Mentorship in the workplace has been around for decades. In fact, you may hear baby boomers or Gen Xers still refering to their mentors and what they learnt from them, even after retirement. But is mentorship still necessary or relevant in our fast-paced, and in some cases, less structured workplaces?
If you look back on how you got to where you are, the odds are good that you can think of at least one person who helped influence your decisions. Maybe it was the high school english teacher who said you had a knack for analytical writing. Perhaps it was the mechanic around the corner who was happy to give you the advice that helped you fix up your first car. Or maybe, it was the the person who helped you through your first days on the job.
The truth is, mentorship can be incredibly beneficial to your workers and your company. But there are a couple of different ways to foster those relationships. Some companies prefer to allow mentorship to happen organically, letting workers seek guidance from the peers they felt the most comfortable with. Others have mentorship programs in place, which helps mentors and mentees connect through a more structured process.
So how do you start encouraging mentorship within your company?
What is a mentor?
A mentor is defined as a 'trusted counselor or guide". In a professional setting, this is often a person who helps a new worker navigate their way through the highs and lows of their careers.
In generations past, when many workers stayed with the same employer for the majority (if not entirety) of their careers, a mentor was often a more senior worker who would take the rookie under their wing and show them the ropes. They would usually remain close with the worker as both their careers progressed and continue to guide them as they climbed the corporate ladder.
Today, workers are more likely to work for multiple companies throughout their careers, however, the concept of mentorship remains the same. The main difference is that workers entering the workforce today may find their mentor outside of their workplace, usually in the form of a successful peer whose career path they would like to follow.
Types of mentorship
There are 3 main types of mentoring:
This is when a mentor supports a mentee by offering them advice and ressources in order for them to accomplish their goals. Depending on the organization, this relationship may form organically between workers, or may be created through a company mentorship program. The key to success with the one-on-one method is that the mentor and the mentee respect and and get along with each other. This typically includes hands on- job training and job shadowing.
This is a mentoring relationship in which the mentor and mentee are in different locations. Sometimes refered to as "virtual mentoring", this often occurs when the best mentor for the job can't be in the same place as the mentee on a regular basis. This type of mentoring does present some unique challenges ( time differences, lack of face-to-face time) and the relationships can take more time to build if they aren't already established. However, there is also a benefit to distance mentoring, as many mentees feel more confident expressing themselves over e-mail or video call than in person, making conversations more honest and productive.
A single mentor is matched with a group of mentees. It isn't uncommon for group mentoring to also include distance mentoring. Initial program structure is provided while allowing mentors to control the progress, pace and activities. Many successful entrepreneurs or bussiness authors have mentoring programs in place, so if someone's business philosophy interests you, reach out to them. They may be able to point you in the right direction.
Benefits of mentorships
Mentorships may seem like they have the most benefit for the mentee, however, if done properly, both the mentor and the company itself can experience the positive impact of mentorships.
- Provides a source of advice and encouragement
- Develops a supportive professional relationship
- Assists with problem solving
- Improves self-confidence
- Offers opportunity for professional development
- Encourages reflection on practice
- Opportunity to reflect on own practice
- Enhances job satisfaction
- Develops professional relationships
- Enhances peer recognition
- It uses your experience, making it available to a new person
- It widens your understanding of the organisation and the way it works
- It enables you to practice interpersonal skills
- It provides personal satisfaction through supporting the development of others.
- Enables faster induction of new staff
- It improves the company culture
- Enhances individual performance
- Encourages commitment to the organisation
- It improves communication
Ready, set, mentor!
Have we convinced you to start encouraging mentorships? Whether you are ready to find a mentor, become a mentor, or start building a mentorship program within your company, remember that you have nothing to lose in the relationship. Even if it takes a couple of tries to get it right, you will always walk away with a new lesson learned.