Strategically devised mentoring programs at work prove to be winning once we develop a mindset to grow and retain our employees. Developing an employee mentoring plan is the first step, with its right implementation being the next. Today, implementing an employee mentoring program in the organization is indeed one of the most important requirements to become a successful company as such initiatives benefit not only the employees but the organization as well. Successful mentoring programs at work provide employees with growth and development opportunities, thereby uplifting their morale. This detailed article covers the best ways to devise extremely effective employee mentoring programs with implementation to maximize mentoring program benefits for the organization.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is defined as “the long-term process involving the exchange of knowledge and skill growth within the company so the skillset continuously multiplies within the work units”. Mentoring is an ongoing activity within good organizations that wish to develop their employees. The focus here is on “good organizations“. So, this activity is so crucial that it is one of the main differentiating factors between a good and not-so-good organization. If you have no mentoring programs at the workplace then, you really stand nowhere among good organizations.
The main focus of mentoring is employee growth and retention. The programs developed in the organization to mentor the employees are called mentoring programs in the workplace. In these programs, employees teach skills to one another with the aim of contributing to each other’s growth. Mentoring programs at work provide the benefits of accelerated employee satisfaction and retention numbers so finally, it is the organization that benefits more from these programs than the employees, individually.
Mentor and mentee
The person who helps to develop the work-related competencies of another person is called a mentor. The person whom he develops is called a mentee. A mentor has more knowledge or experience in that specific area of the job. Your boss could be your mentor or even your peers could be your mentor if they are transferring some skills to you. Likewise, a mentee could be a newly hired employee or an already existing employee requiring some competency development in his work.
Employee mentoring programs at work can be formal or informal. Day-to-day mentoring in routine by the manager is an example of informal mentoring. Following a structured mentoring plan devised by the company is an example of formal mentoring.
How to implement mentoring programs at work?
In contemporary times, employees face multiple work challenges every time. Consequently, mentoring programs at work are put in place to fulfill the growth needs of employees. The company is not only responsible for on-the-job training and coaching of employees, but also for developing their skills over a long period of time. Hence, mentoring is a long-term role that comprises a broad range of activities than coaching, which is short-term and more specific guidance.
Mentoring programs at work can follow two directions:
- Mentoring a newly hired employee – To help him get acquainted with the company culture and his new job. This includes focusing on the development of key skills necessary to perform his job.
- Mentoring an already existing employee – The purpose is the long-term development of his competencies. This can take 2 directions: (a) Analysis of areas of employee expertise and helping him grow in that particular direction. This leads to specialization. (b) Areas in which employee lacks basic knowledge and the purpose is to give him an understanding of how things work. This often happens in the case of rotations to a new department or job role. Employees can also be mentored to prepare them for some possible promotions in the future. In either case, the purpose of mentoring is career advancement through long-term competency development.
Here, the alignment of the goals of employees with that of the organization is the primary consideration. The outcome of a smartly designed mentoring process is human capital with an advanced skill set, more focused to achieve organizational goals.
Administering the mentoring programs at work
The effective administration of mentoring programs at work has a special focus on developing the employees. A well-designed mentoring process starts with training the managers to become successful and effective mentors. Once they learn the necessary skills, they are ready to help their subordinates in learning essential skills and develop over time.
It is important to note that mentoring involves two-way communication; including feedback from the mentees. Here comes the role of the Human Resource department which must obtain feedback from employees about the extent to which they feel this program is beneficial for them.
The 7 steps of ideal mentoring programs at work
An ideal mentoring program is never random and unstructured. It is necessary to plan the entire process perfectly; ensuring no failure. On the other hand, for a newborn organization where most of the plans and programs are being carried out on an experimental basis, a lot of possibilities could emerge at each step. Hence, it is essential that we consider all prospects while planning the mentoring programs at work to deliver the maximum benefits to the organization. Following this ideal mentoring program guarantees superlative mentoring in the workplace with 99.99% success.
1) Identify the mentors and mentees
It is the responsibility of managers to identify the professional needs of every employee. So, in the first step, the manager points out the development needs of his subordinates. He then assigns a mentor to each of the mentees.
As we discussed above, mentees can be your new employees or the already existing ones.
The selection criteria of a mentor are extremely important to consider. The personality of a mentor should go well along with that of the mentee so that the mentee is comfortable in discussing his concerns with the mentor. An unfriendly mentor lacks strong communication with mentees because they fear him. So, in such cases, the entire mentoring program results in a big failure.
Mentors must have strong competencies in the relevant areas of the job. The key is having the knowledge whether it comes from work experience or qualification.
Consider selecting those people as mentors who are equally competent and amiable. They must know how to develop a bond with the mentees. Good communication skills are a must for the mentor.
In this regard, training the mentors is of utmost importance. Teaching them people management skills is the key to the successful implementation of mentoring programs at work. Therefore, we suggest that select a friendly mentor with relevant field knowledge.
2) Get the basic tools & develop documentation
This part is a bit flexible. You can develop your documentation according to your needs which might change in every case. One essential document is the mentoring planner & log. In this planner, a mentor lays out the date-wise plan for the mentee, outlines his strategies, notes of every meeting with the mentee & his progress. Every company can design this basic document with complete flexibility.
Following are the necessary documents when you are about to mentor your employees:
For new hires
- their test & interview assessments. Analyze the strong and weak areas related to the job.
