CUInsight.com | By Renée Sattiewhite, AACUC President/CEO
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 83% of employers are adjusting their business practices in light of the pandemic. Now more than ever, companies are providing employees with flexible work environments, innovating employee benefits, and constantly building employee morale.
Up until now, we have kept our eyes on cutting costs, streamlining business operations, and keeping people on payroll, which is understandable. But as the shock of the global pandemic subsides, we must create a sustainable vision for the future. A future that recognizes the dynamic shift in the relationship between organizations and their employees.
Part of adapting to the changing professional environment is reviving career and professional development conversations within the credit union movement. This creates a great opportunity to put the spotlight back on career growth and advancement goals to keep employees happy, engaged, and loyal.
At AACUC we believe the time is ripe to advance career advancement opportunities across the credit union movement. It is becoming increasingly important to prioritize training skills and reignite discussions with employees about their success, professional development, and educational resources.
According to Career Builder, career advancement “is one of the most important elements for employee satisfaction and retention at a company.” In fact, many employees are choosing to work at organizations that help them build their career, over organizations that are paying well. This tells me that our industry must actively seek ways to offer current and potential employees exciting new opportunities that provide exposure, engagement, and education.
Mentorship programs have great benefits for both organizations and employees. It can help increase employee retention and engagement. Sowing into the lives of young leaders can also bolster an organization’s succession plan. Mentorship is truly the most effective way for employees to build relationships, strengthen professional networks and receive insights on their career trajectory.
A strong mentorship program offers professional guidance and support to the mentees, as well as one-on-one career support. It also fosters long-term professional and personal relationships between an ambitious mentee and an experienced mentor.
If you don’t know where to begin, consider these out-of-the-box ideas for creating a strong mentorship program:
Address the stigmas of racism and feminism by pairing together women from diverse cultures and backgrounds. This facilitates an environment where the mentor and mentee can learn from one another and shine a light on the blind spots that hinder social and economic advancement.
Bridge generational gaps by pairing together young and seasoned professionals. This creates a reverse classroom structure where the mentor can learn from the mentee. For example, mentors can learn more about how to best utilize social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Strengthen international relations by pairing together individuals from different countries. This breaks ethnic barriers and allows both the mentor and mentee to gain international exposure and cultural understanding.
Mentorship is also a tool for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Employees from underrepresented communities face numerous hurdles throughout their career. They are more likely to feel isolated as a result of being the minority. They bear the brunt of corporate microaggressions and unconscious biases from their fellow employees. This can lead to frustration, poor performance or even burnout. One prevailing solution to this predicament is developing impactful mentorship programs.
Remember that most underrepresented professionals starting out do not have the proper access and exposure to senior leadership, which can negatively impact their growth trajectory. Research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentoring programs “dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women – 15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.”
We should seek to approach mentorship with inclusivity and equity in mind. This means that in a successful mentor/mentee relationship, there is an acknowledgment that both parties have something valuable to offer. It is a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. When we approach mentorship with this in mind, we can advance people from all backgrounds in the workplace and create a shared sense of belonging.
Creating and implementing a successful mentorship program can be difficult to navigate. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Ensure mentors are aware of their implicit biases. We all have biases but its important to leave our personal preferences when entering the door of mentorship. It will do the relationship a huge disservice if those personal preferences lead to inequity.
Implement a training process. Don’t assume that participants understand the role of a mentor or mentee. Provide guidance through a training session that clarifies the expectations of the relationship.
Measure Success. Make sure that the mentors and mentees are tracking their progress and reflecting on future learning opportunities. Organizations should also provide surveys to gauge whether the program met its intended goals.
Our priority is to reciprocate learning and networking, build leadership and management skills and foster the development of lifelong friendships. This is how we will equip new credit union leaders for the future and bolster the longevity of our industry.
Published article available here.