A Mentorship Program Could Super Charge Your Leadership Development Plan
Workplace training materials frequently talk about the benefits of a mentorship program, but they can be light on the details. That’s a problem for companies that want to adopt a mentorship model – and around 76% of employees believe mentors are important, although the number of mentorship programs is far lower.
Part of the problem is getting buy-in from company decision makers who may not be familiar with the advantages of a fully-fledged mentorship program. Providing some specifics can help encourage a mentorship strategy and get more people on board. Let’s take a closer look at how a mentorship program works, and why businesses can benefit from adopting an official plan for mentoring.
Defining a Mentorship Program
A mentorship program is a company-led initiative to help employees that want to learn more. They link specific employees with more experienced workers and leaders that can train them, give them advice, teach them how to use important tools, and more. Typically, programs make sure that time is scheduled for the mentee and mentor to meet or work together.
Sometimes these mentorships are designed to be short-term in nature as new employees learn the ropes. Other times, mentorships are designed to be long-term, and the mentor may be training the mentee to eventually take over their position. At the top level, mentorship programs become succession plans for leaders who will be guiding the company in years to come.
Sometimes mentorships happen organically at an organization, especially when leaders seek out replacements. But it’s not guaranteed, and many employees may feel they don’t have the time for it, especially in fast-paced workplaces. A mentorship program is designed to standardize the process, give mentors and mentees valuable tools, and schedule time for the process. A mentorship program can be implemented at any time.
Benefits of a Mentoring Program at Work
Some organizations may be hesitant about investing in a mentorship program because they may not be certain what benefits it will bring. There are a number of advantages to mentoring, both the mentee, the mentor, and the company itself. Let’s look closer at how each group benefits.
Benefits for the Mentee
Mentees are more likely to get raises. A study from Sun Microsystems found that their employees in mentorship programs were more likely than others to get a salary increase, 25% compared to only 5% outside of the mentorship program. They were also more likely to see promotions and related position changes at work.
Mentors can help develop goals for mentees. One of the most important things a mentor can do is start a discussion about the mentee’s future, where they want to be, and what they want to be doing. Mentors tend to come from similar backgrounds or have experience in similar roles, so they are well-suited to help mentees make clear goals to reach their targets. Mentors can also suggest when a particular type of training or job path may not be as worthwhile.
Mentees get access to a bigger network. Mentors are often older and have been in the industry longer than mentees. That usually means they have access to a larger network. Mentees that want to invest more in networking can access many important contacts through their mentor’s networks.
Direct advice on job performance. Mentees just starting a new job may not have all the experience and skills they need to do the best job that they can. Mentors can work with them on the job to provide direct guidance on what to do, what mistakes to correct, and how to quickly improve to meet the demands of the position.
A resource for questions and opinions. Mentees can easily turn to their mentor with specific questions that they may not have had any way to ask before. Mentors are an excellent resource to answer questions like these and give valuable personal opinions. That’s even more important in some positions where mentors may be able to give advice about a specific client or partner that they’ve worked with before.
Benefits for the Mentor
Mentors are also more likely to get salary upgrades. Interestingly, the same study by Sun Microsystems also found that the mentors participating in the program also saw an increased chance to see salary increases. In fact, mentors were even more likely to see promotions than mentees in the program, about six time more likely than those not participating.
Developing important leadership skills. Mentoring tends to teach the mentor a lot about guiding and teaching someone else. They can quickly pick up important leadership skills that are applicable in many other areas. This can also help mentors qualify for a higher leadership or management position, and signal that they are ready for more responsibilities. It also helps improve important emotional skills like self-awareness.
Mentors can stay current with their industry. Mentors learn a lot too! Especially when paired with younger, newer employees, mentorship programs give mentors an opportunity to learn about the latest trends and tools. In some cases, mentors may not have taken such a close look at the nuts and bolts of their organization for years. It can be very informative, and help them make better decisions in their own work. Sometimes mentees can even provide training to their mentors, which is called reverse-mentoring. During COVID-19, for example, many mentors found themselves learning about hybrid communication options and apps to stay connected to their mentees while working from home.
Benefits for the Company
Better retention rates. Companies that put mentoring plans into practice typically see better retention and lower rates of turnover. That can be particularly important for entry-level employees that can use guidance and support during their initial training. This kind of entry-level mentorship can be an effective solution in industries that traditionally struggle with high turnover.
Effective talent growth. Mentoring is one of the best methods for growing employee talent, and helping employees develop skills that make them better at their jobs. This type of one-on-one training is especially effective at helping employees gain more complex skills. It can prepare them effectively for a future with the company, and help them seek higher positions over time. The business as a whole benefits from this kind of talent investment.
Overall continuity and culture. Mentoring programs can help improve and share a company’s culture. They make it easier for the company to pass along shared values and attitudes that have made the organization successful in the past, while also allowing new ideas and technology to have an influence on company leadership.
Key Traits of a Promising Mentor
Mentoring programs aren’t for every employee, and not everyone has the time or capability to be a good mentor. One of the most important parts of putting together a mentorship program – especially for recruiters and HR staff – is identifying the best mentors for the job. Criteria will vary from company to company, but here are some of the traits that great mentors tend to have:
- Experience and accomplishment in their field: Mentors should have enough experience to effectively help mentees. At higher levels, mentors should have proven accomplishments in their industry or a related field that shows they have skills and insights that will be worth passing on.
- Enough time and energy: Sometimes mentorship programs overlook that mentors need the right amount of time and energy to undertake new responsibilities. A good mentor will have enough bandwidth to take on and help a mentee. This may require the ability to clear more room in their schedule, or come to an agreement with the organization about how they’ll be compensated for extra work.
- Reasonable communication skills: Mentors have a chance to improve their communication skills as part of the program, but they should start with at least basic communication skills. That includes active listening, the ability to give effective feedback, and the ability to explain a process or concept.
- Honesty and integrity: No one wants a careless mentor who doesn’t give accurate feedback. While mentors can span a variety of attitudes and personalities, they should always be honest and genuinely care about their job.
- A positive and helpful attitude: Good mentors are enthusiastic about mentoring. They are eager to share what they know, and understand the need to avoid being too negative or critical.
Are you interested in brushing up on how mentorships work, or getting ready to make a mentorship presentation to your business? KnowledgeCity has effective, fast courses that you can use on-the-go to help prepare! These bite-sized courses are designed for maximum results without taking too much time out of your busy day.
Consider beginning with our lesson on Allies, Mentors, and the Workplace, which is also a useful guide to share with anyone who wants to be a mentor. For those who want to go a bit further, take a look at our course on Becoming an Effective Workplace Mentor for even more details. Guides like these can help with preparation, or can be easily incorporated into training materials and presentations.
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