The purpose of mentoring is to grow by tapping into the knowledge and experience of someone further along than yourself. It’s the best way to accelerate your development.
By having someone who knows more than yourself share advice, offer guidance and be a sounding board for your thoughts you stand to benefit from experience beyond your own. Whether in your career or life, having a mentor is crucial to all of our continued growth and development.
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Okay, let’s dive into everything you need to know about mentorship.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who helps you grow your skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on your life and career. As a mentee, your mentor will leverage their experience to give you guidance on your career or life now and in the future.
Rather than learning through trial and error, a mentor is a person you can look to for direction and a role model to imitate.
Mentorship has a long history
The term mentor comes from the character, Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey. This character was the companion of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son and gave him guidance and advice while he was away from his home and family.
Going back to antiquity the purpose of a mentor is to take all the experience that they’ve accumulated throughout their career and life and transfer it to their mentee for their benefit.
In this article we’ll cover the following areas of mentorship:
- What skills do you gain from mentoring?
- What the mentor and mentee stand the benefit from a mentoring relationship.
- Why workplaces mentorship programs are important and becoming the norm.
- How to start a mentorship program.
- Mentorship programs in remote or hybrid workplaces.
Mentorship can feel intimidating — but it shouldn’t
The word mentorship may bring to mind images of Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi, or Luke Skywalker and Yoda. These images can make mentors feel like they have large shoes to fill (or small ones in Yoda’s case.)
If you’re a mentee, you may feel like you have to open up about all your challenges and failures. The point is, mentorship can feel intimidating. But it doesn’t have to feel that way.
In a mentoring relationship, both the mentee and the mentors stand to experience a myriad of benefits. In fact, a majority of HR professionals surveyed in our State of Mentorship and Coaching Report view coaching and mentoring as a key enabler of performance
Benefits of being a mentor
Being a mentor serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience. Teaching others is the best way to learn yourself. In the same way, mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.
Here are the benefits to being a mentor:
Validate the mentor’s leadership skills
Being put in the position of a role model can help mentors become better leaders and instill confidence in their leadership ability. The responsibility of helping guide someone’s career and goals requires the senior employee to teach, motivate and offer honest feedback in difficult conversations. All these skills are at the top of the required list for a leader.
Become recognized as an advisor
Similar to developing leadership skills, mentors will become recognized for their communication skills and the ability to help young employees with their career advancement and personal development. Mentors will become known as advisors that are open to helping others.
Learn to clearly communicate
Albert Einstein once said that “if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Likewise, if you’ve ever had to explain something to somebody, you probably noticed that you had to think it through and clean up your explanation to make it easy for another person to understand. Mentors will become better communicators and listeners by virtue of being in a mentoring relationship.
Gaining new perspectives
While the mentor is usually in the position of imparting knowledge to the mentee, a mentoring relationship can also help the more experienced employee learn new skills. It’s common that younger employees can take on the role of mentor through a reverse mentoring model to share technological advances, trends, or sharpen their digital skills. This is an area where the mentee can also become a teacher, guiding the mentor to learn new skills or a new way of doing things.
Giving back and finding new talent
Mentorship provides the opportunity for the mentor to give back to the company by helping train new and upcoming employees, making those around them more competent and satisfied. It’s also a great opportunity to find up-and-coming talent for promotions or special projects. Mentorship is helpful for both the mentor and mentee’s networks.
Benefits to mentees
There are a lot of benefits to being mentored by someone more experienced and senior than you. Rather than learning from your own experience alone, a mentor can accelerate your learning and development.
Learn the workplace culture
One of the advantages of having a mentor at a new job is that they can help you adapt to the office culture more quickly. Employees who are involved in a mentorship program are more aware of workplace routines, policies, and expectations than those who do not participate. This is important for building inclusive workplaces.
Enhance skill development
Most mentees are looking for someone to help them advance their career prospects. Through advice and guidance, the mentor can help the employee develop their full potential or entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace.
A workplace mentoring program is a great way for new hires to expand their network. For many new hires, it can take months to get to know key co-workers. Through a mentoring program, a mentee can gain access to important career contacts sooner. This is especially true in remote work environments.
Potential for promotion
Most mentoring programs require the mentee to consider their future direction or goals they hope to accomplish through the process. By asking younger workers to consider how they can grow through the experience, a mentoring program gives them more control over the direction of their careers. Research has shown that employees who are mentored have a better career track than those who don’t. This includes receiving higher compensation and more promotions, as well as higher career satisfaction.
