Crossing off a to-do or checking a box can come with a certain satisfaction, but what many still need to ask is, “Did I achieve my desired outcome?” Or better yet, “Could I have gotten the job done better, cheaper, or faster with a different tool or resource?”
Clayton Christensen, the late author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and former Harvard Business School professor, introduced the Theory of Jobs to Be Done. To summarize, when we buy a product, we essentially ‘hire’ it to do a job. To figure out what that job is, we have to look at what the customer (or business) hopes to accomplish and their unique context.
Corporate leaders can learn a lot from milkshakes. (Stay with me here.) Professor Christensen is known for telling the story of improving milkshakes—a project he worked on for a leading fast-food chain. They asked quintessential milkshake drinkers, “Tell us how we could improve our milkshakes so you’d buy more of them? Do you want it cheaper, chunkier, or chewier?” But the feedback they received, and subsequent changes they made had no impact on sales or profits whatsoever.
They then discovered a different approach, asking instead, “What job arises in people’s lives that cause them to come to this fast-food chain to hire a milkshake?” What they discovered was these people had a long and boring drive to work and they just needed something filling that would keep the commute interesting.
The restaurant pivoted, and instead of changing ingredients, they moved the milkshake from behind the counter to the front for speedier delivery in the morning rush. Additionally, they made the shakes thicker so they took longer to drink during the morning commute. When this company understood that they were competing against other breakfast options hired to do a specific job – bagels, bananas, doughnuts – the sales of the milkshakes dramatically increased due to long-lasting performance compared to more crumbly, speedily-digested, and less-filling competitors.
The Missing ‘Link’
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) leaders have very important jobs to be done. They often try to engage their colleagues to advance the careers of underrepresented employees, create an inclusive environment, and build diverse talent pipelines. Just like the milkshake was “hired” to improve the commute and stave off hunger, a mentorship platform can be considered by DEI leaders when thinking about how to complete the jobs they need to get done.
Currently, as corporate cultures amplify and embrace the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, HR and DEI practitioners need to increase the probability that their strategies will accomplish the desired outcomes at scale. This is particularly important given the relatively small budgets, team, and questionable executive buy-in. It is a challenging starting point. With many leaders looking to drive change, mentorship technology can be a means to achieving those strategic goals within physical and virtual workplaces.
The effectiveness of mentoring speaks for itself. More than 90 percent of workers who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57 percent) who are “very satisfied.” When offered an opportunity to learn and grow from mentoring, 94 percent of employees said they would stay at a company longer. With Harvard Business Review finding 50 percent of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity, the best way to make tangible progress may not be through traditional methods.
Historically, when trying to diversify talent pipelines, companies have “hired” a career fair, job board, LinkedIn or conference focused on underrepresented populations in order to target internships and jobs. The problem is these options lack the ongoing connectivity and the opportunity to build relationships with underrepresented talent. Furthermore, the consumer-facing services of those businesses don’t account for the context or circumstance of early-career underrepresented talent – the job(s) that they are trying to get done.
Black and Latinx professionals starting out in their careers are looking for advice; an easy connection to someone they feel comfortable expressing themselves with and in a way that is on their terms so they can make career decisions with confidence. On the surface, LinkedIn or a job board may seem like good candidates to do this job, but it is very intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know, not to mention someone who is highly regarded in their field. InMails and other “cold” approaches rarely get a response and if early career professionals have never been advised on how to reach out to someone “cold”, they struggle knowing exactly what to say.
Why Mentorship Technology Is Right for the Job
Everyone lacks confidence when doing something the first time. Furthermore, Black and Latinx professionals disproportionately lack the social capital necessary to efficiently receive advice, wisdom, and insight from experienced professionals who have carved a path in an industry they’re looking to explore. As a DEI leader – tinkering with traditional approaches is the equivalent of hiring a bagel, banana, or doughnut as a tidy, long lasting, filling solution to keep you company on a long morning commute. Mentorship technology can be the milkshake you need as it addresses the problem within the context of underrepresented populations you are trying to attract, hire, promote and retain.
Think about your career journey. If you hadn’t known someone in the field or never were exposed to the path to get there, would you be in that role today? It’s likely you were connected to someone who started (and supported) you along the way. People cannot be who they haven’t seen, and if you’ve never been exposed to a mentor or a professional in your ideal career or role, then you don’t have the building blocks for success.
With this in mind, DEI and HR professionals must think about the job to be done, not only from their own perspective, but that of individuals they are trying to attract, hire and retain. Within this, they must also consider the context. Underrepresented populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. While many cite the obvious health-related disparities, my focus is the resultant isolation that amplifies not only the lack of social capital necessary to advance one’s professional goals but also the limited opportunity for serendipitous connections that helps to build social capital – or the advantage created through the people you know or networks you’re connected to.
Hiring Mentor Spaces to Meet and Exceed DEI Goals
Many traditional mentorship platforms are selling a service with an inadequate understanding of the jobs to be done. Our approach at Mentor Spaces reconciles the jobs to be done between DEI/HR leaders and those of people they are trying to attract, hire and retain. Equally important, we embed the circumstances that our customers and users face within our design process.
We are using technology to create serendipitous connections that may have suffered due to COVID-19 and creating social capital in a way that allows our clients to accomplish their DEI goals at scale. While some technology partners fall short in achieving measurable and impactful results, we understand why the bagel or the banana may not actually work. Asynchronous communication within virtual groups to build confidence and a network are akin to the milkshake’s attributes that made it superior to other breakfast alternatives during the morning commute.
With a platform like Mentor Spaces, DEI leaders can effectively build diverse talent pipelines with little effort, opening up new channels of communication and connection for its current and future employees. Our approach not only checks the box, but provides a resounding yes to the question, “did this accomplish the job I hired it to do?”
To learn more about Mentor Spaces and how we can support your DEI efforts, click here to schedule a call with us.