By David B. Shapiro, President and CEO, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and Nancy Altobello, Global Vice Chair, Talent, EY
Sixteen million American youth -- one in three -- will reach the age of 19 without ever having had a mentor of any kind, according to The Mentoring Effect. Youth with mentors are more likely to be successful in school, leaders in their communities and to enter young adulthood with opportunities for ongoing education and career choices.
Yet public investment in mentoring has plateaued for many years. In addition, the seemingly endless parade of grim statistics about the current and future prospects of the nation's youth serve as a constant reminder that the mentoring movement's efforts are more critical than ever before. For mentoring to scale, we must seek greater investments, constant innovation and improvement.
At the National Mentoring Summit held last month in Washington, DC, we issued a call to action for more companies to start or enhance mentoring programs for our nation's youth. The business case for more corporate engagement in youth mentoring is clear. It builds business acumen for employees, including experience in managing and developing talent, improving communication and customer service skills and fostering better understanding and deeper appreciation for the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of both the youth mentors serve and their co-workers. Mentoring also provides companies with improved employee engagement and retention, enhances recruiting, strengthens the communities where businesses operate and develops the talent pipeline by preparing young people for college and careers.
EY professionals who mentor in the community improve performance, increase leadership skills and are able to build better relationships with our clients. Rich Pashkin, a College MAP Program Director in New York, says, "I've found that even though a College MAP session means a longer work day for me, working with our students reinvigorates me. After meeting with scholars, I always come back to work re-energized, excited and I'm even more productive. I can relate more easily to teammates, propose better ideas and feel more confident when facing challenges."
To provide a roadmap for activation, we released a joint report, Mentoring: at the crossroads of education, business and community, featuring best practices and case studies from both local businesses and Fortune 500 companies. The EY and MENTOR report examines how top US businesses collaborate with the public and non-profit sectors to provide mentorship opportunities to youth in their communities. It also provides the following strategies to start a mentoring effort or enhance the results of an existing program.
- Align mentoring engagements with your corporate strengths. To have a successful mentoring program, businesses should consider how potential programs would fit with their broader corporate mission, as well as their values and capabilities. For example, the report examines 3M, which used its experience building successful products to develop a suite of youth mentoring activities. 3M partners with K-12 STEM and business organizations to assist with out-of-school-time programming oriented around hands-on experiments, classes and internships for high school students, visits from volunteers focused on STEM career options and summer programs that allow mentees to work in labs with 3M scientists. Similarly, IBM's mentoring programs emphasize increased awareness of STEM careers and improved academic performance in STEM subjects. But the company also has an e-mentoring platform which helps young mentees develop soft skills tied to relationship building and communication.
- Collaborate with national and community partners to strengthen your program. By establishing relationships with non-profit experts or educational institutions, private sector mentoring efforts will benefit from your partners' experience, robust systems, processes and standards, investment in talent development and materials and methodologies. Comcast's mentoring program partners, for example, include City Year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Boys and Girls Clubs and First Robotics. And EY's College MAP (Mentoring for Access & Persistence) program works closely with the non-profit College for Every Student, to mentor students through high school and college and to help with the college application and financial aid process.
- Foster employee engagement through an open understanding of where and when mentoring takes place, as well as ongoing support. Employers must realize that mentoring happens in many different ways, and that flexibility is key to encourage, facilitate and support participation. Employers should clearly illustrate which mentoring options are available to employees -- short- or long-term, online or in-person, at the worksite or a school -- and work with their non-profit partner to provide training, a curriculum, relationship tools and ongoing support. All 18 organizations interviewed by EY and MENTOR allow employees to volunteer during working hours. Bank of America, for example, even offers employees two hours of paid time off a week to volunteer, while Coastway Community Bank weaves mentoring accomplishments into annual employee performance evaluations
- Facilitate increased peer learning and idea sharing among service providers and private sector actors focused on mentoring. Corporate funders and partners are uniquely positioned to bring together programs to exchange best practices, explore partnership opportunities or share data. Those with technology platforms can build online environments where practitioners can share case studies and advice. The private sector can also invest in intermediaries that help scale effective programming and provide professional development and mentor training. First Niagara, for example, is a strong supporter of affiliate Mentoring Partnerships that are part of MENTOR's network, and the partnership has driven significant advancements in the mentoring field at the system level.
- Invest in proven, evidence-based programming. The private sector is well-positioned to foster broad demand for quality programs that follow evidence-based standards. Companies can also support two national efforts to advance rigor in practice, including the recently launched National Mentoring Resource Center, a partnership between the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and MENTOR, as well as the National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS), which provides a structured, systematic process for evaluating how effectively mentoring programs are implemented. Corporate partners such as State Street have been instrumental in building up quality systems. The Boston-based financial services company's support in Massachusetts has laid the foundation for much of the NQMS work being replicated across the US.
The investments in quality youth mentoring made by companies are direct contributions to the future strength of our communities and our country. They connect young people to the powerful asset that is mentoring, to opportunity and to success.