Group Mentoring: Promoting Inclusion

Group Mentoring: Promoting Inclusion

Creating an inclusive space is essential to group mentoring success.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Creating a welcoming environment is crucial in promoting inclusivity and diversity in group mentoring programs. It starts with ensuring that all participants feel valued, respected, and included.

  1. Establish Clear Expectations: Clearly define the purpose, goals, roles, and responsibilities of the mentoring sessions. Have the group set "ground rules", boundaries, and expectations for confidentiality, honesty, respect, and feedback.
  2. Create Psychological Safety: Foster an environment of psychological safety where mentees feel comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their experiences. This can be achieved by providing dedicated and confidential spaces for mentoring sessions, whether in person or virtually.
  3. Build Trust and Rapport: Focus on building positive relationships, stopping competition, and providing a balanced and trusting environment. Establishing rapport based on respect, empathy, and mutual understanding is essential for creating a safe and trusting space for mentoring conversations.
  4. Encourage Open Dialogue: Mentoring relationships should act as a platform for encouraging open dialogues where employees feel safe to share their concerns, ideas, and challenge.

  5. Use Ice-breakers. Icebreakers help participants warm up and feel comfortable sharing. This can be done in the first session.
  6. Consider the Tools, Technology and Space. Physical aspects such as the tools, technology and space/venue should be considered to accommodate individuals with different abilities and accessibility requirements.

Implement Inclusive Practices

Implementing inclusive policies and practices is essential for creating an environment that embraces diversity. This includes adopting mentoring group practices that foster inclusivity and actively working to eliminate any barriers or biases that may exist.

  1. Provide equal opportunities for participation and engagement. This can be achieved by ensuring that mentorship opportunities are accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds and providing support for underrepresented groups.
  2. Emphasise the value of diversity. Talking about the value of diversity can help to increase mutual respect and inclusivity. Benefits of diversity include increased creativity, innovation, and problem-solving capabilities. 
  3. Set-up diverse mentoring groups. Provide opportunities for participants to engage in cross-cultural and intergenerational mentorship. By facilitating connections between individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, the program can promote understanding, empathy, and collaboration.
  4. Address any unconscious biases that may exist. This can be done through awareness training and ongoing education to promote understanding and empathy.
  5. Create a feedback mechanism. Feedback can be given in a group or 1:1 or via a survey where participants can voice their concerns and suggestions can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the program remains inclusive and responsive to the needs of all participants.
  6. Be aware of power dynamics. There is a power imbalance between mentees and mentors due to career status. Further, be aware of any power dynamics regarding race, gender, hierarchy that may inhibit comfort and mitigate them proactively. Advocate for equitable participation.
  7. Call out poor behaviour. Intervene if any comments directly target or scapegoat someone. Refocus on empathy and the shared purpose of supporting one another.

Foster Open and Respectful Communication

Fostering open and respectful communication is essential for creating an inclusive environment in group mentoring programs. This involves promoting active listening, empathy, and constructive dialogue among participants.

  1. Non-judgement. Set ground rules of "no judgement" from day one to encourage openness to new ideas and opinions.  Encouraging active participation and providing opportunities for everyone to contribute can also help ensure that diverse voices are heard and valued.
  2. Respect and inclusivity. Set expectations for language use, providing guidelines for giving and receiving feedback, and addressing any instances of disrespectful behaviour or language.
  3. Regular 1:1 check-ins. Check-in one-on-one with mentees about how they are experiencing the group dynamic and if they have any concerns. Make adjustments if needed.

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