3 Key Practices to Increase Retention Rates of Diverse Employees

By Sheryl Estrada

Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Prudential Financial Michele C. Meyer-Shipp.

If a company is increasingly hiring talented people from underrepresented groups, yet suffering from low retention rates, the employee developmental process needs an upgrade.

During a talk in New York City, Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, vice president and chief diversity officer at Prudential Financial (No. 8 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity), told an audience of C-level executives representing Fortune 500 companies that best practices on mentoring, coaching and sponsorship are vital to retaining an employee.

She began by discussing a report from the Center for Talent and Innovation, “Black Women: Ready to Lead,” which made her reflective. The report explains that Black women aspiring toward powerful positions often feel stalled in their careers.

“I thought about the fact that in my role, I see a lot of folks that are absent from senior management,” Meyer-Shipp said. “They tend to be people of color, women, LGBT people with diverse abilities I could go on and on The article points out we’re invisible.

“I think the key to cracking the code on this is making sure we are authentically, genuinely, and intentionally mentoring, sponsoring and coaching.”

Meyer-Shipp, an attorney, described mentoring as an advising process, and revealed that she sought mentors when beginning at Prudential five years ago.

“I had spent time in state government,” she said. “I had spent time in law firms, and I really didn’t understand the corporate culture. So I sought out mentors to help me learn the businesses. And then I had some folks really guide me on how to be an employment lawyer at Prudential.”

Meyer-Shipp stressed that mentoring is a two-way street.

“Those of you who are doing the mentoring, I would encourage you to make sure that you keep your mentee on track,” she said. “So when they show up and they bring a purpose to you, make sure that you help them advance that purpose and not get too off track.”

And to the mentees “Don’t come to me or any other mentor without a purpose,” she said. “You have to articulate what it is that you need and what you’re looking for.”

Meyer-Shipp defined coaching as helping someone master a specific skill.

“At work, I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘Hey, I need coaching. I have to have a really hard conversation with someone,'” she offered as an example.

Meyer-Shipp put a heavy emphasis on sponsorship, referring to it as the “active piece” that is “critical to developing, promoting and retaining our diverse talent.”

She shared that a sponsor should speak on behalf of another employee, even when they’re not in the room. Meyer-Shipp believes this is how she landed her current position.

“Candidly, I didn’t ask for this job,” she said. “I love it, but I didn’t ask for it. Someone put my name on the table in a room, when I wasn’t in that room. And then I got the opportunity to be here in this great role that I have today.”

She also encouraged the audience to think about their organizations and the people they encounter everyday whom should receive sponsoring.

Meyer-Shipp said in order to support their employees, Prudential has several formal mentoring programs, seven main Business Resource Groups (BRGs), and a host of women networks and BRGs. She believes that measuring the effectivenessof programs,beginning withemployee opinion surveys, is just as important.

Michele C. Meyer-Shipp’s Tips on Mentoring, Sponsoring and Coaching:

Develop and demonstrate and inclusive talent mindset

Practice ongoing self examination and education

Be worthy of trust and candor

Examine conscious and unconscious bias

Be sensitive to group dynamics

Remove barriers to communication

Active listening

Michele C. Meyer-Shipp’s talk, “The Differences Between Mentoring, Coaching and Sponsorship & Best Practices for Each” took place during the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity Event on April 23, 2015 at Cipriani Wall Street. Click here for information about the 2016 event.

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