While many leading organisations have formal mentoring programmes, many others encourage their people to become involved in mentoring initiatives outside the office because they recognise its value to them and to the organisation.
Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably and there are a number of similarities. At its heart mentoring is a two-way, mutually beneficial learning relationship where the mentor shares their knowledge and experience to support the other person (the mentee). The relationship is one of mutual trust and support and the learning environment tends to be low pressure.
So, what are some of the benefits?
For mentors and mentees
In companies, mentors are typically experienced employees in leadership roles, although not necessarily senior managers. They're role models. Mentees are typically those above a particular grade and/or those identified as key performers and future leaders. And, of course, senior business leaders have their own mentors (sometimes more than one) as well as mentoring others.
Benefits of a mentoring relationship include:-
- Sharing the mentor's knowledge and experience of the organisation and sector, the key decision makers and processes and the political context.
- The opportunity for the mentee to speak openly about their plans, strategies, problems and difficulties, in a safe, confidential context and to receive honest, clear feedback and advice.
- The potential to raise issues beyond the work context because the boundaries are rarely black and white.
- The opportunity for plans and ideas to be tested, challenged and revised.
- Developing leadership skills – in both parties. A good mentor is an excellent listener, sets ground rules and acts in a way that reflects the culture and values of the organisation. The mentee should be prepared to work at the relationship as mentoring is not a 'soft option'.
- Promoting good communication skills, particularly listening.
For the Company
Running formal mentorship programmes, or simply encouraging people to get involved in mentoring in some capacity, is likely to have a number of benefits for the organisation.
- Developing leadership skills among the mentoring community.
- Promoting wider understanding of the organisation and of its culture and values.
- Promoting and supporting diversity. Mentoring has been cited as a key way to improve diversity at senior levels in companies.
- Promoting good networks and a collaborative culture.
- Helping unleash untapped potential and re-energise careers.
- Supporting recruitment, induction and retention.
- Supporting a learning, listening and feedback culture.
- Enhancing job satisfaction.
While mentoring is recognised and used as a two-way process, the traditional model tends to pair an experienced mentor with a less experienced mentee. However, this may not be appropriate in all areas, particularly in relation to technology and social media. Here junior colleagues may have better and more up to the minute skills which is very useful for them to share. This gives junior employees the opportunity to act as a mentor and pass on particular skills and experience to more senior colleagues.
The benefits of mentoring are clear and it's certainly worthwhile pursuing opportunities to act as a mentor or to be mentored. For employees it can be a really useful and enjoyable way to develop existing skills and build new ones, establish strong and effective networks and support their career development. For organisations mentoring can support a learning and development culture, improve the sharing of knowledge and expertise and promote a diverse working environment.
- The Mentoring Foundation
- The Aspire Foundation
- Prince's Trust
- The Law Society
- The Cherie Blair Foundation For Women