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How to build a people-first culture through mentorship

May 7, 2021

Mentoring needs to put 'people-first'

Mentoring partnerships are one of the best ways to transfer knowledge, develop expertise, and help people grow in the workplace. But to get the most out of these partnerships, you need a people-first approach.


In practice, this means giving mentees the ability to quickly and easily declare their learning needs and make sure these needs are recognized and supported by their mentor. This helps mentees feel heard, and empowers them to take charge of their own learning.


In this post, we’ll show you why recognizing mentee learning needs makes such a difference, and offer practical tips to empower your mentees–and your wider teams–to share their learning goals.


This is a recap of our webinar, ‘How HR Teams Can Champion a ‘People-First’ HR Strategy’, hosted between Together, GoCo, and 360Learning.

The best mentorships focus on clearly defined learning goals

Every mentoring relationship is a chance to boost employee engagement and develop top talent within your organization. When done well, these mentorships can be a key tool in your learning toolbox, offering new ways to develop people on top of your L&D programs and resources.


But to have the greatest possible impact, a mentoring partnership has to start with the right foundation: clear and well-defined learning goals by the mentee wants. 


Maybe they’re a sales manager looking for new ways to overcome the challenges of remote sales enablement. Or maybe they’re a team culture advisor wanting to understand more about anti-bias and diversity training. Maybe they want to become the next great coding genius


In any case, if a mentee can quickly and easily declare these learning needs, then their mentor can match them with the right tools and resources, help them develop skills to address these needs, and offer their own insights and experiences to support their growth.


In short, people want to share their learning priorities–as the mentor, all you need to do is ask them!

How can you recognize your mentees’ learning needs?

So, that’s a sense of why identifying mentee learning needs is so important. But how can you do this, exactly?


Identifying what your mentee wants to learn doesn’t have to be complicated. At the outset of the mentorship, you should ask your mentees what they want to learn and focus on these subjects within the partnership.


And because recognizing learning needs is an ongoing conversation, mentors should regularly check in with their mentees to make sure they’re focusing on the right topics. 


You can make this process a lot easier by giving your mentees a simple tool to declare learning needs, connect with subject-matter experts, and share their skills to help others grow. Here’s how we do it with our dedicated Learning Needs feature at 360Learning:Our platform makes it easy for people to declare learning needs, ask others for their thoughts and ideas, and respond to other needs by upvoting or commenting. From there, people can suggest new projects to address these learning needs, and can assemble collaborative squads to develop new shared resources.



Of course, responding to these learning needs isn’t always about creating new projects, either. Sometimes, your mentees might just need to be connected with existing resources.


Giving people the ability to quickly and easily declare their learning needs helps show your teams that you’re paying close attention and making it easier to ship training that people actually want. It also shows that you’re genuinely committed to a ‘people-first’ culture.

Building a ‘people-first’ culture through mentorship

Why should we prioritize a ‘people-first’ culture? Because 70% of employees are disengaged, and companies have to invest in their talent to remain competitive and reduce turnover. Mentorship can meet all these needs if done correctly.


Every organization probably has some form of mentoring going on between senior employees and more junior ones. Whether it’s managers providing feedback to their teams or formal programs run by mentoring software, people are will undoubtedly help each other grow as they work together. 


So mentoring will happen regardless? Not necessarily. To intentionally drive a ‘people-first’ culture, organizations need formal mentoring programs that organize who the mentors and mentees will be, what the pairings will look like, and the purpose of the why they are meeting. There are many purposes for mentoring programs. Some of them include:

  • Developing new managers;
  • Strengthening diversity and inclusion;
  • Motivating high potential talent;
  • Onboarding new employees or running internship programs
  • Promoting employee wellness;
  • Engaging remote employees.

Those are a few of the purposes behind running formal mentoring programs. But, unfortunately, hoping for mentorship to happen naturally isn’t an effective way to achieve those purposes. Instead, organizations should begin to learn how to run effective mentoring programs.

Great mentoring is about paying close attention

The relationship between a mentor and mentee can be an empowering partnership throughout different stages of their career. However, to start on the right foot, mentors need to pay close attention to the learning needs of their mentees. 


At the outset of each mentorship, give mentees the opportunity to clarify their learning goals and aspirations. Then, make sure they have the ability to declare new needs as they arise, connect with their mentors to address these needs, and work across teams to share expertise. It’s all part of building a ‘people-first’ culture through mentorship.


Don’t miss out on the full replay of our webinar on the importance of recognizing learning needs, mentoring, and onboarding. You can get it right here.



Author: Tom Baragwanath, Senior Content Editor at 360Learning

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