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Improving Diversity & Inclusion through mentorship: How Axis Communications works with MINE

Per Ädelroth and Anna Monika Reichert

Although attaining a diverse workforce has been an objective for organizations in the past, the social movement events of 2020 brought the issue of diversity to the top of the priority list. The benefits of diversity and inclusion are clear for both organizations and society. As a result, business leaders are keen to recruit and nurture talented individuals from different backgrounds to increase the range of perspectives and knowledge within their organization.

However, this process must be approached with thought and consideration. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy is unlikely to result in the desired effect, as cultural barriers can be difficult to navigate for both the business and the prospective employee. As part of the recruitment process, mentorship can play an important role, serving as a platform to help job seekers reach their goals and mentors better understand the issues that employees can face. This article will explore Axis’ partnership with MINE , a Swedish business network that works with organizations to promote inclusion and diversity through a mentorship program.

Diversity & Inclusion moves up the priority list

Organizations are always looking at ways to attain a competitive edge in the market through routes such as product innovation or improving customer relationships. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that high quality talent is at the heart of this – particularly the creative thinking and problem-solving which can only be achieved when different types of people collaborate. This diversity of thought becomes the organization’s ‘secret sauce’ when it comes to innovation. Yet while business leaders want to modernize and attract the best talent from different backgrounds, they often don’t know where to start and need guidance. This is where a partnership with MINE can make the difference.

Emil Byström, Project Leader at MINE, commented, “Swedish businesses have long realised the benefits that come with a diverse workforce. Yet when it comes to taking the practical steps to achieve this, many become overwhelmed. Often they believe a complicated approach is needed and this can be daunting. At MINE, our role is to take businesses back to basics and guide them through the process of attracting the talent they need.”

Axis took this approach and has worked closely with MINE to tackle the barriers to diversity head on, arranging several mentorships with staff. As an experienced mentor herself, Louise Modig, HR Business Partner at Axis Communications, said, “Diversity and Inclusion is core to Axis’ ethos and approach to work. Everyone should be given the opportunity to contribute positively. We aim to proactively incorporate a wide range of talent to help build the business and drive Axis forward. Our work with MINE allows different members of the team – including myself – to mentor bright, enthusiastic individuals at crucial stages in their careers and learn more about different cultures.”

Mentorship plays an important role

Mentorship has long been cited as a key component for career progression. After all, receiving guidance from successful figures within an industry can be invaluable in terms of building expertise and a network of key contacts. Yet the benefits of mentorships are not limited to the mentees alone. Forming these direct relationships can be eye-opening for mentors and the business. The challenges faced by job seekers and employers can be brought into sharp focus during a mentorship programme, by providing perspectives from both sides. This can be critical when it comes to understanding cultural differences.

Axis employees Per Ädelroth, Anders Svensson and Louise Modig
Axis employees Per Ädelroth, Anders Svensson and Louise Modig

Per Ädelroth, Vice President of Operations at Axis Communications, understands why so many candidates get tripped up, commenting, “Understanding ‘Swedishness’ can be a real challenge. There are many obvious and non-obvious cultural differences which can cause candidates to unknowingly make mistakes. These can be identified and addressed during conversations with mentees to ensure they approach the next opportunity fully prepared for what would be expected.”

This sentiment is also echoed by mentees in the programme. Being armed with the right knowledge early in the recruitment process can make a real difference to how interviews are approached.

Anna Monika Reichert, a recent MINE Mentee, commented, “It can be difficult to integrate into Swedish society unless you understand the cultural norms and social cues. I discussed these with my mentor, Per, who agreed but also reinforced the need to keep my identity and authenticity. In Sweden, there is a mindset that everyone is valuable and must start somewhere, so while I needed to understand the differences in culture, it was important to cultivate a quiet confidence.”

MINE also works with mentees to support them and provide further information on the cultural norms discussed in the mentor/mentee conversations.

Establishing the most effective mentor/mentee relationship

It’s clear that a lot can be gained from the right relationships between mentors and mentees. When it comes to creating the most effective relationship, chemistry and goal alignment are key. MINE invests significant amounts of time into interviewing candidates and mentors extensively to create a good ‘match’. This increases the likelihood of a successful and mutually beneficial relationship.

At the start of the programme, mentors are given guidance on how often to meet and what to discuss, but this can vary depending on the individual relationship. Some mentees may request more support and there is flexibility to align schedules where possible. One thing is for certain, it’s important to set clear goals and expectations at the start of the programme. This way, both mentors and mentees know where they stand and the potential next steps.

Anders Svensson, Engineering Manager at Axis Communications, agrees that this upfront discussion is essential to success, commenting, “A mentorship programme can be very rewarding. Setting expectations at the start is the best way to ensure and measure success. No two mentees will be the same and each will have an idea of what they’d like to achieve from the relationship. Knowing this from the first day allows mentors to tailor conversations to what their mentee needs and offer the right advice to really help them in their career.”

It’s not uncommon for these relationships to blossom into long-term friendships which extend beyond the four-month programme. This may be because there is a natural tendency for both parties to remain invested and keep updated on progress over long periods of time.

Taking a positive step towards a brighter future

Creating a diverse and vibrant workforce requires a concerted effort and it cannot be achieved overnight. Mentorship programmes are a valuable tool for businesses attempting to identify different types of candidates and widen their search for talent. While they are designed to help junior or new entrants to an industry navigate the challenges and barriers they encounter, these programmes also benefit mentors – opening their eyes to new perspectives which they may not have considered. This can also result in changes in recruitment processes and the removal of barriers that may impede bright candidates.

Ultimately, mentorship plays a critical role in supporting ongoing efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and will create advantages for organisations and employees alike.

Click here to read more about Axis’ views on diverse workforces
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