Driving Workplace Equity Through Career Development: Part 2 of Our Black History Month Series

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In part two and the last of our Black History Month series, we’re shining a light on the role mentorship, sponsorship, and support from leadership play in advancing Black professionals’ careers. Personally, mentorship has played a vital role in helping me grow my career. Both the mentors and mentees in my life have played a meaningful role in shaping me as a person and I feel a sense of both debt and gratitude for their guidance and friendship. Mentorship and career coaching programs can be a great way to create pathways to advancement while fostering a nurturing and supportive community in the workplace. Water cooler chats, coffee strolls, and hallway conversations served as building blocks to help people foster bonds and ask for advice – but how do you create this dynamic in a remote workforce? With access to our peers and leadership becoming more challenging, formalized programs have become more critical to preserve connections and foster belonging in our new distributed, online workplace.

With new world of work in mind, we seek to understand the role LinkedIn can play in uplifting Black professionals to thrive in their careers. To do this, we surveyed over 2,000 Black professionals ages 18-69 to uncover challenges faced in the workplace and the importance of access to leadership, mentorship, and sponsorship. Here’s what we uncovered.

Mentorship’s Role in Career Development

In order to improve the workplace experience for Black professionals, companies must increase career development and advancement opportunities. At LinkedIn, we know that our networks are critical, and mentorship and sponsorship help provide access to opportunities that can meaningfully impact the trajectory of a person’s career. 

Nearly 1 in 3 Black professionals (30%) surveyed are thinking about leaving their current job, with the top reason being lack of growth or advancement opportunities (45%). We found that over half of Black professionals surveyed (51%) believe that leadership transparency on decisions that impact careers (e.g. promotion, pay, performance, and career management) would be one of the top 3 factors to make their current workplace feel more inclusive and equitable.

Black professionals, specifically, often face a myriad of unique obstacles in the workplace. Nearly half of Black professionals age 18-34 have faced blatant discrimination and/or microaggressions at work, and face obstacles often unseen and unrecognized by leadership and colleagues.  As leaders, colleagues, and allies it’s important to ensure we’re checking in and effectively advocating for team members to continue building cultures rooted in inclusivity and belonging. 

By creating strong mentorship, sponsorship, and career advancement opportunities, companies can help strengthen bonds, foster more growth, and help retain employees. In fact, we found 40% of Black professionals believe mentorship/career coaching opportunities will help lead to more equitable workplace culture. Our research tells us that two key barriers to mentorship are lack of trust of people in an organization (49%) and being uncomfortable asking for help (39%).  Making a mentorship program a prescribed, structured process helps alleviate these concerns and allows employees to see that their growth and advancement is a priority. 

At LinkedIn, we are committed to the success and empowerment of our underrepresented talent. Programs like our ImpactIn mentorship and LEAD curriculum are aimed at engaging and developing  Black and Latino talent in the U.S., to help accelerate career growth and build our leadership pipeline. 

What Black Professionals Want in a Mentor or Sponsor

Having a mentor or sponsor with a similar background can also help professionals build trust and feel supported within their company. 57% of Black professionals prefer a mentor or sponsor that comes from a similar background so they can speak freely about their professional growth experiences (59%) and talk openly about potential racial and equity issues (54%). 

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