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Best practices in workplace mentoring programmes

As businesses continue to compete for skilled employees in an increasingly competitive and growing global marketplace, the ability to retain and develop talent from within is quickly becoming essential. One method of developing internal employee talent is through the use of mentoring programmes. Research has established that mentoring programmes are effective in increasing employee retention.

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Mentoring programmes can be formal or informal and allow individuals to learn and grow professionally into their current or desired careers. Organisations, large or small, that foster a mentoring culture can realise many benefits, including reduced costs, increased productivity and efficiencies through increased employee satisfaction, retention and engagement. Mentoring partnerships and cultures provide employers with the opportunity to increase engagement in their workplace, increase productivity and to establish and achieve organisational goals. Studies have shown that there is a higher employee turnover rate if there is a lack of career development opportunities ranging from training programmes to promotion within an organisation.

A mentor is someone who is established in their career or business and is knowledgeable and experienced within an organisation, industry or career field. Mentors develop a professional relationship with mentees who are usually individuals seeking to start or develop within their career or business. The role of the mentor is to share knowledge, skills and experiences to help mentees develop their career or business through attaining new knowledge, building new skills, and in planning and achieving goals.

A mentor plays two major roles: career support and psychosocial support. A mentor and mentee relationship is built on shared values, trust, confidentiality and professionalism. The mentorship typically focuses on sharing and building knowledge and skills that the mentee would like to develop over a period of time. The duration of mentoring partnerships can be either long or short-term, depending on the goals of the mentorship and the compatibility of the mentor and mentee. Mentorships can range from a few months to a few years in length and may see the mentee transition between careers or business ownerships through the course of the mentorship.

There are many benefits to mentoring partnerships for career development and overall business success. Mentees and mentors develop a wide range of skills, including leadership and communication, this leads to an increase in morale and job satisfaction. Benefits to the organisation include succession planning through the development of internal talent and retention of corporate knowledge, increased productivity and efficiencies, decreased costs, decreased employee turnover and a positive impact to the financial bottom line. Research shows that when mentoring leverages the skills, productivity and employee morale within organisations can increase by 25% benefiting both the employer and employees.

Although the benefits are many, it is important to recognise that developing an effective mentoring programme takes time, planning and a true commitment from all levels within the organisation (particularly the top). If you are interested in developing a mentoring programme within your small business and are not sure where to start, here are five tips for your consideration:

Identify interest

The first step to developing and implementing a mentoring programme is to gauge the level of interest within the organisation as well as identify individuals who are potential mentors and mentees.

Design the programme

It is important to plan a mentoring program that aligns with the culture of your organisation as well as development needs are of the individuals who will participate. Mentoring programmes can be either formal or informal. Formal programmes are often structured in mentee/mentor pairings, meeting expectations, goals/outcomes, time frames, reporting, etc. Informal programmes are much more relaxed, often mentees choose their own mentor and meeting times/frequency, duration, topics, etc, are determined solely by the mentee/mentor with little or no input or guidance from the organisation. Programme formats can also vary and include peer-to-peer, one-to-one, forums, etc.

Select mentors, mentees

When selecting mentors, choose individuals who are not only interested in mentoring but also possess the required knowledge, skills and experience that will benefit the mentees and are positive role models with a genuine interest in developing others. These are employees with strong interpersonal skills, who are committed and willing to set aside the time to work with a mentee. When selecting mentees, focus on individuals who are not only seeking development but who have been identified as key performers in their current position and who have the potential to advance.

Mentoring, like any other employee training and development programme, is an investment in an individual.If there are no qualified mentors available within your organisation, which is often the case for small businesses, consider finding a mentor from another organisation, association or industry. Mentors and mentees don’t have to be involved in the same type of career or business, just someone you trust whom you can learn from.

Match pairs

In a formal programme, mentees and mentors are paired through aligning the interests and goals of the mentee with a mentor who has the relevant knowledge, skills and experience. Matching pairs is very important for mentoring because effective mentoring partnerships are more likely to occur if the pairs are compatible. It is important to look at the career or business goals and professional interests of the individuals. This can be accomplished through questionnaires, surveys or interviews. Potential mentors and mentees should be consistent and share values in the areas of confidentiality, work ethic, patience and responsibility.

Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. — mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com. The views contained herein are personal.

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