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Did you know, 84% of Fortune 500 companies now have mentoring programs? Studies have shown that 79% of millennials consider mentoring crucial to career success.
Given that by 2025, this demographic will comprise more than 75% of the workforce, coupled with the nature of today’s candidate-driven market, a successful mentoring program should be a top priority for businesses irrespective of their size and industry.
In our June 2022 Trending Topics blog, we wrote about the rise of mentorship in hybrid environments and decided to explore this further. Hold onto our metaphorical hand as we walk you through the power of mentors in the modern workplace.
Mentoring in the workplace is a supportive partnership between colleagues for the intended purposes of direction, learning and growth.
Typically, this partnership is where a more senior employee acts as a mentor and the younger, less experienced colleague is the mentee, receiving advice, encouragement, and guidance.
Traditionally, mentoring in the workplace occurred on a more informal basis, but given the rising awareness of the benefits of mentoring for both employees and business owners, mentoring has become a visible and entrenched program for many organisations.
Mentoring is important because it allows for the transition or sharing of information. While in some instances it can help to train employees it also ensures that business information is not kept to one person. Overall, knowledge sharing helps with succession planning. Depending on the role (mentor or mentee) there are different benefits for the individuals involved.
Mentors are important for employees because everybody has to start somewhere in their careers. Think back to when you first started your own career - the excitement, self-doubt, anxiety, stress, confusion, and uncertainty - those feelings were most likely the cocktail to that pivotal time in your budding career.
Some of you may have been fortunate enough to have had a mentor early on, but for those that didn’t, it may have felt valuable having someone to lean on and help you to navigate that period of your vocation. Thus, companies are implementing official mentoring programs, both within and outside of their graduate programs.
For mentees, some benefits are apparent immediately when starting in a new role, whereas other benefits are apparent over time. We’ve listed a few:
The benefits of mentoring are not just confined to the individual being mentored. It has been proven that there are several benefits gained from those carrying out the role of the mentor.
The Harvard Business Review found that 89% of those who have been mentored will also go on to mentor others, which keeps a continuous cycle of learning and development within a business.
This burgeoning trend enables mentees to use their experience as a guideline for when they become a mentor: What worked well for them? What did they wish they knew more about at that time? What could have been improved on?
Whilst most mentor programs were initially designed with the mentee in mind, businesses are now also aware of the positives for the mentor.
Xref’s General Manager of Customer Intelligence, Karina Guerra says,
“Being a mentor is a great opportunity to reflect on my approach to the questions that I'm asked by my mentees. It encourages me to practice what I preach. It's an inspiration to be a good example."
Harvard Business Review conducted a study researching the positive effects mentoring can have on the mentors themselves and found that people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety and described their job as more meaningful than those who did not mentor.
Sarah Gross, creative director at Storyfolk, says,
“A great mentor can help staff achieve more and reach their potential by giving guidance, friendship, advice, and assistance with challenging situations. Implementing mentoring in the workplace is not only about what your business can gain but as a way to nurture your people, culture and vision for the company.”
There are clear benefits to individuals derived from mentoring programs, but there is also a myriad of positive results for businesses as a collective.
“Mentors are invaluable to businesses of all sizes,” Deb Fribbins, owner of Developing Excellence in Business.
“Good mentors will offer advice based on the outcomes of analytics of the business compared to the business goals. This will vary dependent on the size of the business and the goals set.”
In the current talent shortage environment, loyalty and retention are crucial and mentor programs can help organisations to retain those employees who have or show potential. MentorCliq found employees who are involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in mentoring.
The overall benefits to companies include:
It’s important to note that mentors and mentees don’t have to work in the same organisation. If one party departs, their mentor/mentee relationship can still continue. Xref has around 70 employees worldwide and we pride ourselves on understanding the career goals of our people so we can help them grow into new roles. We are lucky to have mentors in our midst who are part of external programs. They bring back their learnings to help our people achieve their career goals, flourish and thrive.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be a face-to-face program. Given that 54% of workers now expect a hybrid model, mentoring programs should accommodate this trend.
Regular and routine mentoring catchups can occur via Teams, Skype, or any other similar digital platform. The results will remain the same but putting a face to a name is an important ingredient. Digital face-to-face chats break down barriers and enable trust, a crucial component of successful mentorship.
Whether the mentoring takes place in person or digitally, the Human Resources department at your organisation can be involved to help connect mentors with mentees. Consider the potential participants in your program and aim to have a variety of levels of seniority and also departments featured.
Start by identifying goals to be achieved and skillsets needed to do so. While there is not one size fits all when it comes to creating a mentoring program, here are some steps to consider.
A mentoring program does not have to be complex. It’s important that all goals are achievable. Together Platform asks, ‘What are the key objectives and KPIs of your mentoring program?’ Identify goals that will best suit both your employees and your business objectives. Goals could range from ‘improving employee retention’ to ‘identifying future leaders.’
Once your goals have been identified, document them accordingly.
There are various types of mentoring programs and due to the hybrid working nature of some organisations at present, a digital offering may be more suitable than face-to-face.
But as a collective, mentoring programs can also be in a group environment, an individual environment with a more senior employee or even with a peer.
There is also the option of reverse mentoring whereby a more junior employee mentors a senior employee on a certain skillset, for example, social media advertising. Reverse mentoring is a great way for senior employees to upskill and allows junior employees to showcase their talents.
With a goal, model and strategy established, it’s now time to launch the program. To ensure the success of the program and garner interest from your employee base, a well-planned and executed communication strategy is required.
A communication strategy builds excitement and outlines the logistics and benefits of the program. It may also encompass a launch event and follow-up sessions.
Mentoring programs can run from 6-12 months or even longer if the individuals strike up a close bond.
In the initial stages, mentor program managers should work closely with the HR department to provide learning resources and tips to both mentors and mentees.
When matching mentors and mentees start by considering skill sets that one part may have that the other wishes to learn. Consider learning styles and personalities.
Alternatively, it may be beneficial to have mentors and mentees match themselves. It’s not uncommon for one party to want to learn from another specific individual.
It is also essential to touch base with mentors and mentees at regular, scheduled intervals to follow up on how effective their mentorship is so far.
Make notes from these interviews and consider what you can address now for better outcomes and what can be addressed in future iterations of the mentorship program.
Evaluate the program at six-monthly and yearly intervals through methods like individual interviews and collective surveys.
This will provide mentor program managers with the data and insights to identify what has and hasn’t been working well, to improve on in future programs moving forward.
In an environment where workers are increasingly shifting from office-based to hybrid or remote roles, it’s easy for mentoring programs to go by the wayside due to a lack of physical presence. However, organisations can continue to gain plenty of those benefits that office-based programs would have in a remote environment. With the right relationship, mentors and mentees can learn from each other.
Ultimately, it is the sharing of knowledge and support that mentor programs foster that contribute to success. Mentor programs can foster loyalty and increase retention. With mentees showing more loyalty to an organisation compared with those who are not involved with a mentoring program, there is no denying that mentor programs are highly valuable to help offset the current talent-shortage environment.