Mentorships are more than just an afternoon spent training on a new software program. Look at them as a longer term commitment where the organization’s mission, values and culture are shared in an open, positive and engaging manner. There is no better ambassador for your firm than a long-serving, positive-minded employee enjoying a challenging and rewarding career. Employees who are satisfied with their roles have likely benefited from good training along the way.
Remember the Time When …
Think back to the first few days you spent at a new job. Was it fun or terrifying? Engaging or lonely? Interesting or boring? Mentoring can help ensure new hires are onboarded within a welcoming atmosphere. No one likes being the newbie. Often it’s the simplest things that get one down, such as not knowing the code to the washroom door, wondering where the lunchroom is, and figuring out how to log on to the company’s internal database system. Simple stuff, really, yet hurdles for many new hires. Mentoring can fix that, and even ensure these issues don’t ever arise. Mentoring helps new hires become productive right away, rather than spinning around in the quagmire of inefficiency for weeks while they learn the basic corporate landscape. Good mentoring then goes much further and continues for months or years to follow. It makes good economic sense to have all team members functioning at their most effective levels.
Make Mentoring Accessible
All genders. All ages. All abilities. All departments. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn and be guided by someone with more experience. Never underestimate the power of reverse mentoring either: there is a mutual benefit if both the mentor and the mentee can each teach the other a new skill. Consider the recent college graduate entering the workplace at a research and development laboratory. The new graduate will be mentored by a senior manager who will share both company and technical knowledge. In return, the new graduate will share the latest computer software skills he’s just learnt, plus ensure the senior manager is aware of some marketing tips on generational differences. It’s a win-win situation.
Mentoring Shouldn’t Feel Forced
Both mentor and mentee should want to be present for the knowledge sharing experiences. Aim for what’s called ‘organic’ growth in skills sets, knowledge levels and corporate engagement. ‘Organic’ in this context means to ‘occur naturally’, and thus the mentoring pair should not feel like it’s a chore to meet. Each person should get something out of the working relationship. Perhaps the mentor feels good about passing along her knowledge before taking a more senior level position. Perhaps the mentee is eager to contribute a new idea for a product line but doesn’t have the insider political savvy to know how to promote it. The list goes on. The bottom line here is: value the knowledge your current employees possess and ensure it’s shared with others. The best examples of mentoring encourage questions, challenge assumptions and make both people feel like they’ve accomplished goals, both for their employer and their careers.
The Underlying Problem
There are far too few companies focusing on mentoring. Many employees cannot find a mentor, or discover that what’s called a mentoring program is really only basic orientation, mere lip service to something that should be much larger and more respected. It takes a dedicated focus from top management to ensure mentors are paired with mentees. Don’t make the mistake of leaving it up to new hires to request a mentor. Understand that they are eager to learn, but it’s a big ask to expect them to sidle up to a successful vice president and ask for help. Make it easier for your staff. Facilitate the program. Ask for volunteers. Showcase the benefits of mentoring. That’s the right way to proceed.
Mentoring provides firms with a fantastic yet often underused opportunity. It makes employees feel good about their work, helps them grow and ensures they know their employer supports their success. This, in turn, reduces stress levels and makes the workplace a friendlier place to be. There is a big difference between the new hire adrift on a wide expanse of corporate ocean versus the new hire taken under the wing of an experienced mentor helping when the seas get choppy. Does your organization support mentoring?