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How to Build an Inclusive Corporate Culture with Technology

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Ten Thousand Coffees
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
November 10, 2021

Statistics show that mentorship and sponsorship opportunities don’t always occur organically for all professionals. Unless a more deliberate approach is taken, people from underrepresented groups – whether they are women, BIPOC, LGBTQ or persons with disabilities - may not receive the same level of professional support they need to progress.

Manisha Burman, Head of Client Experience and Workforce Effectiveness at BMO Financial Group, believes corporate diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI) initiatives can make a significant impact in helping underrepresented groups’ career progression. Without purposeful planning and support, capable, engaged, and ambitious people from underrepresented groups may not get access to the same opportunities as others, and are unsure how to navigate these barriers.  

Given Manisha’s experience and familiarity with Ten Thousand Coffees’ - both at BMO and in other professional organizations like Ascend Canada - we were pleased to feature her in our Spotlight event, where we hosted 10 HR and talent leaders from Clearlink, Genpact, and Ricoh to exchange insights on their mentoring programs.

During the spotlight event, we discussed the important role of leaders to facilitate inclusive mentorship programs, especially as we navigate the new world of hybrid work. We also reviewed how using the Ten Thousand Coffees platform has helped organizations get measurable results from their informal development programs that support mentoring, networking and DEI initiatives for their employees.

Demystifying Career Progression Through Access to Leadership Networks

As a champion of employee development, BMO has hosted over 200 Office Hour events, which are small group discussions between leaders and employees, over the past 2.5 years. The response has been very positive. “Career planning and progression can sometimes feel ambiguous. These kinds of conversations inspire employees to take ownership of their career while giving them exposure to senior leadership”. Through these online connections, employees can link to colleagues across lines of businesses, learn more about cross-functional group opportunities and grow from within.

In addition to career guidance and mentoring, the platform can also be used for Employee Listening. Whether they have questions about improving the employee culture, launching a new product or brainstorming ways to streamline processes, leaders can quickly and effectively gather employee feedback through this kind of platform.  Manisha shared that BMO and many other organizations have customer feedback loops; this creates a similar feedback vehicle for employees.

"There's great potential in using technology platforms like Ten Thousand Coffees for mentors and mentees to have conversations about their career journeys. Making it a two-way conversation, where the leaders are learning as much from their mentees can be equally impactful”

Removing Unconscious Bias by Leveraging Technology

Manisha highlighted that while most organizations are very committed to creating sponsorship and mentoring programs, more organic mentee-mentor relationships are often based on familiarity, proximity and existing working relationships.

By using technology to set up their programs, leaders can access a broader range of potential mentees.  For example, organizations can leverage the Smart Match algorithm to remove potential biases that may occur when a leader selects their own Mentee.  Connections can go beyond existing relationships, titles or networks, but rather, what the mentors and mentees have to offer each other (i.e. skills, lived experiences). This creates more equity, broadens reach and drives more meaningful relationships.

“The truth is, it's never going to be a science. There is an art and a science to progressing as a leader, and there's an art, a science, and a chemistry factor to working with colleagues and senior leaders. Taking a programmatic, objective approach that leverages technology to make mentor/mentee matches can facilitate connections that would otherwise not have happened.” Manisha revealed.

Creating More Opportunities for Diverse Employees

As well as working for BMO, Manisha is a member of Ascend Canada, an organization that supports the professional development, visibility and influence of current and future Pan-Asian business leaders.

In addition to hosting multiple coffee chats, Ascend leveraged the 10KC Smart Match algorithm to organize members based on seniority, role, and interests. This allowed the organization to make sure each pairing could connect in multiple ways. Since 2019, the platform has been scaled to host over 100 Office Hours with leaders from the Ascend Canada network, which have been attended by over 2,000 members.

To learn more about the program check out our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion page and get in touch with our team to learn more.

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