The purpose of mentoring is to connect an individual who has a lot of knowledge and experience with someone who hasn’t gained the same knowledge or experience.
By having someone who knows more than yourself share advice, offer guidance and be a sounding board for your thoughts you stand to benefit from experience beyond your own. Whether in your career or life, having a mentor is crucial to all of our continued growth and development.
What Is A Mentor?
A mentor is someone who helps you grow your skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on your life and career. As a mentee, your mentor will leverage their experience to give you guidance on your career or life now and in the future.
Rather than learning through trial and error, a mentor is a person you can look to for direction and a role model to imitate.
Mentorship has a long history
The term mentor comes from the character, Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey. This character was the companion of Telemachus, Odysseus' son and gave him guidance and advice while he was away from his home and family.
Going back to antiquity the purpose of a mentor is to take all the experience that they’ve accumulated throughout their career and life and transfer it to their mentee for their benefit.
In this article we’ll cover the following areas of mentorship:
- What skills do you gain from mentoring?
- What the mentor and mentee stand the benefit from a mentoring relationship.
- Why workplaces mentorship programs are important and becoming the norm.
- How to start a mentorship program.
- Mentorship programs in remote or hybrid workplaces.
Mentorship Can Feel Intimidating - But It Shouldn’t
The word mentorship may bring to mind images of Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi, or Luke Skywalker and Yoda. These images can make mentors feel like they have large shoes to fill (or small ones in Yoda’s case.)
If you’re a mentee, you may feel like you have to open up about all your challenges and failures. The point is, mentorship can feel intimidating. But it doesn’t have to feel that way.
In a mentoring relationship, both the mentee and the mentors stand to experience a myriad of benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Being A Mentor?
Being a mentor serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience. Teaching others is the best way to learn yourself. In the same way, mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.
Here are the benefits to being a mentor:
Validate the mentor’s leadership skills
Being put in the position of a role model can help mentors become better leaders and instill confidence in their leadership ability. The responsibility of helping guide someone’s career and goals requires the senior employee to teach, motivate and offer honest feedback in difficult conversations. All these skills are at the top of the required list for a leader.
For those eager to be a mentor we've put together a (very) comprehensive handbook on how to be a great mentor.
Become recognized as an advisor
Similar to developing leadership skills, mentors will become recognized for their communication skills and the ability to help young employees with their career advancement and personal development. Mentors will become known as advisors that are open to helping others.
Learn to clearly communicate
Albert Einstein once said that “if you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” Likewise, if you’ve ever had to explain something to somebody, you probably noticed that you had to think it through and clean up your explanation to make it easy for another person to understand. Mentors will become better communicators and listeners by virtue of being in a mentoring relationship.
Gaining new perspectives
While the mentor is usually in the position of imparting knowledge to the mentee, a mentoring relationship can also help the more experienced employee learn new skills. It’s common that younger employees can take on the role of mentor through a reverse mentoring model to share technological advances, trends, or sharpen their digital skills. This is an area where the mentee can also become a teacher, guiding the mentor to learn new skills or a new way of doing things.
Giving back and finding new talent
Mentorship provides the opportunity for the mentor to give back to the company by helping train new and upcoming employees, making those around them more competent and satisfied. It’s also a great opportunity to find up-and-coming talent for promotions or special projects. Mentorship is helpful for both the mentor and mentee’s networks.
What Are The Benefits Of Being A Mentee?
There are a lot of benefits to being mentored by someone more experienced and senior than you. Rather than learning from your own experience alone, a mentor can accelerate your learning and development.
Learn the workplace culture
One of the advantages of having a mentor at a new job is that they can help you adapt to the office culture more quickly. Employees who are involved in a mentorship program are more aware of workplace routines, policies, and expectations than those who do not participate. This is important for building inclusive workplaces.
Enhance skill development
Most mentees are looking for someone to help them advance their career prospects. Through advice and guidance, the mentor can help the employee develop their full potential or entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace.
A workplace mentoring program is a great way for new hires to expand their network. For many new hires, it can take months to get to know key co-workers. Through a mentoring program, a mentee can gain access to important career contacts sooner. This is especially true in remote work environments.
Potential for promotion
Most mentoring programs require the mentee to consider their future direction or goals they hope to accomplish through the process. By asking younger workers to consider how they can grow through the experience, a mentoring program gives them more control over the direction of their careers. Research has shown that employees who are mentored have a better career track than those who don’t. This includes receiving higher compensation and more promotions, as well as higher career satisfaction.
A mentor can be a sounding board when the less experienced employee comes up against a situation or problem that they are not familiar with or can’t see a solution to. By partnering a younger employee with a more experienced one, the mentee gets to learn from the mentor’s experience.
The more experienced employee should have a thorough knowledge of the organization, as well as any programs or training that a mentee can access to help them reach their goals. The mentor can impart wisdom developed on the job over time, information and workplace expectations or policies that will help the mentee succeed in the long run.
For those who have just found a mentor, we've put together a (very) comprehensive handbook on how to be a great mentee.
Why is Mentorship Important?
