Employee training forms the foundation of a strong company. Without it, employees would fail their responsibilities or never do anything on time. Yet so many companies make training an afterthought in their plans. For example, interns are often taught to “shadow” employees, with little explanation or context. The result: they end up copying the employee exactly but do not understand why their work is important or how they can improve.
Mentors help to solve this issue. Instead of asking employees to shadow, set them up with a mentor. A thoughtful mentorship program is sure to produce stronger work and inspire more leaders.
What does it mean to be a mentor at work?
Mentors are individuals that use their experience to train and develop someone less experienced. Within the workplace, a mentor has two levels of responsibility. The first is to ensure that mentees are accomplishing tasks and growing professionally. The second involves a much deeper understanding of their personal goals and career aspirations. Ultimately the mentor acts as a guide to newer employees to become the best version of themselves, personally and professionally.
Who can be a mentor at work?
It’s a common misconception that mentors need to be older or more senior to carry out their role. Mentors need only have enough experience to properly train and develop someone. In these cases, mentors are often people who have been in a certain position for a few years. Some may reach C-level status, others may be ordinary managers with two years of seniority. What matters is that the mentor is willing to guide a mentee (such as an intern) through an otherwise complicated process and development journey.
Types of Mentors
- Traditional Mentor – The most common type, this mentor is a few positions higher than the trainee and acts as a guide to the workplace.
- Peer Mentor – Mentors that have roughly the same experience and seniority. For example, two interns starting the job together.
- Reverse Mentor – When a younger person trains a more senior professional.For example, somebody who is helping a more senior professional with new technology.
- Senior Mentor – Someone with over a decade of experience walking you through the strategy.
For more in-depth explanations for each one (and a fifth mentor relationship), check out this Medium article.
Benefits of Mentorship Programs
- Stronger employee retention and engagement – Employees need to have someone to turn to when they have questions. When they feel more supported and guided, they are more willing to stick around and actively contribute. One study of 5,000 newly hired professionals found that being part of a mentor relationship correlated with higher organizational commitment.
- Salary increases and promotions – In a five-year, 1000 employee study by Gartner, one-fourth of respondents said that those enrolled in a mentoring program had a salary grade change, compared to the 5% that did not participate. Trainees were also five times more likely to be promoted than those not in a program.
- Mentor benefits – Mentors also gain from the relationship. They learn to become more helpful leaders with more direct impact on the organization’s goals. This leads to a greater sense of control and importance within the workplace.
Tips to Implement a Mentorship Program
- Focus on the mentor-mentee match. Finding the right chemistry between mentor and mentee can be tricky, but it’s also the most important part. Some companies use algorithms. others make it the mentor’s choice. Ideally, you’ll want to find a mentor that has been through similar roles and responsibilities of the mentee. However, it really depends on your company.
- Create an atmosphere of curiosity and open-mindedness. Being a mentee can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re new. Mentors should always encourage the mentee to ask questions and try new approaches.
- Outline the nature of the mentorship. Mentors are teachers, not micromanagers. They can point you towards the right path and give you best practices, but they can’t hold your hand while you do it. The objective of mentorship is to set the mentee up to be autonomous.
- Schedule regular check-ins. Sometimes a one-on-one meeting is the most effective way to gauge how the mentorship program is implemented. This gives the mentee the space and time to voice any concerns while allowing the mentor to track their overall progress.
Mentorship programs can completely transform the entire nature of a business. It can make all the difference between a solid hire and a deadweight. Concentrate on finding the common pain points of the mentee and leverage the mentor’s experience to help guide their way. Your company will be stronger and happier for it.
Mentorship programs can be tricky business, especially without an understanding of office politics. Read our guide to office politics here.
Looking for other guides that can help build a more productive workplace? Visit Novel Coworking’s blog today for more articles.