Fostering a more promising and productive future through mentorship programs

Mentoring-079109-editedIn 1897, Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist credited with leading the enormous expansion of the American steel industry, appointed the 35-year-old Charles M. Schwab as his successor as president of Carnegie Steel. Schwab had started as a low level engineer at the company and first impressed Carnegie with his talents as a pianist at a party. This jump-started a close mentoring relationship between the two, and in a relatively brief period of time, Schwab was groomed to follow Carnegie as head of the company. Schwab’s business success even after he left Carnegie Steel is largely credited to Carnegie’s interest in his high-potential protégé. Member company EY’s thought leadership on mentoring will be released later this month, and they will be joining the Center and fellow member companies to discuss their major findings, specifically around youth mentorship, and the ways in which companies can put the insight into practice. Key topics include:

Mentoring as part of a broader corporate strategy
  • Why businesses get involved with mentoring
  • The ways mentoring benefits the business and its employees
  • The myriad of approaches businesses take to support programs and meet youth needs
  • How companies leverage their strengths to maximize impact
  • The biggest challenges and successes to date
  • Core elements of a mentoring program

Click here to watch the on-demand webinar.

Mentor relationships are not uncommon. Most successful people can name at least one mentor they had along the way. These relationships aren’t just beneficial to individuals; they benefit companies as well. Companies are allocating resources increasingly to build productive mentor relationships both with high potential employees and with youth who are potential future employees. Some companies may use employees to mentor local school children, connect employees with one another as part of diversity networks, or even help suppliers improve and grow as small businesses.

Professional mentor relationships

Many companies choose to encourage mentor/mentee relationships internally. In a work environment, a mentor is someone who has traversed the professional path upon which the mentee is embarking. Typically, the mentor is someone who is not in the direct line of supervision, and who can offer helpful guidance and advice about where one might need development and how to get it. They can also offer advice about how to manage one’s career path strategy and negotiate office politics, processes, and relationships with peers and superiors. The mentor can help accelerate the growth of professional networks that can be helpful to career progression. Through both formal and informal programs, companies are better able to identify high potential employees and increase the leadership pipeline.

Member company Comcast uses formal mentoring, executive leadership, boot camps, and incentives to identify, hire, and promote high-potential employees from diverse backgrounds. The mentorship program enables leaders to identify and informally support the development of the future leaders of the company. Comcast offers more than 100 leadership development and training opportunities for employees and that mutually benefit the employee and the company.

These professional relationships may be built into existing employee resource structures, which may or may not fall under a corporate citizenship department. Even if the employee resource groups (ERGs) themselves are not managed by citizenship leaders, mentorship can be built in and/or supported by corporate citizenship activity. Corporate citizenship practitioners may partner with their HR counterparts and use traditional citizenship activities like volunteering to help build and foster mentorship relationships within the groups, and encourage the pairs so that they realize the benefits of a strong mentor/mentee bond.

Bridge/transition support

For other companies, mentoring means helping students take the leap from academic preparation into the workforce. It is a critical time to learn both soft skills and professional or technical skills needed to move into the working world, from how to behave in a professional environment to how apply concepts used in school or to use basic tools such as Excel. Often, high school and college students do not leave school with the necessary skills to gain employment in a company or have any relevant job experience. Many companies have addressed this gap by offering internships and helping the students learn practical work skills. Such internships may even turn into full-time job prospects.


Supporting youth through employee volunteerism is another common corporate mentoring approach, which fosters connections between skilled employees and students on a variety of topical as well as general areas. Employees might partner with an at-risk youth to simply provide a positive role model, or they might advise them in a more specific way on skills and industry insight in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, or financial literacy. Regardless of the area of focus, mentors help to model the importance of networking, seeking opportunities, and building positive relationships with others.

Organizational mentorship

Finally, some companies even offer a supplier mentor program to assist would-be suppliers to reach the high bar that many large companies set. One example is member company Capital One’s Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program, which was established to match small business owners with Capital One business leaders who have the background and expertise to assist Diversity suppliers with specific business development needs. Since the program’s inception in 2005, Capital One has successfully matched over 50 regional businesses with Capital One associates in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. The relationships developed in this program enable small businesses to grow and enjoy an expanded support network.


Subscribe to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship's Blog

Get the latest business perspectives on corporate citizenship straight to your inbox.