might be coming your way, is the kind of stability that veteran candidates can bring to their post-military roles in any organization.

Skill #2: Project Management Triage

Project management is a cornerstone skill of the business world, with world-class training opportunities creating extremely skilled practitioners in organizations across verticals and categories. Former members of the armed forces, who are used to approaching issues methodically and doing what it takes to get the job done, bring a practical mindset that translates well into project management.

Establishing milestones, identifying roadblocks, utilizing the resources you have and staying on a timeline — this is the language service members use to accomplish their missions as a unit. It’s also how business teams work together to manage business requirements, despite changing guidelines, new direction and strategic use of critical resources.

Skill #3: Progress Without Perfection

In a situation like the world is in now, there is no specific moment in time when all challenges are overcome. Former military members can shine in this kind of setting due to their ability to make progress toward a goal without having to know what of the perfect outcome will be.

Being able to identify positive steps forward and make decisions in an everchanging environment is just the kind of adaptability and flexibility organizations need to thrive under challenging circumstances.

Skill #4: Resourceful and Innovative

Among the many proven benefits of diversity in the workforce, innovation often stands out as the most valuable. We can see examples of this at organizations pivoting to meet the needs of today’s workers. For example, clothing manufacturers Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, who are making masks (as reported by Fast Company), and Anheuser-Busch, which is joining distilleries to make hand sanitizer (as reported by the New York Times).

Resourcefulness and innovation are common in the Armed Forces. Service members are often asked to accomplish amazing things in restrictive environments, to make do with what they have and to be creative in getting the job done. Organizations that recruit veterans for roles will be able to harness those adaptable critical thinking skills to make sure they’re seeing problems — and solving problems — from all angles.

Overcoming Barriers to Hiring Veterans

Veterans often aren’t aware of the potential roles available based on their unique skills and talents. They also may not know that their experiences have created transferrable skills that are valuable to organizations.

This is why proactive recruitment strategies like leveraging diversity and inclusion initiatives are important for engaging veterans. Organizations should review their sourcing, recruiting and hiring practices carefully to ensure they provide equitable access to candidates with different backgrounds and problem-solving diversity. Incorporating training programs which help hiring managers to better understand the unique skills veteran candidates can bring to roles in a corporate setting will result in a better organization overall.

As we watch the courageous efforts of our healthcare workers, first responders and essential employees, I cannot help but appreciate the hard earned skills our transitioning service members can bring to organizations during this time of challenge and beyond.