Learning from a more experienced colleague is one of the main objectives of mentoring. It establishes a close connection between the mentor and the mentee.
In-house mentoring and its benefits
The mentee might want to discuss professional or technical matters and in-house procedures, but also issues related to career, growth, team challenges or workplace relations. The mentor helps the mentee find their way around the company. Ideally, the mentor should not be a direct supervisor who assesses the mentee’s performance. Such setup might not bring desired benefits. One of the benefits is the connection and building of relationships which have somehow disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, mentoring also brings important creativity and improves the company’s stability to handle change.
Progress and isolation have taken their toll
Many companies reassessed their way of working during the pandemic. Inefficient processes were replaced by new ones. Businesses have been reviewing their priorities, reassessing their objectives, exploring what makes sense and how to work with their employees. They started to give a chance to solutions which would have been refused under different circumstances. They realize they need creativity to present innovative solutions.
The pandemic has accelerated technological progress which would normally take years. Businesses have realized that employees can work remotely, saving significant costs spent on office rent. Some employees enjoy working from home, but after months in isolation, many people have realized that this period of time was hard to handle. They struggle with exhaustion, loss of motivation and uncertainty. However, in many cases, they do not voice their concerns because they are afraid of losing their job. Many things remained unsaid, as the online space is not ideal for informal chats like the ones which take place during coffee breaks or at lunchtime. In addition, employees feel constant pressure to perform in a non-standard environment. Research has shown that the loss of social contact and work from home have resulted in decreased loyalty to the company.
Thanks to in-house mentoring, employees and leaders grow, strengthening workplace relations
A mentor (senior employee in a certain area of expertise, leadership, human relations or communication) helps a mentee with their career growth, supports them in skill development, introduces them to other people in the company, gives them reviews and together they define career and development goals. If they find any obstacles limiting the employee’s growth, they work on them (e.g. beliefs such as "I need to have everything under control", which hinders team work and the ability to delegate).
Mentees get a new mentor usually after one year. This helps them see a different leadership style and gain new information and experience. It also allows them to discover other areas within the company to get a more complex picture. In addition, mentees work on their leadership, management and communication skills.
Mentoring creates immense space for creative solutions. As mentors do not assess the performance of their subordinates, this creates freedom for bold suggestions which the mentee might be afraid to bring up in front of their superior. They can also discuss the employee’s future direction and if they want to change positions, the company will allow it, making the employee more satisfied. It is a win-win solution. The company does not lose the employee’s know-how and leverages the talent elsewhere.
Mentoring develops mentors as well – mentoring skills and techniques open up new opportunities to work with people. They discover topics which they have not dealt with yet, they find out what employees need and what is important for them.
Tailor-made in-house mentoring or how to start
The in-house mentoring setup is created together with the company’s management, HR department and key leaders. The process is based on needs and objectives identified by the company. It should be in line with the corporate culture, linked to the development and reward system and the corporate vision.
This is followed by workshops for mentors and mentees. They are informed what the meetings will look like and what both parties can expect. They should be motivated not to make the meetings too formal. Both the mentor and the mentee contribute to a stimulating and pleasant work environment. This is attractive for talented people who join the company in a smoother way and remain longer.
Then a pilot programme starts, where mentors and mentees are selected over the course of several months. Mentors learn how to work with mentees and test various techniques in practice. Afterwards, the pilot program is evaluated and the final system is set up.
Who can become a mentor
Each manager should be familiar with mentoring techniques, however, after the pilot project in which they test them in practice, they can decide whether the role of a mentor is suitable for them or not. Some people will become expert mentors, others may provide advice in other areas, such as corporate strategy, communication, vision, etc. If the company cannot find mentors from its own ranks for some positions, it can hire external mentors. However, each mentor must know identified standards and competencies, for example, one of the principles is confidentiality of the content of mentoring meetings.
How to maintain a mentoring system
The pilot program should be repeated regularly (e.g. once a year) as new mentors and mentees enter the system. In addition, it is advisable to evaluate and adapt the system to the evolving company environment and objectives.
Mentoring may require time and energy, however, from the long-term perspective, it provides businesses with benefits which ensure stability, innovations and attractivity for high-potential talents.