Years ago, a mentoring relationship was, for the most part, a process initiated by executives, mostly men, who took high potential younger employees, mostly male, under their wings to develop them as part of an informal succession planning process.
Today, as in the past, many companies seem to have a lack of interest in developing a formal mentoring program. One-third of 700 adults interviewed by marketing agency Mindshare said that their employers either don’t offer mentoring programs or don’t offer them enough. [i]
Companies today are paying attention more and more on succession planning, and mentorships clearly should play a role in the development of tomorrow’s leaders as part of an overall performance management program. But companies who feel mentorships should be focused on their top rising talent are missing a great opportunity.
An effective mentorship program should also be an integral part of an organizations’ employee engagement process, in which all employees benefit when involved. When employees are more engaged, companies reap the rewards.
The workforce of today is going through a very challenging time. There are three generations of employees now working together: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each generation communicates differently, looks for feedback differently and views work through a totally different lens.
The below chart shows the different generational perspectives in the workplace. [ii]
A multigenerational workforce is not the only challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024 less than 60 percent of the workforce is likely to define itself as “white non-Hispanic.” Latinx [iii] people could comprise 20 percent of the labor force in 2024. The proportion of African-Americans in the workforce is also projected to rise, to 12.7 percent in 2024 from 12.1 percent in 2014, and the proportion of Asians to 6.6 percent in 2024 from 5.6 percent in 2014. [iv]
Mentoring also exposes both parties to new ideas and perspectives. Arlene Kaukus, the director for career services at the University at Buffalo, said she believed that was becoming more and more important, as workplace demographics continue to change.
“The importance of being able to see things from different people’s points of view based on their life experience, their culture, their ethnicity, their gender, becomes even more important,” Ms. Kaukus said. [v]
Developing strategies to facilitate open communication between these groups, geared toward increasing engagement, is paramount to a successful organization. A mentoring relationship is a great opportunity to foster this type of communication.
Designing an effective mentorship program is one part of a multi-pronged employee engagement philosophy, but the success of any mentoring program hinges on senior leadership being an active and visible proponent.
Once you get senior management on board, the program should then be formally unveiled to the entire employee population and information sessions should be conducted and facilitated by Human Resources. Explaining the role of a mentor and mentee and the benefits of a good, productive mentoring relationship should be included.
The process should be totally voluntary for both mentors and mentees. Managers at all levels should make it a point to have conversations about mentorship with their direct reports as part of their normal career development discussions. It is advisable to share talking points with your management teams to ensure they are comfortable discussing the merits of the program.
When starting a mentorship program, don’t be disillusioned if you get minimal interest in the beginning. Leaders should continue to explain to their management teams the importance of discussing mentorship whenever practical. In time, with continued advocacy by senior leaders, your program will develop and prosper as originally envisioned.
My intent in this article is not to get into the nuts and bolts of rolling out a mentoring program. There are a lot of excellent articles on the topic and, based on your budget, some very good mentorship software programs which help in the development and administration of a successful program.
No matter the size of your organization or your budget, a successful mentorship program can be implemented. With patience and guidance from Human Resources, your company can reap the rewards of this underutilized, critical tool.