Plenty of research supports the benefits of mentoring, increases in productivity, retention, progression of individuals and creating a positive workplace culture.
There’s a definite need for mentors, our own Millennial research showed that 86% of those that didn’t have access to a mentoring scheme would like a mentor. Disappointingly of those whose company did have a scheme 59% didn’t have access.
Both our research and experience shows that women, in particular, want access to a mentor and benefit exponentially.
Our own experience of mentoring has been a mixture of informal and formal, regular and one-off, obvious and challenging. In our experience, everyone we ask has an example of a great mentor.
There are certainly times when I would have really benefitted from a formal mentor, in one organisation I worked in when struggling with the workload, being the only person at my level working part-time I asked for a mentor. I wanted a woman, and after several reminders was introduced to someone, she was in the US and I was in London, the additional pressure of time zones and busy schedules meant it was never going to work, and I was left feeling as if that was my failure. There was certainly a lack of suitable candidates, what I would have liked was for my line manager to have recognised that a mentor would be beneficial and to have helped work out who that might be as a senior woman who had kids was hard to find.
Sometimes we think we know what we want, but actually, we need a different approach or level of challenge. In this example I got myself a coach (self-funded) and eventually left the company. Maybe having a mentor would have resulted in a different outcome.
I have been a formal mentor both in company programmes, cross-industry and charitable schemes. I also informally mentor a few people that I have previously managed. I know that I get as much from those relationships as my mentees, it often reminds me of things that I have forgotten I know, sharpens my listening skills, educates me on new roles and industries and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.
At Birdsoup we’ve done a lot of work in the Mentoring space in the last 12 months, we’ve happily provided some pro-bono work in schools, we’ve worked with graduates and interns as well as helping to set up and deliver a multi-company mentoring scheme for young women in Norfolk and providing training for mentoring and mentees within organisations.
We’re really passionate about the power of mentoring and we’re equally passionate about doing it right. Often mentoring programmes are set up as a great initiative that is “nice to have” but is ill thought through. Without the right structure and process mentoring often peters out or is a poor experience for mentor or mentee or at worse for both.
In a smaller organisation sometimes the approach to mentoring has to be more creative, so peer mentoring and reverse mentoring can also have great value. We’re also moving, in some cases to a multi-generational workforce which provides the opportunity for some interesting exchanges of skills and experience which could benefit all involved.
There is a dichotomy in the workplace in respect of learning and development: 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career yet the number one reason that employees don’t do training is that they don’t have time. A culture that values learning and positively promotes it is key. In the current economic climate there is even more pressure on learning and development budgets, we believe that a well set up and structured mentoring scheme can provide measurable business impact and create a supportive working environment as well as creating the next generation of mentors.
So to support National Mentoring Day ask yourself these three questions:
Do I have a mentor? If not why not?
Do I mentor anyone? If not why not?
How can I help someone find a mentor, it’s often the people that don’t ask that benefit the most
Here are our top tips:
1. Set it up well
- Ensure you have a need and enough potential mentors
- What are your metrics for success?
- Gain support at leadership level.
2. Be aware of pitfalls
- Commitment is key on both sides
- Set boundaries
- Ensure confidentiality
3. Provide training
- Give mentors the right skills
- Prepares mentees
- Surfaces questions and concerns
4. Match well
- If possible cross-department
- Align at least one area of development/experience
- Allow for changes
5. Check-in and evaluate
- Have a midpoint check-in
- Get feedback from both sides
- Learn what works