Mentorship

How to mentor junior team members

Here's how to mentor your more junior team members.

Ryan Carruthers

November 11, 2022

There is a lot of information on mentoring and the additional value of mentoring programs for professional development. Newcomers might be in on the latest tools and trends, but nothing beats advice from experienced coworkers when starting a new career path or joining an organization. 

You are lucky if you join a company that already has a structured mentorship program where they pair new and younger members with their more experienced colleagues. 

In this article, we will share some tips on how to mentor new or entry-level employees. 

Should junior team members participate in mentoring programs?

The short answer is yes; mentoring for junior team members is highly recommended. 

Considering that companies put a lot of time, effort and finance into hiring, why not improve you onboarding program by helping new hires transition more smoothly with mentors? 

Why is this a good idea? Consider that according to a report by Gallup, 70% of new hires feel ill-prepared for their new roles even after onboarding. 

Mentoring may be able to close that confidence gap. We believe it’s a good idea to build a mentoring program for new employees. 

But let’s look at why:

Why do junior and entry-level employees need mentorship?

Some managers and seniors at work probably believe juniors learning to solve problems on their own is important. This has merit. 

However, the idea that problem-solving skills should be a primary instructional method can be faulty. Discovery learning is generally ineffective because it wastes time and can be frustrating, especially in a new workplace or assignment. There is also no way for juniors or newbies to measure progress or determine if they are doing the right thing unless they have guidance and support. 

In short, learning by failing isn’t the best strategy for onboarding new employees.

Mentoring is a great way to onboard new hires and helps them find their feet. It is also encouraged when junior team members are starting out on a new career path or assignment. 

There are several benefits of mentoring junior team members we want to explore below.

Performance

Leaving juniors to their own devices on a new task can tire out their cognitive resources and impede knowledge and progress. 

Instead, effective learning through mentorship can do wonders for newb hires during their first few months. It helps them settle in quickly and be productive on the job faster.

Engagement

You should consider a formal mentorship program where seniors are assigned as advisors/mentors to their junior colleagues. 

This creates a learning culture in the organization and supports growth. Mentorship is, after all, a key component of professional development, and people are less likely to feel lost and unheard when they are thriving. 

Retention

Employees are known to leave organizations with little or no access to mentorship. 

Most juniors want to acquire the skills that make hard projects achievable and also advance in their careers. A company that doesn’t have a growth mindset for employees will likely experience low retention rates

Leadership development

Mentorship is a proven method for senior executives to develop their leadership skills. 

Leadership isn’t restricted to managing a large group of people, you can start small by  mentoring one individual. The process of providing career and personal development tactics to a mentee can help shape your perspective and prepare you for future leadership or managerial roles. 

Impact of remote work on junior employee mentoring

It is hard enough getting a mentor for your specific career needs. Remote work makes it even more difficult. However, don’t throw your hands up in defeat just yet; there might be a way around it. 

Although working from the office can help mentorship blossom naturally since you can always access your mentor in their less busy periods. 

Remote mentorship requires more intentionality. Employers or management need to be proactive in organizing well-structured mentorship programs.

Junior employees are just starting out their careers and thus might be less confident. A lack of confidence might make them struggle through work and not actively seek guidance. Also, not having a mentorship strategy can also impact new hires and create uncertainty and ambiguity, especially in a remote environment where they may feel isolated. 

Using mentoring software helps companies pair employees and achieve the same result as a physical workplace mentorship. 

It is, however, important to monitor both pairs (mentors and mentees) to ensure they are following through on their commitments. This can be done by monitoring activities and sending reminders and resources, all on the mentoring platform. 

Example of mentoring junior employees successfully

A prime example of successful mentoring for juniors is the University of North Carolina (Eshelman School of Pharmacy) program. It was set up in 2006 and named the Bill and Karen Campbell Faculty Mentoring Program (CMP) after its facilitators. 

The program was organized towards the mentoring of junior faculty who had a scholarship-intensive career track. It was hoped that the mentorship would enhance faculty scholarship and increase the vitality of faculty members in pharmacy. 

The facilitators understood that the landscape of contemporary pharmacy was changing and overlapping into fields such as basic, translational and clinical research. They aimed to institute strategies that would assist newly recruited faculty members from diverse backgrounds, usually with no training in pharmacy.

Based on the results of the assessment of the program. CMP has provided an avenue for junior faculty members to grow academically and widen the scope of their efforts. Mentors also served as role models for their mentee’s success, enhancing their scholastic efforts and providing networking opportunities for the juniors. 

These collaborative efforts have eased the entrance of junior faculty members into the university and their professional communities respectively.

Tips for mentoring junior team members

Usually, junior employees rely on the skills and knowledge they have to get a new role. However, what really helps them to flourish is support from their superiors. Incorporating a mentoring program builds a culture that allows employees to explore and improve their skills. Leaders need to put in time and effort to create a workplace that fosters the development of employees. To achieve the desired results and make the efforts worthwhile, we will share some tips for mentoring junior team members below.

Help them set achievable goals and expectations

What are the goals, skills and expertise the mentee needs to acquire? Goal-setting for mentoring should be the first port of call in a mentorship relationship. It is important that the mentees have clarity on what they want to achieve. This will help both parties set health expectations and know what they want out of their time together. 

Be open and vulnerable

There is a power dynamic that already exists between mentors and mentees. It is up to the mentor to create an atmosphere where the mentee is free to ask questions and approach them for advice. 

Junior will oftentimes fear making mistakes, reassure them that it happens. You can share a few stories of vulnerability rather than make your relationship rigid and merely instructive.

Create room for feedback

Create an avenue where junior employees are free to share feedback regularly. Give them a mentor who has the skills and knowledge they need and is flexible. 

It is impossible to avoid mistakes; feedback makes both parties proactive and adjusts when needed. Also, create room for open dialogues and access to leaders. 

Use your connection to foster their growth

Leverage your connection to help your mentee grow. If they need development in some areas beyond your expertise, connect them to the right people. 

Connect them to new opportunities that align with their capabilities and advocate for them too. This shows that you have confidence in their abilities and are invested in their development. 

Set an agenda for every meeting

It is a good practice to attend meetings with a plan or agenda (you can find templated agendas in our guide). 

Know what challenges or goals you want to discuss and prepare accordingly. You can even send resources ahead of sessions if you know what is up for discussion. It helps you save time during meetings and leave feeling fulfiled. 

How to start a junior employee mentoring program

Do you work in HR or management and would like to increase retention and employee engagement through mentoring? 

At Together, we have made mentoring a walk in the park with our software. Whatever mentoring model you decide on, we have the right resources for you. If you have a mentoring program already in place, now is the right time to make it formal by hosting it on our platform. 

Registration, pairing and reporting are just some of the features of our mentoring software.

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Want incredible results from your mentorship program? Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.