Almost half of organizations (46%) believe developing workplace mentors is an important or very important part of their business and talent strategies; 30% believe the quality of mentoring is good or excellent.
Coaching and mentoring are often mentioned together, but the requirements of each are separate and distinct. Brandon Hall Group identified six qualities for strong mentoring. Most organizations (86%, on average) agreed that the attributes are important but, on average, only 40% said mentor training included these behaviors.
Key Mentor Attributes: Essential vs. Training
Employers tend to be dysfunctional when it comes to mentoring. Brandon Hall Group asked about its importance in several studies because it relates to learning, performance management, leadership development, employee engagement and more. Between 50% and 75% of organizations consistently rate mentoring as important or critical. But when it comes to developing mentors, matching mentees with in-house mentors and enabling mentoring, many organizations struggle.
Learning Resources Provided for Mentors
Developing Effective Processes for Mentoring
We believe this reflects the ongoing difficulty organizations have in offering learning opportunities beyond events or courses. Our research on learning and leadership development consistently shows that learners need opportunities for feedback and applying learning to practical situations.
Mentoring offers both and goes beyond work performance to career development, managing relationships, leader development, work-life balance and more. It provides employees an opportunity to have meaningful relationships with organizational leaders and for the mentors to develop their own skills.
However, recruiting and developing internal mentors, creating strong mentee-mentor matches and sustaining the program takes time and resources that many employers — especially small and mid-size organizations, but also some enterprises — don’t have or fail to effectively leverage.
- How can mentoring help us improve learning, performance, engagement and other processes that can produce a positive business impact?
- How can we build a culture of mentoring?
- How can we improve the way we prepare employees to be great mentors?
- Can we leverage mentoring virtually so it can be optimized in a hybrid work environment?
- Should we be considering external resources for mentoring?
Here are five high-level strategies that will help build a culture of mentoring and improve mentoring across the enterprise.
DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN COACHING, MENTORING
Mentoring, while often grouped with coaching, has a different function and purpose, so employers must understand the differences and the specific skills and capabilities needed by each. This is how Brandon Hall Group defines mentoring:
- A flexible, ongoing relationship that is long-term, open-ended and can take on new or shifting objectives over time
- Mentoring is between someone seeking advice and counsel related to their personal and career development.
- Mentors are people who have greater experience than the mentee and share their experiences.
- Mentoring objectives are set by the mentees, who drive the process and evaluate their development.
STRATEGICALLY COMMUNICATE YOUR MENTORING PROGRAM
Mentoring is not a “build it and they will come” proposition. If mentoring is not already part of your culture, you can’t start a program and expect it to resonate without a strategic communication campaign. Even if mentoring is somewhat developed, communication and reinforcement are important. Strategies to consider include:
- Develop and publicize guidelines for effective mentoring (in different situations) for both the mentors and mentees.
- Create topic-specific communication campaigns to recruit mentors and draw interest from employees. For instance, one financial services company we interviewed focused mentoring on career development and promoted it to potential mentors (at VP-level and above). Separate email campaigns were launched to employees at various career levels (entry-level, individual contributors, front-line leaders, midlevel leaders, etc.).
Communicating About Mentoring
STRATEGICALLY MATCH MENTORS AND MENTEES, LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY
Matching is the secret sauce for a successful mentoring program. Just because a leader has an interest in mentoring and an employee has an interest in advancing her career does not mean a mentoring relationship will work.
Employees and mentors must develop profiles and each should have a firm understanding of what they want from mentoring. In even relatively small organizations, trying to create these matches through manual or semi-manual processes can be overwhelming. Technology is critical for developing, scaling and sustaining a viable mentoring program.
INVEST IN TRAINING AND RESOURCES FOR INTERNAL MENTORS
If mentoring is delivered inconsistently and there is a wide variance in quality, it will fail. Mentors must be trained and have just-in-time resources, such as templates, checklists and tip sheets, to help them. Online training — both self-paced and topic-specific interactive learning — should be provided.
DETERMINE WHETHER YOUR ORGANIZATION CAN DEVELOP, SUSTAIN MENTORING INTERNALLY
Starting and sustaining a strong mentoring program is not easy. But it is a critical strategy for employee development and engagement. As more organizations realize the value of mentoring and the viability of leveraging technology, more organizations are considering external virtual mentoring services.