A+E Networks' Mentoring Program Pays DEI Dividends

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When A+E Networks reached out to its approximately 1,500 employees worldwide for feedback, one of the things that frequently came back was that they would like to have more career and development opportunities. That was the spark that led to the May 2021 launch of A+E Networks' mentorship program.

In the first year alone, 124 mentor-mentee pairs -- 248 total employees -- went through the program, and many of them plan to sign up for year two, which will launch in July.

To get started, participants signed up using the Chronus mentoring platform, which allowed them to create profiles and note their skills, interests, preferences and career goals. Then the platform helped pair them with a mentor.

Employees were matched up across departments and job levels. All mentoring events, including the meetings between the mentors and mentees, took place over Teams or Zoom. This facilitated the opportunity to have mentoring pairs in different regions, including pairings across the U.S. and among our U.S., U.K. and Asia offices. And the pairs could be as disparate as a coordinator with an executive vice president.

"Our mentoring programs are opportunities for employees to connect with and learn from people with different interests and backgrounds," explained Andrea Mantilla, Vice President, People Development & Learning.

Mentoring groups were asked to meet at least every 30 days, but they were free to meet more often if so inclined.

Jamie Acevedo and Genevieve Bochanty, both Managers of Learning & Development, joined A+E Networks in the past year to help with the mentorship program and a number of other initiatives. The team facilitated the mentor-mentee pairings and created several events for program participants. They offered workshops on how to build personal brands, communications training through an organization called SpeakEasy, and Insights Discovery training, which helped participants understand their own personalities and how they best build connections with others.

In addition, they hosted occasional virtual happy hours -- in which people gathered to play trivia games and get to know each other across departments and job levels.

A+E Networks Chairman and President Paul Buccieri and Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer Karen Gray also lent their strong support to the mentoring program. They mentioned the program in town hall meetings, encouraged senior staff to take part, and made resources available for it.

"We believe in the powerful impact that mentoring can have on an individual's professional growth," says Gray. "Everyone has something to give, and everyone has something to learn."

At the end of the program's first year, A+E Networks hosted a graduation that also served as an open forum for people to talk about what they had learned from the program. "We heard feedback like, 'My mentor really challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone, and I got uncomfortable in a good way,' and 'I learned to be more open to opportunities,'" Bochanty said.

"The mentors also said they learned a lot from their mentees that helped make them better managers and think about how they needed to support their teams to achieve their goals," she added.

The program also had some tangible outcomes; some participants, with guidance from their mentors, achieved their goal of promotion or moving to a new department. "It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to move across a division or function, and the fact that this mentoring program could aid people in that goal was especially gratifying," Mantilla explained.

"After the first year, people are already eager to sign up again," Acevedo said. While they are encouraged to keep up their relationships with their mentors and mentees from this past year, if they go through the program again, they will be paired with a different person. "Everyone is going to get the opportunity to get thrown back in the mix," he continued. "We'll find ways that, if you are coming through it again, you'll get a refreshed experience."

Mantilla and her team are also looking to expand the program in the future with a buddy program for new hires that could then be a path into the mentorship program.

As the mentorship program expands and evolves in the years to come, one thing remains clear -- A+E Networks is committed to championing all employees and giving them opportunities for career growth. "There's nothing like knowing that your voice matters," Bochanty concluded. "We want our employees to know that we're listening to them."

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