Mentoring has long been considered an effective way to ensure employees develop and progress. Yet so often it isn’t available to everyone. Here’s why company-wide mentoring is vital.
Time and time again I speak to organisations who reserve mentoring for ‘top talent’ or senior leadership. The most common reason that I find as to why organisations are reserving their mentoring programmes for the select few?
They consider it to be too time consuming or ineffective a resource to provide every employee with. This is understandable when we start looking into the logistics of mentoring programmes. However, there are a few ways in which that is being combatted with the support of technology.
In this article, I’ll explore what mentoring is, why it truly can benefit every individual and how your organisation can start company-wide and organisation-wide mentoring programmes today.
What is Mentoring?
Before we explore why mentoring is valuable for all and should be offered to every employee, at every level of an organisation, it’s important to first have a basic understanding of what mentoring is.
It never ceases to amaze me how many different definitions are floating around, how many times it is confused with coaching, sponsorship and buddying schemes, and how theoretically interchangeable they seem to be. Its understandable that there’s confusion.
After all, a lot of the same characteristics and skills can be applied to coaching and mentoring and a lot of the most effective mentors are also trained coaches. However, the primary difference is that mentoring doesn’t require qualifications.
Anyone with skills, experience or knowledge that they are willing to share, can make an effective mentor. That’s it. That’s all that an individual needs to be a mentor. Of course, when considering whether someone is an effective mentor, there are a lot of additional considerations and characteristics to consider.
However, at its very core, mentoring is an extremely simple, yet equally powerful, form of development. So, it’s time that organisations look to leverage this more and more.
At PushFar, we’re beginning to see this happening, which is fantastic, but I believe there’s a lot more that can be done to encourage those at all levels of a business to start mentoring. However, it has to start, with an organisation providing employees with the tools and resources to do so.
How Can We Run a Company-Wide Mentoring Programme?
Mentoring programmes are notoriously resource-heavy to manage and, as mentioned, it’s one of the main reasons why organisations have previously reserved them for the ‘top talent’ and, in some cases, the individuals most in need.
Traditionally, the process of recruiting mentors within the business, training them to be effective mentors, matching them with suitable mentees and keeping track of progress was a full-time job for larger organisations.
In fact, we carried out research last year and estimated it could take anywhere from 12 to 28 hours a month (that’s up to four days), to run a 50-person programme. Imagine what it would take an organisation looking to run a programme with 500 people?
Here’s where technology comes in. In the last few years excel spreadsheets and Google forms have been used to manage mentor registrations and pairings. And yes, to a certain extent, that works but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a relatively time-consuming process still – even with the greatest excel formulas, of which there are some impressive ones out there!
More recently, there has been a rise in technologies, such as PushFar’s mentoring platform, which are designed to help match, manage and report on mentoring programmes, whilst at the same time ensure individuals are engaged with mentoring relationships, scheduling meetings on time and proactively working towards achievable development goals.
What about a Mentoring Culture?
Whilst looking at mentoring technologies and platforms, it is important to recognise that these are only one-piece of the puzzle. Yes, they significantly reduce resource required to offer mentoring to all of your employees but only if your employees are already engaged with mentoring, trained up on how to be effective mentors and you’ve built a culture that recognises mentoring at all levels.
Some organisations have a culture which seems to frown on mentoring and treat it as a though those being mentored are somehow ‘weak’ or ‘in need’ of support. The organisations that we see truly thriving are those that recognise the benefits of being mentored at all levels in your career, including senior leadership and C-Suite executive level employees.
The truth is, we can all learn, grown and improve from the experience that others have and the organisations that embrace this will help individuals to develop, grow and ultimately create a truly embedded culture of learning.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you are creating a culture of mentoring within your organisation:
Ensure mentors and mentees are visible at all levels – make sure you have the support of senior leaders who are happy to be visibly taking part in mentoring, both as mentors and mentees.
- Ask that managers genuinely promote and educate the benefits of mentoring to their teams and encourage their teams to participate.
- Look to employee resource groups, such as the LGBTQ+ and women’s network in your business, to put forward mentoring as an initiative. It has lots of benefits when we look at mentoring for diversity and inclusion
Ensure you’re training mentors and mentees or giving them resources to train themselves in effective mentoring.
These results won’t happen overnight, but the are a good starting point to building a culture of learning, ready for company-wide mentoring. Recruiting mentors does not mean that you have to look to senior leadership alone though. Some of your most effective mentors may well be junior employees who are knowledgeable and skilled in their own field.
Tools like reverse mentoring actually look at junior employees mentoring senior employees on specific areas such as technology, industry trends and diversity challenges. Where possible, try not to limit mentor recruitment – it should be open to everyone.
The Key Benefits to Company-Mentoring
So now we know how we can begin looking at ensuring mentoring is company-wide, with the right technology and culture, it’s time to explore why you should be offering a company-wide mentoring programme. There are a few well-known benefits but there are also some lesser-known benefits to highlight.
It is important to remember that mentoring is mutually beneficial. Whilst it is easy to think of benefits to being mentored (the ‘mentee’), there are just as many benefits to the mentor.
Firstly, on both sides, mentoring can significantly improve interpersonal and communication skills. For the mentee, expressing challenges, goals, and objectives, we often see them improving their communication skills without even realising it.
Equally, for the mentor, sharing experience and responding to potentially challenging questions from the mentee, interpersonal skills will naturally improve, whether the individual is seeking to gain that benefit or not.
Offering mentoring programmes to everyone gives everyone a sense of belonging, self-worth, and importance. It can send the wrong signal if mentoring is only reserved for the select-few high performers, or worse, those in the most need of support.
Giving everyone the opportunity to access mentoring shows that you, as an employer, care and put value in every employee’s career development and growth.
Another benefit is that mentoring often improves employee engagement and retention, again, on both sides. We know that a substantial percentage of employee turnover can be attributed to managerial conflict and disagreement.
Putting mentoring in place can give your employees an alternative channel of support, communication and guidance which seriously impacts employee retention.
Finally, one of the most significant benefits to company-wide mentoring programmes is that it will help every one of your employees involved in mentoring to further themselves, their careers and their goals, which, in-turn will help your business or organisation to grow, remain innovative and succeed.
Mentoring has some extraordinary benefits to everyone involved, the individuals and the organisation. Now, with the support of technology and increasingly proactive learning cultures, you truly can – and should – make sure that your mentoring programme is open to everyone.
Get started today and see how mentoring can transform your organisation in the next six months.
About the Author
Ed Johnson is the Co-Founder and CEO of PushFar, the world’s leading mentoring platform. Helping individuals and organisations to make the most of mentoring programmes, Ed works closely with learning professionals across the world.