What do the Karate Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins and that Chef from Ratatouille all have in common? Every single one of them had a mentor, one who passed on wisdom and helped them build the skills that made them the best Jedi, superhero or ring bearer they could be!
We all saw the benefits of their guidance play out on the big screen, but as we always say, learning at work should replicate and take inspiration from what we do in our day-to-day lives.
Employee mentoring programs can be a huge tool for so many reasons, from sharing knowledge and giving people a purpose at work to really building a learning culture.
It’s too tempting to think that employee mentoring just means an older or more senior employee person sharing their expertise with a younger or inexperienced teammate. However, knowledge can and should pass up, down and sideways in every good mentoring program or people development strategy.
A digital native, for example, might be able to coach a more senior colleague through using systems, tools and platforms they’re not familiar with.
The point is that subject matter experts exist at every level of your company! Mentoring employees isn’t something that should be dictated by the org chart, so it could be better to think of the relationship as people with skills and those who want to build those skills.
By pairing them together in mentorship programs, you’re facilitating knowledge transfer, often breaking information that’s highly relevant to your business out of silos. The added benefit is that when someone does leave the company, they don’t take all of that tacit and contextual knowledge with them. So you’re helping employees develop skills needed to step into their shoes.
A consideration here should be your role as an L&D, HR or people team. Essentially, you’re here to to set the mentoring principles, structure and ground roles so that this works. Not everyone has coaching skills, so we might need to plug that skill gap while people build it.
That all leads us nicely to preparing for those sad days when employees head off for pastures new. Even in the cases where the grass looks greener on the other side, it doesn’t mean they can’t water yours before they head off…
A mentoring program can help someone who needs to step into someone else’s shoes absorb the wisdom, experience and talents they’ve built up in their time in the role. For that to happen effectively, it’s more than a little bit of shadowing and a handover document, it needs to be structured and geared towards their professional development.
We’ll help you create learning pathways, build skills profiles for employees and measure how they’re progressing – you can learn more about employee coaching and mentoring in HowNow here!
Becoming a great leader is something that it’s tricky to do through theory alone, you need to put what you’re learning into practice, in real-life interactions with employees. And mentorship programs are a great way to hone leadership skills on a smaller scale, with more structure and less pressure.
For example, you could add a practice session into your budding leader’s learning pathway and help them prepare before they take that particular step with their mentee. You can also add a step to stop and review how that particular interaction went before they move on, helping them understand what went well and what could have been improved. It’s those coaching conversations that can help them hone their skills.
It’s all about finding the balance between leaving someone to it and measuring how their mentorship is going, that way they’re turning theory into active learning and receiving feedback as they do it.
At work, you don’t get many better win-win situations than a mentoring relationship! For the mentor, they’re receiving recognition for all their hard work and experience – helping them feel valued. In the mentee’s eyes, they’re valued too because you’re giving them a platform to develop, hone their skills and learn from the best.
We’ve all seen the stats around the role of satisfaction and progress in employee retention and people wanting to stick around, so we won’t rehash them here. But this is a great reminder that you can put smiles on people’s faces and improve employee retention rates by implementing a solid workplace coaching and mentoring program.
The benefits of building mentoring relationships and a coaching culture
The more people learn from each other and transfer knowledge that helps someone do their job better, the more you create a culture of learning at work. Mentoring is really another tool in pulling that off!
As we’ve mentioned already, the biggest benefit is that people are learning from those who have relevant and contextual knowledge to share with them – so they are well and truly learning how to do their job better.
Again, when you’re pairing mentors and mentees, try and think about the skills someone needs to develop and the goals they’re looking to accomplish. The right partnership can help them tick those off and reinforces the value of learning together – which makes people want to do it all over again.
It can even snowball into the company culture and DNA, because mentorship becomes part of everyday life for so many in your teams – this all factors into getting buy-in for your workplace coaching and mentoring.
If your go-to action is to send people off for courses, events or training outside of your team, that will most likely eat into your learning budget. Forming workplace mentoring programs and enabling people to learn from colleagues eliminates that monetary cost, but just make sure you’ve got the right structure and pairings in place to ensure it doesn’t become drain on time or productivity resources instead. Ensure that people are saving those nuggets of knowledge as job aids or micro-content to allow others to benefit from their insights later too.
We started off with a nod to those stars of the big screen, so it’s fitting that we’ll end with a film reference too! When someone has a positive mentoring experience, they’re more likely to want to step into the role of mentor and build their own coaching skills when the time comes – and as long as the positive experiences continue, you’ll have a never-ending list and cycle of mentors to choose from.
But if you’re not running an organised, structured and measurable employee mentoring program, you’re limiting the chances of that happening. Mentors need the guidance and resources to do it right, mentees need structure and check-ins to see how they’re getting on, and you need a platform that helps you organise and measure it all.
Well, we could be that platform! Drop us a line and we can arrange a time to show you the how’s and why’s of putting together an employee mentoring program in HowNow…