A mentor can be a sounding board when the less experienced employee comes up against a situation or problem that they are not familiar with or can’t see a solution to. By partnering a younger employee with a more experienced one, the mentee gets to learn from the mentor’s experience.
The more experienced employee should have a thorough knowledge of the organization, as well as any programs or training that a mentee can access to help them reach their goals. The mentor can impart wisdom developed on the job over time, information and workplace expectations or policies that will help the mentee succeed in the long run.
Why is mentorship important?
Mentorship is important because it provides employees with the opportunity to develop and become more competent in their roles as well as prepare for growth opportunities in the future.
Providing these opportunities is key for organisations that want to attract, retain and engage their talent.
In a study by the University of Southern California, “Attracting and Retaining Talent: Improving the Impact of Workplace Mentorship” they identified several solutions to employee turnover. There were solutions you’d expect like salary and opportunities for promotion, but there were more intangible solutions like “job embeddedness” and career and professional development.
There are three main factors that contribute to job embeddedness:
- Links – the extent to which one has strong links to people or groups in the workplace and in their community.
- Fit – the degree of fit with their job (e.g. company culture, job duties) and community.
- Sacrifice – the level of sacrifice one would willingly make to give up on things if they leave their job.
Organisations that want to attract talent should build teams and organise projects that promote the social links that employees want. Providing professional mentors to these employees thatfacilitate coaching will give them rewards of growth and professional development while giving them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their role.
Career and professional development
Organisations that provide professionally supportive work environments can expect to attract talent and experience greater levels of retention with those they attract. Providing career mentors to less experienced employees promotes their skill development and social ties with the organisation in a way more meaningful than job training.
Rather than learning new skills and being evaluated on them, employees want to grow more holistically by building relationships with mentors.
Retaining high performers
Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm in the Netherlands runs their mentoring program with Together’s platform and found that the retention of their employees in the mentoring program went up significantly.
Randstad found that “employees participating in the mentoring program were 49% less likely to leave” and the costs saving associated with recruiting and training were ~$3,000 per employee per year. When reporting on their success, the program administrators at Randstad shared that:
“Our people are finding the program incredibly valuable and are excited to be learning from other employees through mentorship.”
The ROI of mentoring is clear both for attracting top talent and employee retention.
Increasing employee engagement
It’s widely cited that the majority of employees in the U.S. are disengaged with their work – over 50% as found by Gallup has been studying employee engagement since 2000. Employee engagement is critical to attaining company goals and success. They are the employees that drive the business forward and encourage others to do the same.
There are 5 areas that mentorship helps with employee engagement programs:
- It provides more opportunities for training and development by tapping into the knowledge of your more senior employees.
- Mentorship gives employees a voice to speak with leadership, thus breaking down barriers to communication.
- Both mentors and mentees are given the opportunity to prove themselves by putting into practice what they discuss during their mentoring sessions.
- Engagement is closely tied with working relationships. Mentorship builds the social ties that keep employees from getting discouraged and encourages a growth mindset.
- Mentorship holds mentors and mentees accountable to the commitments they make to one another. Making a commitment to grow with a mentor makes it harder to procrastinate doing what needs to be done to improve.
Mentorship enhances employee engagement because it gives high performers personal and professional development. It satisfies their desire for career progression and the development of their knowledge and skillsets.
For example, First Horizon, a bank in Tennessee has run several mentoring programs with Together with notable high potential mentoring programs that prepared exemplary employees for leadership positions. By hand-selecting their top performers to be mentored by leaders they gave them visibility for promotions.
Mentorship is the antidote for disengagement. To re-engage employees encourage them to meet regularly with a mentor in a one-on-one meeting who will provide them with feedback and act as a sounding board for them to discuss their goals and challenges to overcome to reach them.
Promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace
Diversity and inclusion are vital to the growth, productivity, and strength of a company.
Several studies show that diverse workforces are connected to higher revenue. The studies revealed that organizations, where women are given senior management roles, have a 10 percent increase in cash flow returns on investment. McKinsey found that organizations that are more racial and ethically diverse are 35 percent more likely to see higher revenues.
If your organization wants to create a more diverse and inclusive workspace, having a workplace mentoring program is essential. Mentorship allows employees to interact, learn from each other, and grow from the experience.
What is a mentoring program?
A mentoring program is a way for organizations to give employees the opportunity to be a mentor or receive mentorship from a senior leader. The goal is to match experienced professionals with people who could use their guidance. In most organizations, it’s likely that there is some form of mentoring whether informal or formal.
Mentoring in the workplace is not just a feel-good initiative. There is a plethora of research to support the business advantages that mentoring in the workplace has.