At some point in our careers, there may come a time when we need advice and input, someone to help us through a difficult decision or time. That’s what mentors are for. A mentor is a helping hand, offering quality advice that’s honest and constructive. In other words, they share knowledge and provide a perspective you may not have, and can be a powerful and trustworthy resource.
On the other side of the coin, you may be in a position to become a mentor. But how do you start? One way is to create and implement a mentorship program in your company. A mentorship program pairs mentors with mentees, and establishes regular, one-on-one meetings between the two. It can be fairly simple to implement, and requires a meeting schedule and enough mentors and mentees interested in participating.
A mentor is a helping hand, offering quality advice that’s honest and constructive.
Mentors and mentorship programs provide many key benefits, such as better employee engagement and less turnover. To start a mentorship program, you need mentors. Use these four characteristics as a guide to find quality mentors:
Try selling something you aren’t confident in. It’s pretty hard to do, right? When it comes to finding mentors, make sure they have confidence in themselves and in their role/knowledge.
2. Able to Give (and Receive) Quality Feedback
How do you take feedback and criticism? The best mentors approach feedback with an open mind and a positive attitude. They listen to it and then vow to improve. On the other hand, they also give good feedback to others, and do it without sounding degrading or mean.
3. Committed to Your Organization
Being a mentor is a big commitment, and one that will take up some valuable time. With that in mind, you want to make sure that any mentor you choose is committed to your organization and will be there for the long haul. Are they focused on helping others and improving your organization? If so, they’re likely a good mentor candidate.
4. Great Work Ethic
Hard at work or hardly working? When it’s time to select mentors, choose the ones that are always hard at work. If they have a history of not giving 100 percent to their work, then it may be best to wait and find a different mentor.
Mentorship programs go beyond identifying the right mentors in your organization. An effective program can also drive the following results:
- Increases Employee Engagement and Reduce Turnover – A recent SHRM survey focused on employee engagement found that 56 percent of employees want opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work, and 43 percent value their organization’s commitment to professional development.1 Mentorship programs can accomplish both of these areas by helping employees develop their skills and abilities with their mentors, and put them to good use. In turn, this keeps your employees engaged and happy, and keeps your turnover low. It’s a win-win.
- Uses the Reverse Mentorship Concept – Have you heard of this? It’s where new or younger employees (usually millennials) mentor experienced or older employees about new concepts and technologies in the workplace. The pupil becomes the master. For experienced employees that may not be the most tech-savvy or up-to-date, reverse mentorship provides a unique opportunity to get quality training, while also developing relationships with younger co-workers. Millennials grew up in the digital age, and are used to troubleshooting and using new technology to make their lives easier.
- Encourages Quality Information and Learning – The more employees know, the better they can do their job. Mentoring provides another opportunity for employees to ask any questions they have, learn from someone more experienced than them, and develop a working relationship. This can help them be more productive. This usually happens through one-on-one meetings between the mentor and the mentee, and is an open discussion of what’s on the mentee’s mind.
- Develops Leadership and Management Skills – What better way to learn leadership skills then from a leader? Mentorship programs make this a reality. With millennials consisting of more than a third of the workforce, they’re already climbing the corporate ladder and becoming managers and leaders. To help them get there and succeed when they are there, mentors are a great resource to prepare them and help them through the challenges they may face. Think of this as unofficial leadership training, and treat it that way in your mentorship program.
- Saves Time and Increases Focus – The one-on-one meetings provide a time-saving opportunity, where the employee can ask all of their important questions and get informal training. Implemented correctly, mentorship strategies should allow the employee to work more efficiently, reducing the need for questions and help outside of the one-on-one meetings. This lets them focus on the important tasks at hand and incorporate what was talked about in the mentor meetings. Think of it this way: it’s a meeting where you can talk through important decisions or challenges and then apply them immediately afterwards.
Mentorship strategies should allow the employee to work more efficiently, reducing the need for questions and help outside of the one-on-one meetings.
- Sets an Example for Employees – Many times, leadership and executives can be viewed as distant and impersonal to other employees. Mentorship programs give leadership a chance to show that they are invested in people, and they want them to succeed. There’s a word for this: inclusion. This is also beneficial for potential employees, candidates, or other employees to see that your organization values leadership’s relationships with their employees.
- Creates a Sense of Loyalty – Who are you loyal to? Your family, friends, co-workers, or brands (like Apple)? Why are you loyal to them? Most likely, it’s because you’ve built a relationship with them that’s turned into loyalty. Loyalty happens because of shared experiences and proven credibility. Employee loyalty, engagement, and retention happens the same way; it’s earned and grows over time. Mentorship programs can increase that sense of loyalty. As mentors and employees participate in the program, they are either investing or getting invested in, and that can build on the employees’ loyalty to your company.
- Provides On-the-Job Training – We touched on this earlier, but mentorship programs can also be a form of training, and can help reduce any required formal training for the employee. This is a more personal type of training, and can be more effective than group training. Many people learn better in one-on-one settings, and is another way to reinforce that you are invested in developing your employees.
- Gives the Mentor Satisfaction, Too – If you were asked to be a mentor, how would you feel? Probably honored, valued, excited, and a little nervous. That’s normal. Mentors benefit from the mentorship program, too. In addition to sharing their knowledge and helping less-experienced employees, it gives them an opportunity to give back, and can lead to more personal satisfaction in their career. Sometimes, seeing that they made a difference in their mentee’s career can be all the benefit they need.
See the Benefits for Yourself
With all of these things in mind, it’s clear that mentorship programs can play a key role in employee engagement, loyalty, retention, and training. Not to mention the employee relationship-building that it can produce. Find a mentorship program that works for your organization, and see the benefits for yourself.
For more ways to build loyalty with clients and employees, check out our Loyalty Builder services, or contact us today.
Society for Human Resource Management. “2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Doors of Opportunity Are Open.” Apr. 24, 2017.
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A version of this article was originally published on the Brokers International Blog.