- the job descriptions. Compare these job descriptions with their strengths and weaknesses that you have so far evaluated.
- their resumes explaining what did they achieve in their last jobs (if any).
- the manager’s report of his initial discussion with the employee after hiring. It should state what does he feel about the competency level of employee.
For already existing employees
- their annual performance reports
- their updated resumes reflecting their thoughts on how they think of their contributions to the current and previous organizations
- the manager’s report of how he sees they are growing. For already existing employees, it might be some skills gap that the manager has identified. It could also be an entirely new skill that he wants them to learn. So, manager’s thoughts are extremely important.
- the list of the trainings that they have obtained so far and their impact on the work performance.
So, you see this is the simplest documentation that every organization is capable of developing in all circumstances. This leaves no room for any organization: big or small, established or startup to give an excuse of not having the mentoring programs at work. So, this planner ensures that the whole mentoring process is organized and planned in a highly structured way which enhances the impact of mentoring program benefits to the organization and its stakeholders.
3) Identify the reason/ purpose of mentoring
The direct manager identifies the broad objective of mentoring an employee in step 1. Step 3 is the result of the analysis in step 2 where a detailed evaluation is carried out. The reason for the mentoring is now more specific and self-explanatory. So, this step deals with narrowing down the employee needs of mentoring to a very basic level. Now, we know the exact competencies to develop therefore, we can exactly proceed in the right direction with minimum chances of failure.
Mentors and mentees meet either face-to-face if they share the same workplace or online if they are geographically distant. As mentoring is relatively long-term, once or twice meetings a week are usually sufficient. The interaction doesn’t need to be very formal as it is personalized.
5) Make changes to the plan accordingly
As the process advances, make changes according to the progress of the mentee. Keep notes of every meeting and suggest the strategies correspondingly. Remember the mentoring plan should have the flexibility for making adjustments. At each step, tailor the plan according to the personal and professional needs & performance of the employee.
Mentoring programs at work are all about developing employees through discussion and interaction. Ask the mentee about his goals. Convey your expectations to him. Plan his performance benchmarks with him. Dig up any issues that he is currently facing. Using this information, grow a bond with him. This social experience prepares him for inheriting the knowledge better.
Providing feedback is both an ongoing activity and the last step. Not only the mentor needs to provide feedback but also the mentee. The mentor needs to provide feedback to the employee and his manager during the program. Both mentor and mentee need to discuss the outcomes of the last meeting so as to assess the standing of employee development. At the end of the program, the mentor should submit the final report to HR which contains the mentoring planner & log, highlights of all mentoring activities, and discussion notes.
Mentees should also give feedback to HR about the quality of the mentoring program. Hence, this is the responsibility of HR to obtain feedback both during and after the mentoring program. Feedback during the program is highly useful as it can help straighten the issues right during the mentoring program.
Utilize the feedback obtained from the mentoring program to improve the entire program in the future.
Types of mentoring programs at work
Mentoring relationships can be of different types depending upon the circumstances and culture of a company.
- Peer mentoring: Mentoring relationships can be tied between peers where one person with more knowledge can help others learn and grow. This sort of mentoring relationship is more effective in team-based work environments. Here, a mutual learning relationship exists and people encourage equal participation.
- Manager-subordinate mentoring: This is the usual mentoring process where the manager or any person with more seniority and knowledge mentors his subordinate.
- Face-face mentoring: This type of mentoring includes all the mentoring scenarios where the mentors and the mentees meet each other and interact face to face. It includes peer mentoring and manager-subordinate mentoring scenarios too.
- Electronic/ online mentoring: This is the latest mentoring technique being used since the globalization. Companies are hiring more people from other countries and cities, with whom face to face mentoring programs are not possible. This involves using video calls via intranet of the organization or many video calling apps and softwares.
- Group mentoring: It consists of a group of people acting as mentors & mentees who might be meeting face to face or online.
Best time to begin the mentoring process
Establishing mentoring programs at work requires deciding the right time for implementation. Most effective mentoring in the workplace begins when the organization welcomes the new hire. This is the time to attach him to a mentor who helps him grow in accordance with the organizational culture and goals. This is the moment when a smart mentor can help an organization achieve employee skills diversity which is the most important tool for innovation. New employees bring new ideas which encourage out of box approach in the organization. A smart mentor grabs this opportunity and makes a beeline for achieving the success of the organization. This harvests the reputation of the organization as a concerned organization that helps in attracting a competent pool of candidates.
Role of managers in mentoring employees
The popular managerial functions include the ability to plan, organize, lead and control. One managerial role caps all these functions and its absence renders the entire managerial edifice fragmented. This is the role of the manager as a mentor. As a mentor, it is assumed that you have more technical knowledge and/ or work experience. As you sit higher on the hierarchy tree, you are responsible for transferring this wisdom to your subordinates. It is essential that the organization trains the managers for mentoring the employees in the most effective manner.
Benefits of mentoring programs at work
Mentoring is a useful ongoing activity within successful organizations where an environment of pulling other people up thrives. When people perceive their growth, they eventually love performing their job responsibilities. They embrace their professional growth by deciding to stay with the organization and contribute towards its success. Therefore, an organization that opts for establishing a mentoring program has a high percentage of employee retention and a sound market reputation.
This is that one key element which if missing can distort your name and market value. When present, it makes you an organization with the attraction you dream of.