The Magic of Mentoring: Business Benefits of Mentoring Programmes

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magic of mentoring

The repercussions of Covid-19 are forcing organisations to redeploy, upskill and reskill staff at speed – but with ever-shrinking budgets. As a result, HR leaders are having to think on their feet. Many are looking for a new way to facilitate learning and development in the workplace. Establishing an effective mentoring programme can be a great place to start.

Mentoring uses the resources your company already has to transfer knowledge, encourage leadership and improve employee engagement. From a business standpoint, it’s win-win. Creating an employee mentoring programme benefits the mentee, the mentor and the wider company. Mentees learn new skills, mentors hone theirs, and the business improves performance and grows its talent pipeline.

It’s no coincidence that almost all Fortune 500 businesses now have active mentoring schemes, and smaller companies are following suit. For HR leaders looking to ensure their organisations survive and thrive into the ‘next normal’, it’s clear that a strong mentoring programme is key.

Benefits of a mentorship programme

Being mentored is one of the most valuable and effective development opportunities you can offer employees. Alongside practical advice, encouragement and support, mentoring can enhance self-confidence too. It also helps mentees gain role-relevant skills and benefit from ‘just in time’ advice as challenges arise. Other key gains for the mentee include:

●  Feeling confident and empowered to make decisions

●  Advice on developing strengths and overcoming weaknesses

●  Stronger and more open internal networks

●  Easing anxiety by having someone to turn to for guidance and support

What the mentors gain

Mentoring is more than the transfer of knowledge. By guiding and counselling others, mentors have the opportunity to develop their leadership qualities and demonstrate their readiness for senior positions. Other key benefits for mentors include:

●  Improving their communication, management and team-building skills

●  Gaining recognition as a subject matter expert

●  Exposure to fresh perspectives and approaches

●  Motivation to reflect on personal goals and practices

Benefit to your business bottom line

The great advantage of mentoring is that it approaches learning from a different angle – one that is uniquely tailored to your organisation. A mentor can share hands-on experience about internal systems that can’t be gained from any other source. This helps mentees navigate company-specific procedures, getting them role-ready in a shorter time frame.

Employers can also reap a variety of other benefits:

●  Cost-effectively spread the skills and attitudes required to succeed within the company – helping to foster positive corporate cultures

●  Engage your employees and keep your best performers connected and energised

●  Foster a culture of personal and professional growth that attracts new hires

●  Explore leadership potential and develop a pipeline of future leaders

Driving diversity

Mentoring programmes also have a positive track record for enhancing the effectiveness of diversity efforts within companies. Studies show that mentoring has been proven to be more successful at promoting workplace diversity than diversity training programmes alone.

Participation has been found to boost minority representation at the management level by 9% to 24%, compared to -2% to 18% with other diversity initiatives. As an HR professional, it’s another strong argument for introducing an employee mentoring programme within your organisation.

Introducing mentoring to your employees

According to Tammy Allen, author of Designing Workplace Mentor Programs, pairing an employee with the right mentor is the trickiest aspect of mentoring. Some organisations use algorithms similar to those used by dating services, while others take a more random approach such as picking names out of a hat.

Turn to technology

Allen says the programmes in which participants have some input are usually the most successful. However, the traditional approach to matching is usually uncomfortable and long-winded for both parties. By turning to technology for this initial stage in the matching process, algorithms eliminate human emotions and quickly recommend matches. Instead of numerous conversations, web chats or Zoom calls – technology can help to pinpoint how employees can help each other and bring them together in a stress-free environment. 

Empower employees

Successful mentoring relies on human relationships. Therefore, technology should only be used to assist in the decision-making process. Let your employees choose their own mentor from a predetermined list of potential matches. Allowing mentees to select a mentor based on skill, experience and career aspirations ensures the relationship starts with mutual respect and understanding from both sides.

How to make mentoring more successful

But don’t leave it there. Despite your best efforts a pair may not click, so you’ll need to support an employee’s exit strategy. Educate employees looking for mentorship how to tell whether their mentor/mentee is a good match and support them in how to resolve this situation. That way, participants can get out of the relationship and find another match without hurt feelings or damaging professional relationships.

Set expectations

It’s important that everyone enters into mentoring with clear and realistic expectations. Mentees should understand the process does not make them a shoo-in for promotion, but instead is an investment in their personal and professional growth. Mentors should know that their time and expertise are valued, and the benefits of mentoring are reciprocal.

Get it in the diary

Finally, we suggest encouraging mentors and mentees to schedule regular sessions to give the mentoring relationship some momentum. If it is not part of an ongoing conversation, they will never achieve the results. Allow the pair to make their own arrangements, but be prepared to give both parties a nudge if need be.

Mentoring can bring strategic benefits to organisations and have a correspondingly positive impact on the business bottom line. In the current environment, setting up a mentoring programme should be on every HR leader’s to-do list. Is it on yours?

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