The Importance of Cross-cultural Mentoring

In this article, we examine what cross-cultural mentoring is, why it is important, and how it might work within your business.

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Diversity initiatives have been a prominent feature of the business world for the last several years. While representation is far from equitable, it is true that progress is being made. Better college opportunities for diverse students. More businesses with DEI boards, and so on.

But diverse hiring practices aren’t impactful if people from minority groups lack a voice within your organisation. Cross-cultural mentoring is a powerful way to enrich your business with a diversity of perspectives. In this article, we examine what it is, why it is important, and how it might work within your business.

What is Mentorship?

In the workplace, mentorship initiatives usually involve an experienced employee showing a newer hire the ropes. Sometimes the arrangements are informal. Two people hit it off and tend to share their lunch breaks. Other times, mentorship programs are company-driven, involving some form of supplemental compensation. A cross-cultural mentorship program involves pairing two people from different backgrounds together so that the business better experiences the benefits of diversity.


It’s widely agreed that diversity is a credit to the organisations that can boast it. It’s not just that diverse hiring or mentorship opportunities help make opportunities more equitable. It’s also that the businesses benefit. Studies overwhelmingly show that businesses with diverse leadership perform better financially than those without.

But is it enough to make smart hires? If employees from different backgrounds aren’t having meaningful interactions no one is experiencing the benefits of diversity. Cross-cultural mentoring initiatives help to tear down barriers while simultaneously improving operations.

But how does it impact the bottom line?

Why Diversity is Good for You

In the world of business— and we don’t mean this cynically— value propositions are a little different. The right thing is the decision that keeps your employees’ bank accounts healthy. Cross-cultural mentoring can potentially help with that as well.

Keep in mind that even with diversity initiatives abound, the business world is far from proportionate in its representation. Almost 14% of Americans are Black, but that number is far from reflected within employment statistics.

Let’s say Company X, a marketing firm, has one hundred employees. Of those, five are Black. However, fourteen percent of the people that receive their marketing messages are African American. That disparity can make a big difference in how effective Company X’s marketing materials are.

Diversity is good for businesses because it allows them to tap into the mindsets of a wider group of people. At the same time though, the CEO at Company X can’t expect just a few people to change the cultural mindset of their business on their own.

Cross-cultural mentorship gives people from different backgrounds the opportunity to interact in ways that may differ from the usual workplace rhythms.

For the Employees

Cross-cultural mentorship initiatives clarify to all of your employees that diversity is being prioritised and celebrated within the company.

For the people who fall into the category of “diverse hires,” it demonstrates that they are there for more than just token representation. For everyone else, it shows that diversity is something that will continue to play an important role in how things are done.


Nothing is ever easy, right? Cross-cultural mentorship programs experience barriers, just like all the best-intended plans. One of the issues is that the concept theoretically invites your company to define “diversity.”

It’s alienating for everyone. It also reduces culture to skin colour. Scott over in accounting is an American of European descent. He’s also a practising Muslim, two years removed from a lifetime of Scottish citizenship.

In America, people of European descent fall into the “majority group.” Scott the Scottsman, however, is far from being part of the majority.

Authentic diversity initiatives are about giving everyone the chance to shine. Narrowing or reducing human experience into the generic categories of “diverse,” or “not diverse,” is at once alienating, and potentially a serious HR headache.

That doesn’t mean you can’t encourage two people from different backgrounds to sit down and have a conversation. When it comes to company-wide initiatives, the best data always comes directly from the employees themselves.

Ask around. Find out how your staff would like things to play out. You aren’t necessarily converting their feedback into a checklist that you have to follow. You are, however, getting a better understanding of what they expect and want.

If you want to learn more about improving diversity and inclusion within the workplace through mentoring, book a free demonstration with us today.

This article was guest written by Andrew Deen.

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