Cross-Cultural Mentoring: How IBM, E&Y & Kraft Increase Diversity in Management

What’s the key to achieving better engagement and promotion among Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women Provide them the career support they need early on with cross-cultural mentoring.


Research, including studies from Catalyst, shows that women and people from other traditionally underrepresented groups do better than the general populationin terms of engagement, retention and promotionswhen they have mentors. Studies also find that formal mentoring programs are one of the most critical ways of retaining women, Blacks and Latinos and helping them develop in leadership roles.

As discussed in our 90-minute diversity web seminar on mentoring with Sodexo (No. 2 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity) and ADP (No. 27), 39 percent of managers at DiversityInc Top 50 companies are in mentoring programs, as opposed to just 19 percent in 2005, with 94 percent reporting a cross-cultural component.

Cross-cultural mentoring not only ensures that high-potential people get the right tools and support they need to advance their careers; it also provides key benefits to a company’s talent pipeline.

Build Your Talent Pipeline

DiversityInc convened a panel of chief diversity officers from AT&T (No. 4), Ernst & Young (No. 6), Merck & Co. (No. 16),Wells Fargo(No. 33) andNorthrop Grumman (No. 42)with the highest scores in talent-development initiatives and results.

They discussed the benefits and best practices of mentoring programs and how best to form these cross-cultural pairings.

For example, Ernst & Young formalized “a Career Watch program that watches careers and helps people get to partners,” said Beth Brooke, global vice chair of public policy, sustainability and stakeholder engagement. “We also have something called EYU, which is Ernst & Young and You. There are three components. One is the traditional, the learning, but the other is making sure they’re experiencing very different things in an inclusive way. Then the third element iscoaching, which is mentoring.”

Read more in Increasing Diversity in Talent Development.

Improve Diversity in Promotions

As more companies formalize their mentoring, the importance ofcross-cultural pairings increases, as diversity leaders from Sodexo, Deloitte, IBM and WellPoint (Nos. 2, 8, 17 and 34, respectively) explained at one roundtable. These four companies are successful at mentoring their employees at all levelsand utilizing cutting-edge strategies to make sure their workforce develops equitably.

IBM’s Ron Glover, vice president of diversity and workforce policy, human resources, gave a detailed example of the company’s integral mentoring programs, the Business and Technical Leader Process: “Every year, people who are currently executives, and those who are identified as having potential for executive leadership, go through this process. They are assessed against a set of competencies, and one of them has to do with the ability to manage cross-culturally and globally. Leaders are asked to evaluate their own competencies as a part of that exercise, and then where they come up needing development, specific efforts and opportunities around both mentor and mentee occur.”

Read more in Mentoring Roundtable.

Increase Retention & Satisfaction

One way to ensure your employees are primed for success is to have mentors to teach them the nuances of corporate culture, which can be hard to navigate for both long-term employees and new hires.

To assist in this, Kraft Foods offers an on-boarding program for all of its new hires to teach them about the “unwritten rules” that often cause peopleespecially those from underrepresented groupsto leave. The program started nine years ago but has been strongly emphasized in the last two years, and a noticeable improvement in retention of new hires from these groups has occurred.

Jim Norman, vice president of talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, and Wayne Canty (retired) of Kraft Foods (No. 7), presented the details of this program at our Innovation Fest!

Read more in Innovation Fest! Presentation by Kraft Foods: JumpStart, Developmental Training for New Employees.

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