Mentorship is important because it provides employees with the opportunity to develop and become more competent in their roles as well as prepare for growth opportunities in the future.
Providing these opportunities is key for organisations that want to attract, retain and engage their talent.
In a study by the University of Southern California, “Attracting and Retaining Talent: Improving the Impact of Workplace Mentorship” they identified several solutions to employee turnover. There were solutions you’d expect like salary and opportunities for promotion, but there were more intangible solutions like “job embeddedness” and career and professional development.
There are three main factors that contribute to job embeddedness:
- Links - the extent to which one has strong links to people or groups in the workplace and in their community.
- Fit - the degree of fit with their job (e.g. company culture, job duties) and community.
- Sacrifice - the level of sacrifice one would willingly make to give up on things if they leave their job.
Organisations that want to attract talent should build teams and organise projects that promote the social links that employees want. Providing mentoring systems to these employees to facilitate coaching will give them rewards of growth and professional development while giving them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their role.
Career and professional development
Organisations that provide professionally supportive work environments can expect to attract talent and experience greater levels of retention with those they attract. Mentoring less experienced employees promotes their skill development and social ties with the organisation in a way more meaningful than job training.
Rather than learning new skills and being evaluated on them, employees want to grow more holistically by building relationships with mentors.
Retaining high performers
Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm in the Netherlands runs their mentoring program with Together’s platform and found that the retention of their employees in the mentoring program went up significantly.
Randstad found that “employees participating in the mentoring program were 49% less likely to leave” and the costs saving associated with recruiting and training were ~$3,000 per employee per year. When reporting on their success, the program administrators at Randstad shared that:
“Our people are finding the program incredibly valuable and are excited to be learning from other employees through mentorship.”
The ROI of mentoring is clear both for attracting top talent and employee retention. To learn more about the return on investment organisations experience see our report, Measuring the ROI on Retention at Randstad.
Enhancing employee engagement
It’s widely cited that the majority of employees in the U.S. are disengaged with their work - over 50% as found by Gallup who has been studying employee engagement since 2000. Employee engagement is critical to attaining company goals and success. They are the employees that drive the business forward and encourage others to do the same.
- It provides more opportunities for training and development by tapping into the knowledge of your more senior employees.
- Mentorship gives employees a voice to speak with leadership, thus breaking down barriers to communication.
- Both mentors and mentees are given the opportunity to prove themselves by putting into practice what they discuss during their mentoring sessions.
- Engagement is closely tied with working relationships. Mentorship builds the social ties that keep employees from getting discouraged and encourages a growth mindset.
- Mentorship holds mentors and mentees accountable to the commitments they make to one another. Making a commitment to grow with a mentor makes it harder to procrastinate doing what needs to be done to improve.
Mentorship enhances employee engagement because it gives high performers personal and professional development. It satisfies their desire for career progression and the development of their knowledge and skillsets.
For example, First Horizon, a bank in Tennessee has run several mentoring programs with Together with notable high potential mentoring programs that prepared exemplary employees for leadership positions. By hand-selecting their top performers to be mentored by leaders they gave them visibility for promotions.
Mentorship is the antidote for disengagement. To re-engage employees encourage them to meet regularly with a mentor who will provide them with feedback and act as a sounding board for them to discuss their goals and challenges to overcome to reach them.
Promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace
Diversity and inclusion are vital to the growth, productivity, and strength of a company.
Several studies show that diverse workforces are connected to higher revenue. The studies revealed that organisations where women are given senior management roles have a 10 percent increase in cash flow returns on investment. McKinsey found that organizations that are more racial and ethical diverse are 35 percent more likely to see higher revenues.
If your organization wants to create a more equal and inclusive workspace, having a workplace mentoring program is essential. Mentorship allows employees to interact, learn from each other, and grow from the experience.
See this webinar, where Together CEO, Matthew Reeves covers how companies can improve DEI in their organizations through mentorship.
What Is A Mentoring Program?
A mentoring program is a way for organisations to give employees the opportunity to be a mentor or receive mentorship from a senior leader. In most organisations, it’s likely that there is some form of mentoring whether informal or formal.
Mentoring in the workplace is not just a feel-good initiative. There is a plethora of research to support the business advantages that mentoring in the workplace has.
For that reason, if you’re considering starting your own mentoring program within your organization we have definitive guides for both:
- How to start a mentoring program, and
- Five best practices for running an effecting mentoring program
Here’s what you need to know for building your program.
Building A Mentorship Program
If you are in HR, especially Learning and Development, and looking to start or scale your company’s mentoring program, you’re in the right place. Mentoring programs can be a lot of work, especially if you are doing it manually.
Determine the goals of the mentorship program
A good mentoring program aligns with overarching business goals. Traditional mentoring programs usually pair senior leaders with more junior ones to support and help them grow within the organization. The goal for this type of mentoring may be to increase promotion rates within the organization.
Promote your program
To promote your mentoring program focus on getting leadership on board first. If leaders promote the program and speak to its benefits and importance there will be a trickle-down effect on the rest of the organisation.
Leveraging the enthusiasm of early adopters or popular mentors will drive word of mouth and excitement about the program. Many mentorship programs start with a kick-off party (whether virtual or in-person) where participants can see everyone else in the program. Mentees can scope out potential mentors and see that they are part of a larger company wide initiative which will encourage them to maintain the relationship.
Pairing mentors and mentees
Finding mentors and mentees is the most exciting part of the process, but can also be stressful. It can become a logistical nightmare to manually pair up mentors and mentees when your program grows beyond 10 mentors and 10 mentees.
For this reason, many companies use Together’s mentoring software to efficiently create pairings using an algorithm that takes into consideration the answers provided by participants in a registration questionnaire. There are many advantages to using mentoring software.
Some qualities of good mentees and mentors include:
- Drive to succeed
- A positive attitude
- Good time management skills
- Open to learning and new perspectives
- Clear communication
- Shows initiative
- Leadership skills or capabilities
Mentors and mentees with these qualities will easily build a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
Supporting a successful mentoring relationship
To build a successful mentoring relationship you have to focus on each individual's goals for what they want to get out the experience. If a mentee wants to transition into a new department, say for example from marketing to sales, you may pair up the mentee with the head of sales and then support their relationship by encouraging them to talk through how to make that transition.
The first meeting can be awkward if there isn’t a blueprint or agenda to help get things started. For that reason, providing questions that the mentee can ask their mentor is very helpful in shaping the types of discussions they have. Encourage them to ask questions like:
- Why did you decide to be a mentor?
- What are your goals for the relationship?
- How did you move into X role?
- What were some challenges you faced in X position?
- What skills would be beneficial for me to work on?
Successful workplace mentoring programs are built on the backs of successful mentoring relationships. More importantly, participants and the organization will get the most benefits from a mentorship that has a strong relationship at its core.
Reporting on the progress of the program
Reporting on your mentoring program is essential because you want to capture the results of the relationships you helped develop and present that to stakeholders like leadership or other employees who are considering if a mentoring relationship is worth it.
To track feedback and measure your workplace mentoring program Together provides feedback forms at the end of each session for both the mentor and mentee to fill out. This gives meaningful qualitative feedback for administrators to understand if the program is working and what to change if necessary.
Important factors to keep in mind when evaluating the feedback from participants and monitoring your program include:
- Engagement levels of participants - are they enthusiastic about the program?
- Goal achievement - are mentees and mentors getting out of the program what they hoped?
- Qualitative feedback - how do they describe the program to others?
A mentoring program doesn’t start and end at pairing. To ensure a successful workplace mentoring program administrators should keep their finger on the pulse of all pairings and make adjustments as needed.
Mentorship for Remote or Hybrid Workplaces
In light of the massive shift to remote or hybrid working organizations may feel that mentoring programs aren’t possible in virtual environments. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, virtual mentoring can be more effective because it requires less logistic hassle like deciding where to meet and what to bring.
Instead, mentors and mentees can commit to a weekly or monthly schedule of conference calls where they check-in and dive into giving and receiving mentorship.
Is virtual mentoring effective?
Virtual mentoring is equally as effective as in-person mentoring if not more so.
One of the primary difficulties of remote or hybrid workers is isolation. To combat this, companies will organize group events like happy hours or games nights. But after a day full of Zoom meetings many employees dread another call with the whole team. Zoom fatigue is a common challenge for virtual workplaces.
Instead, companies should implement virtual mentoring for hybrid workplaces to organize one-on-one mentoring relationships. Unlike group calls, building rapport is easier because participants don’t have to feel like they’re hogging the mic. They can speak to one person rather than many.
Additionally, in a one-on-one mentoring relationship the conversations are more meaningful and refreshing. Mentors and mentees build an authentic relationship based on a mutual desire to grow and learn which makes the discussions relevant and engaging for both parties.
How do I mentor someone remotely?
To mentor someone remotely focuses on the following things in their remote mentoring programs:
- Goal setting - by setting goals for the relationship the conversations will have more structure.
- Solicit feedback - to grow we need to understand how we’re doing. Asking for feedback is the best way to be a better mentor and mentee.
- Stay in touch - in remote mentoring relationships it can be easier to slowly stop keeping in touch. To combat this having regular meetings scheduled in advance is crucial.
Mentoring is based on clear communication and genuine feedback. Keeping these in mind when following the best practices for virtual mentoring will guarantee success for any mentoring relationship.
The purpose of mentoring is to help mentees tap into the knowledge of those with more experience than themselves and learn faster than they would on their own. It’s also an opportunity to grow their network and connect with leaders rather than only their peers.
For mentors, it’s an opportunity to prove their knowledge and leadership skills. They can validate that they’re a clear communicator and receive the intangible benefits of giving back to more junior employees. We learn best by teaching and being a mentor is an effective way to hold leaders accountable to be role models for the organization.
Businesses that organise formal mentoring programs stand to benefit from building a strong culture that’s more connected, more engaged, and filled with employees who want to grow within the organisation rather than leave.
It may be reasonable to say that in the future, companies with effective mentorship programs will be the ones attracting the top talent and generate novel innovations that lead to tremendous success. What reasons are there not to have a mentoring program within your organisation?