Strong mentorship is important for both employee performance and the overall success of a business. Good mentorship can drastically improve productivity levels, engagement, and employee retention. Learning from leadership helps employees feel more satisfied and happy with their position. The benefits go both ways.
While there’s no wrong or right way to run a mentorship program, it’s best to set clear standards and avoid potential misconceptions between mentors and proteges. Here are some tips for success.
While mentorship/protege roles can develop naturally, there is value in creating a formal process to maximize the value of these relationships. Otherwise, people may not even realize they are being seen as a mentor, which means they may fail to pay close attention to opportunities to help employees grow in their roles.
Whether you are the one doing the mentoring or tasking other managers with the role, make sure there’s a formal process in place with real commitments from both parties. Set the expectations to help ensure success in the relationship and in the program.
Many times people view mentorship in a way that stresses a strong power dynamic between mentor and mentee. Employees are meant to absorb all the guidance a leader has to offer simply because they’re more experienced. But the value of the relationship can be expanded if this view is turned on its head. The relationship should be more of an exchange. Sure, the mentee should be gaining valuable advice and knowledge from their mentor, but the mentor should also gain value in the relationship, or it won’t work long-term.
This will help create a level of trust that will enhance the process, allowing mentees to come to leaders for advice and guidance, but understanding that they can, and should, adapt that guidance to their own situation, position, and skill set.
When you are talking about an internal mentoring program in particular, it is important to ensure that specific and measurable goals are set. What are you hoping to get out of it for the company and the participants? Encouragement should be given to the mentor and mentee to make it clear what each hope get out of the relationship and what each should bring to it.
This will help ensure the relationship isn’t one-sided and all about the mentor dictating advice from above all the time. Having these expectations and empowering the mentee to have some control over the experience as well also helps reduce those power dynamics previously mentioned. It shouldn’t be their job to simply follow the topics their mentors set out to discuss. Instead, they should drive the conversation in the direction that is most beneficial for their growth.
Many times companies can get very territorial and don’t want others involved. This steps from fear of having their employees poached to other companies, or perhaps fear of competitors finding out information about their strategy or financial situation. While these fears can be valid, it should not be a reason to discourage outside mentors for their employees. Organizations can set rules about what can and cannot be shared outside their organization. If they have done this and educated their employees on this process, then that should alleviate that concern.
It is important for people to have mentors that are disconnected from the company they work for. This provides and outside perspective that you would not be able to get from an internal mentor. It also means that when specific challenges arise that aren’t appropriate to raise to an internal mentor, there is an outlet to raise those challenges and gain some valuable advice and insight.
Mentorship is a valuable tool that can help improve employee engagement, speed up work processes, help employees feel happy in their jobs, and more. Effective leaders can utilize mentorship programs to improve employee retention and minimize costs from high turnover rates. Instead of assuming mentorship will come naturally, it’s best to make an active effort to encourage it within an organization. It will serve as a benefit to leaders, employees, and the organization.