Have you considered a mentoring program for your company?
By Alexandra Walsh
In a salute to National Mentoring Month, a campaign held each January since 2002 to promote youth mentoring in the United States, this column is dedicated to the value of mentoring.
A “mentor” in the workplace is a person who provides guidance to a less-experienced employee, the “mentee.” A mentor may be another employee of the company or he or she may be a professional from outside of the business.
In either case, the mentor is a role model who shares knowledge and advice to help the employee they are mentoring grow professionally. Mentoring relationships benefit the employee—as well as the employer and mentor—and have long-term benefits.
Benefits to the Employee
Employees benefit from a mentoring relationship because they have someone with greater knowledge and experience to turn to for advice. While a mentor won’t do the employee’s job for them, the mentor can demonstrate a job task, guide the employee through solving a problem, or review the employee’s work and provide feedback.
A mentorship can also help an employee feel less isolated at work, too, and encourage them to interact more with others. A mentor may provide an employee with tips on career growth and introduce the employee to other professionals in the field. As the employee advances and matures in their career, a mentor can remain a valued adviser to the employee.
Benefits to the Employer
The employer of a mentored employee will gain with greater productivity in the workplace. As employees turn to their mentors for advice, they make fewer mistakes on the job, cutting losses to the employer.
Employees in mentoring relationships tend to have greater job satisfaction as well, which can mean a more positive work environment. Employers might also notice lower staff turnover, as workers feel a greater loyalty to the company. A company might even use its mentoring program to attract new employees.
Benefits to the Mentor
Mentors gain from the mentoring relationship, too. The opportunity to teach or advise others can increase the mentor’s confidence and their own job satisfaction. A mentor is required to listen to the concerns of the employee and may develop a better understanding of the employee’s problems and likewise insight into some workplace problems.
Even if a mentored employee leaves the company, the mentor and mentee can maintain a professional connection. This may expand the mentor’s reputation and connections down the road.
Benefits to the Profession
Mentoring in the workplace can have long-term benefits as employees become more self-directed and develop stronger communication and problem-solving skills. This allows a business to become more creative and focus its attention on growth, rather than training.
Mentored employees in time value collaboration and sharing of information, which can lead to a stronger organization. Mentored workers are also apt to become involved in professional organizations, furthering both their careers and the profession itself.
Five Strategies to Begin
Ready to start a mentoring program in your workplace? Try these five strategies:
#1. Decide what challenges the mentoring program will tackle.
A mentoring program can target any level of employees and a whole bunch of challenges, so it helps to focus on a few clear goals. Will the program help new employees understand the company culture? Improve retention rates? Develop middle manager leadership skills? Build stronger relationships between generations?
For a program targeting employee retention, you could look at before-and-after retention rates of employees who were part of a mentoring relationship. Or, you could measure employee satisfaction, engagement, or promotion rates.
#2. Keep it simple.
A mentoring program needs leadership, whether it’s one person or an advisory board. Your timeframe depends on how big the program is and how many people you want to participate. The bulk of the work occurs upfront to get it up and running.
A mentoring program doesn’t have to be complicated. Often individuals in charge of setting up a mentoring program do so in a highly elaborate fashion, even sometimes with software solutions or huge manifestos. Not only is this costly, it is also counterproductive.
Remember the most effective mentoring happens at a personal level. Have one person in your company first map and match potential mentees and mentors, and then start the mentoring relationship.
#3. Show you value mentoring by evaluating and rewarding the mentors.
It’s great to mentor for big-hearted reasons, but people in a growing business do a lot already and mentoring is extra work. To show you value mentors, include their efforts as part of their annual performance review and find ways to reward them by recognizing them throughout the year. The mentor needs to know what’s in it for them, whether it’s part of their performance appraisal or a reward.
#4. Have mentees manage the relationship, but give them and mentors some help.
Mentorship programs often fade away after a few months. It should be crystal clear for those being mentored that they are the ones in charge of the process—in charge of setting up meetings, in charge of putting questions together. That clarity helps keep it alive.
Too often neither mentees nor mentors know what to talk about in a mentor/mentee meeting, so both find it awkward at times. Give each of them a one-page overview (no big manuals, please) with some suggested questions they can discuss, such as career topics for the mentee and areas of support for the mentor.
#5. Consider alternative mentoring options.
Millennials are online more these days— and maybe your mentorship should be, too. If needed, consider using external mentors, who can match employees with possible mentors. Find them through your industry’s trade associations, local business groups, or mentor-matching websites like FindAMentor.com or Micromentor.org.
For more information, visit mentoring.org where you can download the National Mentoring Month campaign toolkit which provides guidance on the most impactful ways you can lend your voice to the mentoring movement.