Mentoring in the Workplace

    Paula Fulghum

    At some point in everyone’s educational or occupational career, they’ve probably had the experience of having a mentor or being a mentor to another person. A mentorship provides a relationship between a more experienced individual and more novice one in whatever applicable setting where the more experienced individual can teach the newer individual new necessary skills, ideas, or simply form a connection. Mentoring is a great practice to set up in organizations for many reasons that benefit the company and the employees.

    Having a mentor is obviously going to help new employees adjust to their settings and learn the ropes. Initial training can only go so far to teach new employees what they need to know. Most trainings for new employees are going to have to be fairly general to adapt to multiple job roles. Individualized mentorships specific to a given role in the company will help the employee to receive specialized training. By pairing a new and old member of the workplace team, it creates a connection for the new employee, gives them experience in the given job, and provides evidence that they have entered a caring workplace culture.

    Older members of the organization that would serve as mentors may think, what do I get out of this? Mentors can benefit just as much as the mentees in the relationship. Obviously they can refine and strengthen their personal skills by teaching others. Mentors can also get new perspectives from new employees. Employees fresh to the company may be coming with exciting new ideas or suggestions. Especially if employees are coming straight out of college, they might definitely have some interesting knowledge to share with their mentor that might be quite a few years past graduating. So not only is the mentee learning from the mentor, but the mentor can learn from the mentee.

    Having mentorships provides vital social support in the workplace. This can enhance the workplace culture to make members more friendly and supportive if they become accustomed to the encouragement of personal relationships forming, beginning with mentorships. The organization can also save time and money by not trying to create an intense training program for the new employee, but letting the new employee learn from someone who knows the most about that job, the person that already works it. The connections and shared perspectives can provide a great boost to the productivity and innovativeness of employees.

    Instituting a new employee mentorship program can be easy and very beneficial if done well. It may take a while to establish an organized and productive program if you don’t bring in new employees often. However, if you don’t want to wait, you can even pair current employees who are relatively new to the company to those that have more experience just to see if the partnership promotes positive workplace performance. When you do have new employees coming in, pair them up with someone quickly so they can begin learning as soon as possible. Make sure mentors understand that this is important and ensure that they really care enough about the opportunity to be a supportive, helpful mentor. It is really easy for mentorships to fail if either one of the two don’t take advantage of the opportunity or take it seriously. You could try to encourage strong mentorship ties with competitions or rewards for employees who decide to be mentors like a pay bonus or gift certificate. Encouragement may be necessary to begin with, but hopefully after a while the mentorship experience will become a great normative part of your workplace culture that mentors and mentees enjoy!

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