Encouraging and facilitating mentoring within your organisation is a great way to attract, motivate, develop and retain top talent.
The benefits of mentoring
While it can be done in a group setting, professional mentorship usually involves pairing an industry junior with a senior. The two then work closely over a number of months to help the mentee achieve a set of predetermined career goals.
The mentor could be from within the same organisation as the mentee, but that’s not always the case. In fact, Westney says they don’t even have to work in the same industry.
“Sometimes the most appropriate mentor will be somebody within your profession who’s doing what the more junior employee wants to be doing,” he says. “Or it can be somebody who’s completely unconnected to the profession, but who perhaps has a lot of experience in general business and can bring the mentee a completely different perspective and broaden their business understanding.”
When done right, professional mentoring can be a win-win-win situation:
- It’s good for the mentee, of course, because it assists with their professional and personal development
- It also introduces fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking to the person conducting the mentoring.
- Best of all, it’s a boon for the business. As well as facilitating collaborative learning, the diversification of skills and the sharing of knowledge, it also increases employee engagement, helps develop future leaders and improves new-hire retention rates.
- Research indicates that retention rates are 25 per cent higher for employees who have participated in company-sponsored mentoring.
- Productivity is up to 2.5 times higher in organisations with employee-development programs.
Tips for setting up in-house programs
Workplace mentoring programs have a lot to offer both individuals and businesses, allowing for fast and effective onboarding of new employees via the sharing of knowledge, skills and best practice throughout the organisation, and helping to develop aspiring talent.
Here are some important tips to establishing a successful program within your organisation:
- Be effective: Internal mentoring programs first need to be carefully designed, with clearly defined objectives to suit your organisation’s specific needs.
- Set out a plan: This must involve who will be receiving the mentorship, who will be doing the mentoring, who will benefit and how the scheme will run. For example, will participants choose their own pairings, or will you use a computer program to find ideal matches? Programs such as Mentorloop and River can help organisations match mentees with mentors based on competencies, company structure and individual goals. They can also track and facilitate the mentorships.
- Structure the program: It should be measurable and provide a loose workflow that participants can follow to achieve their desired outcomes while remaining flexible enough to adapt to different learning styles, situations and goals.
- Secure leadership support early: “I always start with leadership teams, because you’ll often find people there who could do with mentoring as well,” Westney says. “It can be good to get perhaps external mentors for leadership team members so they can see the value in it, and then they can be role models and advocates for mentoring when it comes to more junior staff members.”
- Promote the benefits of mentoring: Also clarify that you’re there to offer guidance and support to mentors and mentees throughout the process. Assist participants who want to sharpen their objectives, provide training on the program’s goals and participant roles, and help everyone get the most out of the experience.
Ultimately, Westney urges HR professionals not to approach their mentoring program too rigidly or seriously.
“I think internal mentoring programs work best when they’re fairly informal, so it’s more something that’s encouraged rather than something that has a defined framework around it,” he says.
“I know a lot of organisations at the moment that are experimenting with things like random coffee dates, where you get matched with somebody in the organisation you don’t know and you have to go and have a coffee with them. What a great idea – you’re meeting people in different parts of the business and you’re learning from them, and they’re learning from you, and you’re suddenly building a relationship.”