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How a mentoring programme can benefit your workplace

Mentoring is an effective way to help employees develop their skills and increase their desire to keep growing within the company. Discover everything you need to know to set up your own mentoring programme...

It’s becoming an increasingly popular tool within the business world. 71% of all Fortune 500 companies now offer a mentoring programme to their employees and 75% of executives credit their mentor with helping them reach their current position.  But why is it so popular and effective and how would you go about setting up a programme?

Types of workplace mentoring

Mentoring can’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ exercise. There are many different types of mentoring that might suit the different types of employees in your workplace.

1. One-to-one mentoring

This is what most of us picture when we think of mentoring. One-to-one mentoring is potentially the most common mentorship set-up. Mentor and mentee meet to discuss.

2. Distance mentoring

A mentoring relationship where the parties are based in different locations, this style of mentorship embraces technology.

3. Group mentoring

Group mentoring allows a single mentor to be paired with a group of mentees. They meet together and the mentor runs activities for them in a more structured way than in one-to-one sessions.

4. Peer mentoring (or a buddy system)

Commonly seen in schools welcoming new students, peer mentoring in the workplace can be an effective way of welcoming a new employee. A peer mentor can help your new hire to get to grips with your values and vision much faster.

5. Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring is becoming increasingly popular in recent years. It’s an initiative wherein older, more experienced employees are partnered with and mentored by younger employees.

These younger employees can offer support in areas such as technological innovation, social media and current trends.

You can find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today. 

Who can be a mentor?

As you can see from our list above, there are many different types of mentoring relationships. It stands to reason that many different types of people can be mentors.

However, there are certain traits that lend themselves to being a good mentor.

A good mentor should:

  • Exhibit enthusiasm for their field

  • Have relevant expertise

  • Be compatible with their mentee

  • Be able to provide guidance and constructive feedback

  • Challenge their mentee to try new things and step out of their comfort zone

Another thing to keep in mind is that mentees will be looking to share information in confidence with their mentor. The mentor should be aware of this, and set up ground rules to avoid any conflicts. Mutual trust is key.

What are the benefits of setting up a mentoring programme?

Before making the business case for a mentoring programme, discover the benefits for productivity, retention and more...

1. Creates high performing employees

When employees are mentored, they quickly get to grips with the culture and aims of a company and better understand the unique intricacies of their department. Along with the additional professional skills they develop, this helps them to grow into outperforming employees. Sun Microsystems, an American computer company, decided to look into this. Their analysis used data from over 1,000 employees over a five-year-period and found: “mentoring has a positive impact on mentors and mentees, producing employees that are more highly valued by the business.”

2. Unique knowledge transfer

It’s commonly cited that 80% of corporate learning is informal. It takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts and managers. Mentoring is the perfect way to facilitate this as it naturally cultivates an atmosphere of informal learning. It allows mentees to learn in a way that formal training programmes and manuals can’t. It allows them to learn quicker and align their new skills with the businesses strategy.

3. Creates engaged and happy employees

Having the chance to learn and develop is a top driver of employee engagement. According to some studies it trumps leadership, culture and pay. Mentoring programmes offer both participants the ability to learn and develop professionally and makes them feel valued. By working closely with a mentee, a mentor will be able to ascertain what they want to learn and how they want to develop within the company. Their mentorship can then centre on these goals, making both mentee and mentor feel more engaged with the company. 

4. Attract and retain employees

Mentored employees are much more likely to stay with the business compared with talented staff who aren’t mentored. The Sun Microsystems study found that in addition to the other benefits, retention rates were much higher amongst the mentored group; both mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) retention rates were much higher than employees who weren’t in the programme (49%).

A recent survey found that millennials intending to stay with their company for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). The CIPD says that mentoring can have a significant impact on recruitment and retention in general. Crucially, however, it cites that the loss of young employees in that first crucial (and expensive!) year was cut by two thirds if the company introduced mentoring. Clearly businesses who fail to develop eager young employees will struggle to retain them.

5. Benefits of reverse mentoring

Mentoring is usually considered most beneficial for younger employees, but it can be a worthwhile strategy for all ages. Giving younger employees the chance to mentor also broadens their skillsets and makes them feels valued and invested, because they are making a significant contribution to the improvement of the business.

How to set up a mentoring programme

Starting a mentoring programme rewards your employees and your business, but there is hard work involved. Our six steps break down the essentials...

1. Who are the target mentees?

Consider the needs of the business and who is most likely to benefit from being mentored. Support them to identify what areas they could be mentored in.

If you're exploring reverse mentoring, make sure the potential mentee is comfortable being mentored by a younger person. It's important that the older employee doesn't feel this means they're 'past it', rather that you're investing in them and their skills.

2. Who will mentor?

Are there highly skilled people within the business who would be keen to mentor? If so, speak with them to see if they feel they need any training prior to taking on a mentee.

3. Find a manager

You will need a person to act as the overall manager for this project. It may well be suited to someone from the HR department, but whoever they are they should be genuinely interested in mentoring and invested in the benefits of the programme. The project manager can work on matching pairs and working with them to make sure the mentoring programme is proving worthwhile.

4. Devise a process

The project manager, along with other senior staff members, should determine the programme's goals to make sure they are in alignment with the business. This will include everything from choosing the right mentoring model to agreeing on frequency of meetings. Once this has been devised it should be put into a guide so the mentee and mentor have a framework to work within.

5. Pair up

How will you match mentee with mentor? The project manager is best placed to match people together. They may use a combination of strategies to achieve this such as individual interviews as well as taking into account more practical reasons, such as location. As we mentioned before, it's vital that the mentor is compatible with their mentee, but can also challenge them and introduce them to new ideas.

6. Pilot programme

It’s no small feat setting up a mentor programme, so you might want to consider launching a pilot programme first with just a few participants. This will allow you to work through any initial knots and refine the process.

Mentoring is one way a company can help their employees develop and feel professionally fulfilled. By improving employee skillsets as well as retention levels, mentoring can also help businesses achieve their objectives. 

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