Mentoring with a Purpose for Young People’s Success

By: Kerry Sullivan, Bank of America Charitable Foundation President and
Sue Stephenson, Vice President, Community Footprints, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

Mentoring can be a powerful way for companies to leverage their employees’ skills and expertise to have a positive impact on young people and help address social issues. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Bank of America were recently recognized for their achievements in mentoring by MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service.  While our companies represent different industries and take a different approach, we believe there are common lessons we can share about how to build, maintain and expand the impact of an effective employee mentoring volunteer program.

Design your mentoring program with outcomes in mind

What do you hope to achieve through your mentoring program?   You can build a successful mentoring program to address specific need by leveraging the unique skills and expertise your employees can bring to an issue. 

At The Ritz-Carlton, we leverage our commitment to service by harnessing the skills, knowledge, and experience of our employees to inspire and engage middle school students in disadvantaged communities and give them tools to help them flourish. Our Succeed Through Serviceyouth engagement curriculum brings students into our hotels and takes our employees into classrooms to teach critical life and career skills—including the importance of making a good first impression through eye-contact, a great smile, and a firm handshake. We promote teamwork and collaboration; teach interview and group presentation skills; share our culinary expertise to help encourage healthy eating habits and promote safe food handling; and engage students in helping tackle a challenging community issue to showcase the importance of giving back to their own community. Our employees are passionate about the opportunity to help young students better prepare for school, work and life.

Bank of America’s mentoring efforts are part of our broader work to connect young people to the skills needed for long-term success. We’re preparing youth for 21st century jobs and sometimes these might be at our company, but not necessarily – it’s about the bigger picture of investing in theiremployability.  One asset we bring is an engaged employee base who are eager to share their experiences and serve as mentors.  While we partner with lots of organizations, one example is Citizen Schools, a partnership where Bank of America employees help young people develop the essential skills needed for success in the workplace, like entrepreneurship, decision making, and critical thinking. Our approach to mentoring with a purpose is all about giving young people the expertise and guidance needed to help them develop their career path, wherever this might lead.

Find opportunities to scale programs

Once a program has been established, look for opportunities to share resources and expertise to scale up the program.  Companies should find creative ways to extend and deepen their mentorship programs.

Although Succeed Through Service has benefitted over 15,000 students, Ritz-Carlton wanted to scale the reach of our youth engagement efforts to make greater impact. That’s why we created the Succeed Through Service open source toolkit that provides all the practical resources to establishing a comprehensive youth engagement program. The idea is that by sharing the curriculum and resources on open source, non-proprietary basis, others will be inspired – and most importantly, well equipped – to help young students flourish, complete their education and have a successful and productive life.

Engage employees with big goals—and support

Ultimately the success of any employee volunteer program is about getting your employees engaged and active. It all begins with employees who are inspired to take action and are equipped with the resources and skills to make a difference.

Bank of America has done this by both setting ambitious goals, including a company-wide challenge for our employees to donate two million volunteer hours. But setting a goal is not enough; you also have to create the infrastructure to make it happen. In addition to promoting volunteer opportunities on our intranet and celebrating employee success stories, we offer our employees up to two hours per week of paid time to volunteer.

No matter the industry or the size of your company, your employees can leverage their unique skills and experiences to be effective mentors and address pressing community needs.