Panel: Mentorship – The Key to Retention?
A mentorship program should be a part of any organization’s business model. Our panelists discussed their strategies for nurturing and retaining talent, and provided some best practices that companies should follow for success.
Moderator: Sandy Kuohn, EVP & Chief Colleague Officer City – National Bank
Sandy Kuohn is an executive vice president and chief colleague officer at City National Bank. She is a member of the company’s Executive Committee, responsible for the development and implementation of the bank’s human resources strategy, including talent management; leadership development; recruiting; training and development; compensation and benefits; payroll; colleague engagement; colleague retention; colleague relations; and workforce diversity, equity and inclusion. Kuohn was recognized by “Crain’s Detroit Business” in 2019 as a Notable Woman in HR. She also serves on the board of trustees of CATCH (Caring Athletes Team for Children’s and Henry Ford Hospitals), raising funds for sick, vulnerable and economically disadvantaged children in Detroit.
Panelist: Chris Nixon, General Counsel – Corebridge Financial , Inc.
Chris Nixon serves as executive vice president and general counsel for Corebridge Financial, Inc. She has lived in Los Angeles since attending UCLA for college and then Loyola Law School. She started her legal practice at Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton, and eventually joined SunAmerica Inc. as in-house counsel.
Panelist: Dr. Yenda Prado, FAS Emerging Technologies Impact Fellow – U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Yenda Prado is FAS Emerging Technologies Impact Fellow on detail to the U.S. Department of Education. Her work centers on social uses of emerging technologies to support children’s inclusion and literacy. Dr. Prado has served as an educational media advisor and research fellow with PBS KIDS and is writing a book for MIT Press titled “Voices on the Margins: Inclusive Education at the Intersection of Language, Literacy and Technology.”
Panelist: Gillian Hayes, Vice Provost for Graduate Education – University of California, Irvine
Gillian R. Hayes was named the third vice provost for graduate education and dean of the graduate division in 2019. A member of the UCI faculty since 2007, she previously served as the Robert A. and Barbara L. Kleist chair in informatics, with additional appointments in the School of Education and the School of Medicine. Her multidisciplinary research interests focused on leveraging innovative information technologies to support vulnerable populations. Before becoming dean, Hayes was vice chair for graduate affairs in informatics, a position in which she established doctoral programs in informatics and software engineering, evolved Ph.D. recruitment and retention processes, and championed efforts to support women and underrepresented doctoral students.
Shared Insights from the Event
WHY IS HAVING A MENTORSHIP PROGRAM IMPORTANT TO HELP DEVELOP, NURTURE, AND RETAIN TALENT?
Chris Nixon: Mentorship is the person who’s going to give you some directed advice, but we also heard very early on today about making contacts and connections, and the value of forming relationships. Mentorship is about forming a relationship with someone who can help you work through a challenge, work through an issue, introduce you to somebody who they think will be valuable to you in your future, and the thing about mentorship is it you have to be slightly vulnerable. You have to be willing to put yourself in a situation of asking somebody to do something for you and you’re not necessarily giving them anything in return.
Dr. Yenda Prado: When I think of mentorship, coming from the field of education, I might take a more heart-centered approach to it and a more value-centered approach. So, for me, I believe that mentorship programs are important, because if we as a society are vested in issues of equity or issues of justice, we absolutely need mentorship. If we believe in gender parity, or if we believe in increasing the social capital of women, it’s absolutely essential that we have mentorship programs that aim to do that.
DOES MENTORSHIP NEED TO BE FORMAL AND WITHIN THE COMPANY STRUCTURE TO BE VALUABLE?
Gillian Hayes: There’s a lot to be said for what we do in a formal educational environment, whether we’re talking about getting degrees or training programs, or onboarding employees or whatever the case may be. But what really leads to success is a deep understanding of the unwritten rules: the curriculum that you don’t have set in stone, that you don’t know about beforehand - so much of that comes through this kind of mentorship.
AT WHAT POINT SHOULD MENTORSHIP START? AND IS THERE A WAY TO REACH WOMEN WHO DO NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES TO SEEK OUT MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES?
Dr. Yenda Prado: I’m still very much in that space of both being actively mentored and mentoring. I think that as mentors we really need to center our practice of mentorship on listening, and really keeping an ear out for what the gaps are. What are the things that I keep on hearing within my organization as things that need improvement or areas where employees, particularly women and underrepresented minorities, are feeling? What are those tension points? I think it’s also important to not necessarily assume that our employees are going to come in with that social capital or that institutional knowledge of what are the things that I need to do. Even the idea of securing a mentor can be very foreign, so I am careful not to make presumptions about the kinds of knowledge people come in with.
Chris Nixon: Listening is super important, and as the work environment pivots to a very blended way of working, and as companies have a broad geographic footprint, I do think that mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be in person. I’ve done a lot of mentoring over video technology, and it can be really powerful. It creates this connection across the organization. I do think that mentoring can be a tool you can leverage to give people the confidence or build that safe place for individuals to get a little bit of help, get a little bit of direction, and help them emerge into their next role.
FROM A CAREER DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVE FOR WOMEN, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALLYSHIP AND MENTORSHIP? AND WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR WOMEN TO LEVERAGE THEIR NETWORKS?
Gillian Hayes: There are allies, there are mentors, there are sponsors, and there are coaches. You need all four of these people in your life. And they do have different roles. Our allies are the people that speak up for us when we’re not there. Our mentors are often sounding boards. Sponsors, these are people who put their own reputation on the line to help you get somewhere else. And then finally coaching, we’re going to ask you questions. We’re going to make sure that you’re answering yourself and growing.