In 2020, the people of Colliers challenged themselves to turn up the volume on their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) efforts.
We brought together five Colliers experts who actively advocate diversity and inclusion inside and outside Colliers to discuss their experience with the company’s efforts on this front. In the second half of this two-part online conversation, they discuss the importance of mentorship to increase understanding and unlock opportunities — and where D&I efforts should go next.
On the role mentorship must play in fostering diversity and inclusion
Amy Vuong, Vice President of Strategy for Real Estate Management Services Group: I’ve been a mentor and a mentee, more than once on each side. Having that trusted relationship when you might otherwise not have had someone to go to is an invaluable resource. I had a mentor who is a white male, but he was able to have conversations with me about race and stereotypes in the workplace and how to handle those things within today’s reality. That was one of the most valuable things I had the opportunity to take part in in my career, and I can now share that back with my mentees.
I want to be really clear in saying that the mentorship program at Colliers is available to and right for everyone on our team. Looking back to early on in my career, I definitely felt ‘Oh that’s not for me, that’s for someone else’, or ‘I need to be more senior to do this’, but everyone should feel that they have equal access to the great opportunity of mentorship, as a mentor and mentee.
Colin Worrell, Managing Director of Brokerage Group, Montreal: Yes, mentorship is so key. As Amy said, it’s important that people know what’s available for them. We must be intentional about this as a corporation and an industry – the way to make things change is to go out and draw in people who didn’t realize how much promise they had until they were given the support against which to work.
Arlene Dedier, Director of Private Sector for Project Leaders: We don’t know what we don’t know. That’s the real power of a mentorship relationship, to teach and learn from each other to increase understanding. That, and to more evenly spread out the power of access.
Synthia Kloot, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Finance & Operations |Brokerage Services Canada: Unless you start talking about them, often times people don’t know that inequities in the workplace really exist. That being said, we don’t want to create a defensiveness, we want to assist the change in a way that allows for positive momentum, rather than resistance. That can be achieved through conversation and curiosity.
Kerris Hougardy, Vice President of People Services, North America: Mentorship was one of the original programs created when the D&I program was formed in 2015 and has since then greatly expanded. It’s a ten-month program that matches volunteer mentors with mentees. We walk them through the program with tools, resources and webinars to drive conversation, build relationships and create focused goals.
SK: We are really proud of the successes of the mentorship program. It’s grown by an average of 57% year over year. This year, as we formalized the structure more, we saw an increase of 50% in the number of mentees receiving promotions within the year. We feel that’s really something to celebrate and nurture.
KH: By being a mentor within Colliers, there is an opportunity to also educate yourself and expand awareness. The relationship is a reciprocal one for the mentee and the mentor; both halves are getting a lot out of it. You are opening yourself up to learn about others.
AV: Part of what has made the mentorship program this successful at Colliers is the work that the team has put into the structure and framework of it. Without the framework to overcome the bias in the system, trying to put out a program that is informal can backfire and be disparaging or exclusionary. That’s why it’s so crucial to have those resources to make it successful.
AD: My mentor was not who I expected. We seemingly didn’t have much in common, but he saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and he challenged me. That’s the real beauty of mentorship.
On where Colliers’ D&I goes next
SK: In the program, we’ve made a conscious effort to change out the people in each role. We want to ensure that we are getting diversity of thought from those driving the initiative. Now that we have momentum, we can broaden the net and bring more people in, consciously.
KH: What I find really exciting is that we’ve created a way to measure our success. Being able to look at D&I with the power of analytics and data rather than assumptions is very powerful. This year we gave our team members the opportunity to voluntarily and confidentially self-identify across a number of key diversity demographics, which will enable us to be more aware of who is being represented in our workforce and how we can support them.
Training is also continually improving. In 2021, we are hosting workshops that bring together leaders from across North America to learn how to create more inclusive workplaces. Employees will go through yearly mandatory D&I training, much like the other basic training modules that help us live our values on a day to day basis.
AD: We are seeing more global alignment in the company. We’re doing a much better job of bringing these groups together on a regular basis and setting actionable plans in place, and we plan to build on those opportunities.
CW: It’s really important for the message to be relayed to minorities that we believe in you, the company believes in you. That we see value in you. It’s necessary to be actively sensitive to that. Those in the majority may not need this in the same way. It can be the difference between someone shining and getting lost.
SK: My hope is that eventually we don’t need to talk about diversity and inclusion as a stand-alone program anymore. Soon it will not be a separate initiative, but instead simply part of our corporate DNA.