Why Mentoring and Coaching Are Key to Maintaining Diversity in Finance

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Companies of all sizes and in almost every industry segment face headwinds when it comes to recruiting, retaining and optimizing their workforce. In addition to the massive experiment in hybrid remote working, triggered by the pandemic, and persistent issues of employee dissatisfaction and burnout, many organizations are also experiencing all-time highs in employee turnover. Systemic bias and a lack of equal representation across organizations, particularly in senior and mid-level leadership roles, add further layers of complexity to an already perfect storm impacting today’s talent. This is especially acute in the field of finance and accounting, since a 2021 study found.

A report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that $223 billion is lost every five years due to employee turnover. poor work culture and toxic work environments. And talent consultancy Korn Ferry found in an executive survey that “the vast majority of respondents (84%) say that a lack of attention to diversity and inclusion contributes to employee turnover.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is key to addressing many of these challenges, and investing in training and resources for mid-level finance leadership is essential. It is here in the middle that the workplace culture and everyday experiences of most employees are shaped. And it’s also here that the careers of historically marginalized talent advance… or derail. Expanding the skill set of mid-level leaders so they are better equipped to engage in high-impact, thoughtful empathic conversations, conduct quality performance reviews, and, if needed, performance improvement plans, will increase confidence and trust. engagement, and will reduce wear and tear. More importantly, it will create a stronger pool of future leaders that will increase representation at all levels within the organization.

Mentor new associates and new managers

Mid-level finance leaders play a critical role in shaping careers. However, it can be challenging for managers to find their footing and voice, especially when they are new to managing people, not just projects. Guidance and feedback from a mentor can go a long way in terms of developing your overall leadership and business acumen. Organizations should also consider incorporating mentoring programs as part of their onboarding process, particularly for historically underserved talent. These types of programs demonstrate an early investment in professional development and reflect an organization’s commitment to a supportive and inclusive work culture.

At its core, mentoring consists of three main components: the mentor, the mentee, and the relationship. The mentor is a person with extensive experience and success in a given domain who seeks to impart their knowledge to a protégé. The protégé, or apprentice, is less experienced and seeks to learn from someone she trusts. The mentoring relationship allows this transfer of knowledge, skill and experience to occur in an emotionally safe and contextually rich environment. The relationship is personal; both parties have skin in the game and work together to develop and track progress against an action plan focused on helping the trainee reach her full potential.

Mentoring relationships can occur both on their own and through the establishment of a more formalized program that provides access to employees. Through these types of programs, organizations demonstrate their commitment to the personal and professional growth of their workforce. Think of it as a support system that empowers and encourages employees to do their best. An environment that leads to a more productive and attractive workplace for all.

Use coaching to improve your skills.

Coaching programs, on the other hand, provide targeted training for specific skills, whether it’s leadership development, emotional intelligence, or giving constructive feedback. Let’s use the latter as an example. We all know that feedback is critical to improving performance, but for many, engaging in appraisal discussions can be easier said than done. Some managers don’t feel comfortable giving feedback; the overlap of a possible new direct reporting relationship, or the need to carry out a difficult discussion around the improvement, makes it that much more difficult. A series of coaching sessions can provide the proper training, tools, and resources for a manager to provide a stronger assessment that helps direct reports make meaningful course corrections to improve their performance.

Trainers are invited into an organization to assess and train in areas that are key to the success of a particular group of people or the company as a whole. It is important to note that coaching programs can be implemented at any level within the organization. Having a highly-skilled workforce with the tools necessary for a modern accountant is a distinct competitive advantage.

Where do you start?

There are many factors to consider and questions to answer when looking to establish a mentoring and/or training program. What do you hope to achieve? What is the program designed for? Who is involved, invited or expected to participate? What are the key performance indicators for success? Develop your strategy first, then plan it. Remember, a focus on historically marginalized talent should not exclude everyone else. Everyone should have equal conditions to prosper.

With that said, here’s my message to leaders: We know that companies that invest in DE&I increase their operational and financial performance. We also know that it is more difficult to replace than to find talent. Don’t just focus on recruiting; place a greater emphasis on retaining diverse talent; invest in a more holistic approach developing both the person and the professional. Reimagine training and upskilling that supports competency development, health/wellness, and career advancement. The most important thing is to create a culturally competent workplace where inclusion and engagement are the guiding principles.

Nikki Watson Pierce is Director of Sales, Corporate Channel at Becker Professional Education

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