The Value of Informal Cross-Cultural Mentorship in Organizations
by Dr. Cheryl S. Moore, Chair of Traditional Undergraduate Programs and Assistant Professor
Mentoring has evolved as a critical retention strategy for many organizations. As well, mentoring promotes excellence and passion for work through guidance, support, and networking. Organizations have designed mentorship programs to assist with development and succession planning of talented individuals. Most definitions of mentoring agree that mentoring goes beyond mere career development but includes a strong working relationship. As organizations continue to develop cultures that embrace diverse talent and perspective, the power and evolution of relationship is not only critical for survival but an enhancement of diverse representation at management and executive leadership levels.
Mentorship has morphed into several effective models. Informal mentoring models tend to incorporate personal value alignment, with reinforcement of loyalty in relationship. Informal mentoring has a strong resemblance to family values, which has proven through variations of literature to resonate with diverse populations. Formal mentoring programs focus on professional development with specific outcomes and concentrated objectives. Informal mentoring models have a greater chance of higher success rates in decreasing intimidation of formal arrangements or programs. Informal mentoring redirects the significance towards personal development in the framework of a healthy, progressive professional. An organization with focus of informal, yet meaningful mentoring opportunities provide universal benefits for mentors and mentees, particularly those that are involved in cross-cultural mentoring.
When mentoring occurs across racial lines, mentors are provided with an opportunity to gain cross-cultural exposure and competence in addition to creating a human capital investment that will promote equality and social justice. This will help in creating a process of due diligence for a healthy relationship and not an administrative service. Mentors that learn about the cultural experiences of their mentees may also increase their understanding and knowledge of cultural struggles, and historical influences. The relationship may be mutually beneficial for both parties in sharing defining moments and life experiences. The informal model thrives upon a value-based scope hinged upon humanity and avoids technical languages and program assessments. However, the informal model does not negate the importance of accountability, commitment and structure. The relationship between mentor and mentee may harvest conversations around cultural sensivity and awareness, challenges and triumphs most often times described as difficult to facilitate in formal discussion settings. The unique brand of both parties sharing experiences becomes beneficial in providing a comprehensive experience.
Most personal relationships develop organically; utilizing the same principle provides more opportunity for positive mentoring experiences. Human factors such as respect and communication evolve between mentor and mentee pairing instead of corporate programming. With any corporate performance or professional development model, there will be challenges and adjustments to consider. Some mentoring partnerships may not align or mend for a plethora of reasons, but that provides the undeniable factor of life experiences of which all can relate. Organizations have the awesome challenge of moving mentoring beyond programs into partnerships. Understanding the importance of cultural and relational dynamics in the framework of professional development will not only garner positive outcomes but opportunities for lifelong relationships beyond the corporate venue.