Creating an awesome work environment Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Susie McCormick February 5, 2024

Creating an Awesome Work Environment Through Mentorship

The Better Together Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council was formed to help Nelnet associates network, create relationships, and enhance personal growth. As part of Better Together, Nelnet’s Mentorship Program aims to create an awesome work environment by helping associates pursue opportunities for diversification and growth.

How does the Mentorship Program work?

Twice a year, the Mentorship Committee opens up enrollment for the Mentorship Program. Associates who have been employed for six months or longer have the opportunity to participate in the Mentorship Program and to be matched with a mentor. The enrollment form asks a few questions that are similar to questions on the mentor enrollment form to help maximize mentorships and match people with similar interests.

Once matched, the mentee receives an email with their mentor’s name and a link to take Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment. They also have the opportunity to complete a personalized coaching session with a CliftonStrength’s coach to find out how to best utilize their top five strengths. Mentees are encouraged to reach out to their mentors to set up their monthly meetings. The commitment is an hour a month, but it is up to each pair how often and for how long they would like to meet.

For the upcoming cycle, the Mentorship Committee is excited to launch a new mentorship packet to help set mentees and mentors up for success. The mentee packet includes a goals worksheet, a checklist, and helpful information on goal setting. The packet is designed to help the first meeting be successful and hopefully take away some of those first-meeting jitters.

Mentees can sign up for the Mentorship session as many times as they want and are even encouraged to do so. The Mentorship Program does try and give priority to mentees who haven’t yet been through the program, but also creates as many matches as possible. If the committee is unable to find a suitable match, the mentee is informed and can fill out another form for the next cycle.

Leaders are expected to participate as mentors.

Nelnet’s executive leadership believes so strongly in the power of mentorship that all Directors are participants in the Mentorship Program as mentors. Other leaders are encouraged to serve as mentors, and may complete a mentor profile form to begin the process. The mentor profile is used to best match mentees and can be used for multiple Mentorship cycles.

How are mentors prepared for the Mentorship Program?

To help maximize their influence on the lives of the associates participating in the program, CliftonStrengths coaching is also provided to mentors. Starting in the upcoming cycle, mentors will also be provided with a mentorship packet. The mentor packet includes information on the roles and responsibilities of a mentor, relationship tips, best practices, and more. The Mentorship Committee also hosts an orientation for mentors and mentees alike at the beginning of each cycle to help answer questions and go over housekeeping items.

How does the Mentorship Program help associates manage their experience?

Each month, the Mentorship Program Committee provides suggested topics for the mentor and mentee to discuss. The pair can choose to follow the curriculum that the Committee provides, or they are free to discuss topics that are relevant to the mentee’s specific goals. It is truly what works best for each pair. Participants can also use Teams channels to share feedback and stories, and there are opportunities to collaborate and share best practices throughout the mentorship cycle. Each year, everyone who participated in at least one of the Mentorship cycles is invited to the annual appreciation event to hear testimonials, share stories, and see what is next for the Mentorship Program.

Sometimes there can be challenges if work schedules don’t align or there isn’t a comfort level within a mentorship relationship. The Mentorship Program Committee does its best to find a new mentor.

At the end of the Mentorship Program cycle, mentors and mentees may choose to continue their mentorships on an informal basis. However, new mentor and mentee relationships will be set up through the next Mentorship Program cycle.

FACTS Customer Relationship Manager Murphy Lierley said, “Participating in the mentorship program proved to be a pivotal and rewarding experience for me. Collaborating with my mentor, Dr. Patrick Haggarty, we crafted a comprehensive plan tailored to my personal and professional development goals. Our focused exploration of two timeless books, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ provided me with numerous valuable insights.” Lierley added, “Dr. Haggarty’s genuine commitment to my growth underscores Nelnet’s dedication to fostering holistic development among its team members.”




Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer