Mentoring is more important than ever in today’s business world — and for good reason. For employees to grow in their careers, they must build up their leadership, communication and problem-solving skills. Learning from a mentor can help employees develop those abilities, navigate office politics and understand how to handle workplace challenges.
Workplace mentoring can also benefit organizations by building employee loyalty and increasing retention. Gartner surveyed more than 1,000 workers over a five-year period and found that retention rates were higher for both mentees (72 percent) and mentors (69 percent) than employees who did not participate in a mentoring program.
To create a successful mentoring program, you must first be able to identify potential mentees and mentors, and then take steps to promote a culture of mentorship.
Who Makes a Good Mentee?
While the mentor may seem like the leader in a mentoring relationship, commitment on both sides is essential. A good mentee is:
- Proactive. There’s nothing that will cause a mentoring relationship to fail faster than a mentee who isn’t willing to play an active role in the partnership. While the mentor is there to provide guidance, the mentee should be the primary driving force of the relationship — he or she should take the initiative to proactively schedule meetings with the mentor, identify issues or challenges to discuss, and lead the conversation during those meetings.
- Open and honest. A mentoring relationship requires mentees to be willing to share the challenges they’re facing, the mistakes they’ve made, and the areas in which they’d like to grow. Without that willingness to share, a mentoring relationship can quickly stall.
- Open-minded. The main purpose of a mentoring relationship is for the mentee to learn and grow; however, it’s nearly impossible to do that if the mentee refuses to explore different opinions, try new approaches, and confront his or her own weaknesses. Successful mentees are willing to be open-minded and consider their mentors’ suggestions and constructive criticism.
Who Makes a Good Mentor?
It’s clear that mentors can promote other employees’ career advancement and strengthen the overall organization — but only if that person is effective as a mentor. In addition to having relevant experience, a good mentor is:
- Humble. Good mentors have made mistakes — and have learned from them. They remember what it’s like to be starting out in the field and can share the lessons they’ve learned with the mentee — which can help the mentee gain new insight on how to build resiliency.
- Service-oriented. To offer effective guidance, mentors must be willing to help by listening, asking insightful questions, and suggesting ideas for how the mentee can approach his or her challenges.
- Flexible and fun. Mentors must be available to meet with their mentees when they are ready to discuss an issue. But they should also keep in mind that mentoring doesn’t always have to be a serious endeavor — to build an effective, trusting relationship, it’s also important to set aside time for lighthearted, casual conversation.
Tips for Creating a Workplace Mentoring Program
While your organization may clearly recognize that mentoring is important, it’s not easy to design and implement a mentorship program. To make sure you develop a culture of mentorship in your company, consider these tips:
Teach employees about the importance of mentoring
You may already know how a mentoring program can benefit your company, but your employees may not understand how mentorship can benefit them. To gain employee buy-in, make sure employees know why mentoring is important and how it can provide value in their careers. You can do this by asking your managers to simply have conversations with their team members — either one-on-one or in a small group setting — about the purpose of mentorship and how it can benefit both mentors and mentees.
Then, as the program grows, consider reinforcing that message by sharing stories of success. For example, you might spotlight a mentor/mentee pair in your monthly internal company newsletter, highlighting how each participant is benefiting from the relationship. The more you emphasize the importance of mentorship in your communications, the more ingrained it will become in your culture.
Communicate expectations from the top down
Make sure everyone in your organization knows that a mentoring program is being implemented. Ideally, the leaders of the organization should play a large role in this. Ensure that your senior executives are on board and are part of the communications — for example, having them introduce the program during an all-team meeting. This will show that they’re excited about the program, which will set the stage for enthusiasm at every level of the organization.
Executives should also participate in the program; when leaders serve as mentors themselves, they show that mentoring is something that’s important to the entire organization.
Set measurable goals
To keep the mentorship program on track, organizations should set specific goals and find a way to measure whether the mentoring program is making progress toward those goals. Based on your organization’s goals for the program, your performance indicators might include monitoring the number of participants (both mentees and mentors) or tracking employee retention among participants versus non-participants.
You can also set goals on the mentor/mentee level, by having each participant outline what he or she wants to gain from the program (e.g., a promotion or a new skill), then revisiting that goal after a set amount of time.
Then, at certain intervals — for example, six months or a year — you should meet to evaluate your company’s progress on its goals. You could do this by collecting and examining data on your performance indicators (e.g., has retention improved? Are more employees willing to participate now?), as well as surveying participants to determine if they’ve moved closer to their individual goals.
Mentors in the workplace can help employees increase their effectiveness, advance their careers and create a more productive organization. These tips should help you find good candidates for mentors and mentees, and implement an effective mentoring program to strengthen all parts of your organization. For a deeper conversation about how to help your employees bring their best selves to work, reach out.