Money & Business

Stick Your Neck Out: The Power of Mentoring

By / Oct 18, 2012 (Shutterstock photo)

A new study from the Center for Talent Innovation shows the importance of sponsorship programs for multicultural employees, but how important is sponsorship and mentoring for membership retention?

Earlier this week, I wrote a story on the need for greater sponsorship for multicultural employees in the workplace.

The world we live in today has become so disconnected, and the networking that used to go on a long time ago just doesn’t happen.

The story focused on a new report from the Center for Talent Innovation, and while interviewing one of its authors, I discovered that part of the impetus for the report was earlier research that CTI had done on women in the workplace.

“The research that the Center for Talent Innovation did on sponsorship has been very intriguing and powerful particularly for women,” said Maggie Jackson, CTI fellow and vice president. “We found that women are not playing the so-called relationship-capital game well, and they’re not really aware of the importance of sponsorships.”

So I was particularly intrigued when later in the week I came across this story on the Cobb County (Georgia) Bar Association’s creation of a women’s membership section.

The new Women of the Bar section is one of nine special interest groups within the association, and it is “committed to the unique needs addressed by female attorneys in their daily practice of law,” according to its proposed mission statement.

“A lot of women entering the profession are looking to connect to women who’ve gone before them as mentors,” said Dawn Levine, a wills and estates attorney and member of the Cobb County Bar Association. “This is a great place for women who’ve already blazed a trail to show others how.”

The group’s organizers also stated that it will connect any member, women and men, who wanted to “focus on the development of women in such areas as professional and social networking, mentorship, and professional and economic growth through shared wisdom and guidance.”

This idea seems so simple—it’s part of the reason associations exist in the first place—and yet it’s not a universal concept. Many organizations are discovering the need for formal mentoring programs.

“The world we live in today has become so disconnected, and the networking that used to go on a long time ago just doesn’t happen,” Maryann Williams, J.D., told Associations Now. “People don’t feel comfortable asking for help anymore, and they need those relationships established so that they can ask for help.”

The CTI sponsorship study specifically noted that sponsoring increases employee engagement and  confidence among people of color, and 60 percent of survey respondents with sponsors were less likely to quit as opposed to those without a sponsor.

Not only is better engagement good for business, but it’s obviously good news for membership retention. If new members are able to establish relationships or find a mentor within their association, as in the case of the Cobb County Bar Association, would they be more likely to rejoin the organization year after year? I would bet, yes.

What mentoring programs or sponsorship opportunities has your association implemented either for staff or members? Or how have you benefited from such a program?

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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