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Mentoring is an effective strategy to promote retention and advancement of employees with disabilities.

In a similar vein to internships, workplace mentoring benefits workers with and without disabilities as well as their employers. Thus, increasing numbers of employers are implementing formal or informal mentoring programs as a way to improve employees’ supervisory skills and job satisfaction and promote a positive corporate image. Like internships, mentoring programs can also serve as an effective employee recruitment and retention tool by helping to identify future talent for the organization. 

Mentoring is a personnel enhancement strategy that traditionally pairs employees with a more established coworker to help advise and train them and share knowledge and skills. Mentors share known resources, expertise, organizational history, values, skills, perspectives, attitudes and proficiencies with mentees. This allows mentees to understand the organization more quickly, and build skills and knowledge while attaining career development goals. It also provides the opportunity for mentors to further enhance their own skill and knowledge areas.

Modern mentoring models include approaches that position the mentee, traditionally the less experienced co-worker, to define and lead the relationship.  Further, employers are designing cross-functional components in mentoring to help bolster innovation and problem-solving.  An overview of a variety of mentoring models and programs focused on serving youth and adults with disabilities is available online in the Disability Mentoring Toolkit developed by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Organizational benefits of mentoring include:

  • Increased organizational diversity.
  • Creation of a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture.
  • Reduced turnover.
  • Transfer of organizational knowledge.
  • Increased preparedness for workforce turnover, especially in high level positions.
  • Enhanced perspectives to drive innovation and problem-solving.
  • Improved understanding of the disability market segment.

Employee benefits of mentoring include:

  • A structured way for new employees to get acquainted with the organization.
  • Easier transitions into the workplace and to new positions.
  • Increased self-awareness and self-discipline.
  • Expanded leadership abilities and understanding of diverse workers.
  • Increased technical skills and enhanced opportunities for career advancement.
  • New opportunities to share ideas, try new skills and take risks.
  • Enhanced capacity to translate values and strategies into productive actions.
  • Improved awareness of personal biases, assumptions and identification of areas for improvement.
  • Extended collaboration among employees from different generations and cultural backgrounds.

Mentoring opportunities also exist in a variety of other important models and programs, including engagement in disability-specific mentoring to enhance recruitment opportunities, time-controlled activities like flash mentoring during job shadowing events, and reciprocal mentoring that seeks to have both mentor and mentee infuse learning through the relationship. Employers may opt to implement an inclusive workplace mentoring program and reach out to community partners to their and the community’s benefit. They may also wish to participate in events like Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), which is held each October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Learn more about DMD on the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) website.

Another option is to get involved with the Disability:IN’s Mentorship Exchange, which connects college students and recent graduates with disabilities to business professionals from USBLN partner companies.

To help employers better understand the benefits and how-to of mentoring programs, EARN developed the “Workplace Mentoring Playbook.”

For more information about mentoring student interns with disabilities, read “Tips for Mentoring Student Interns with Disabilities.”

For more information, read Mentoring as a Disability Inclusion Strategy.