Deloitte is a people business—we care about supporting our talent while also cultivating future talent in our communities. When we developed our RightStepTM program, Deloitte’s commitment to education, we focused on how Deloitte could support and scale innovations to help improve education opportunities for low-income students. Investing in education was a no–brainer, but we were challenged to figure out how we could make an impact to help set underserved students on the path to persist through high school and college and transition successfully to the workforce. We knew that mobilizing our talent was a key factor to success.
With more than 55,000 professionals across the United States, we have the capacity to make an impact at scale. And we know how important engaging our people is to the success of our business. According to Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends” 2016 report, 85% of executives surveyed rated engagement as an important or very important priority for their business. The statistics reflecting the impact of mentors tell a powerful story as well. With a mentor, at-risk youth are 55% more likely than their peers to be enrolled in college and 52% less likely to skip a day of school. This business data point combined with the social impact statistics compelled us to increase our focus on mentoring in a way that was accessible and easy for our professionals. For our increasingly virtual workforce, the answer was virtual mentoring.
This summer we launched RightStep Virtual Mentoring, a program sponsored by the Deloitte Foundation and in collaboration with Strive for College. Our employees engage in meaningful mentoring relationships anytime and anyplace through the UStrive virtual mentoring platform, which tracks all interaction and activity between our mentors and mentees. We have recruited more than 700 Deloitte professionals as mentors in our first few months to help low-income students navigate the college application process. And we continue to see interest across Deloitte’s business units and geographic markets. Virtual mentoring was a logical fit for our business culture, in which we continue to encourage virtual teaming.
Getting our professionals to engage was step one, and then we needed to help prepare them to be effective mentors to address the challenges and obstacles that low-income students often face in the college application process. We engaged subject matter specialists from Strive and from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, who helped support us in managing mentoring relationships, training, and evaluating effective mentoring efforts. We also needed to coach our professionals in ways we didn’t expect initially. For example, we had to remind our mentors to meet students where they are in the process and support them in areas where they needed the most guidance as they advanced through the college preparation stages; this included helping them search for schools, reviewing their college essays, and assisting them in the financial aid application process. In addition, our mentors were coached on taking time to build trust and creating the plan of action together with their mentee because that helps set up both parties for success in the mentoring relationship.
Since September, we have engaged more than 700 Deloitte professionals who have in turn mentored more than 1,100 students. Deloitte’s mentees will begin hearing from colleges in the spring. However, early indicators already suggest the significant impact we have had. For example, Jerry, a high school senior whose family emigrated from Haiti to New York City, opened his early college admission email from Harvard on camera and shared the excitement of his acceptance in a video. He reported that his Deloitte mentor, Forrest, “puts me at ease by telling me how he’d dealt with the same things and navigated through them. He gives me very good advice and information.
“Having a real, live person to go through that whole process with is really helpful and comforting,” said Jerry. “I didn’t receive the same vague information I’d heard before. Forrest is very honest and candid, easy to talk to, and he gives me real advice that zones in on the specific problems and questions I have.” We expect to see hundreds more stories like Jerry’s and Forrest’s.
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