Many successful business executives attest to the vital role that mentorship has played in their career progress. This is validated by the fact that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have professional mentorship programs in place, including the likes of Boeing, Caterpillar, McGraw-Hill, Bain and Company, GE, as well as Intel.
While the immediate assumption is that the benefits weigh up in favor of employees who sign up as mentees for a program, there are also winning cards for the mentors involved in developing an organization’s unshaped talent.
The opportunity to mentor people is not only personally fulfilling, but it can also have substantial career benefits for the mentor. There’s considerable value to be gained in the knowledge, growth, and personal connections that alumni can take away from the relationship. For the qualified members in your program, it can be a value add to keep them engaged while the company reaps the rewards from participants of a successful mentorship relationship.
Why Mentorship Opportunities Can Drive Engagement In Your Alumni Program
- Opens the door to career opportunities – by nature, mentors go above and beyond to have a positive influence on mentees’ life. Over time, this can open the door to expansive career opportunities as mentees go on to do great things themselves, or organizations recognize the contributions of the mentor.
- Expands personal knowledge and development – teaching or imparting knowledge requires a deep delve into the subject matter. It also requires a person to question their own way of thinking and what they know.
- Mentors are 6X more likely to be tapped for a bigger job – quoting a Fortune senior writer, mentors and energetic and engaged, giving them an advantage when it comes to job promotions
- Stronger case for receiving a raise – the writer quotes a study that claims both mentors and mentees are 20% more likely to receive a raise than people who don’t participate in professional mentorship programs.
- Develops leadership skills – as a teacher, the person will strive to live up to the expectations placed on them by the mentee. In turn, the mentor can develop leadership skills that they carry through their career and life.
- Improves communication abilities – leaders need to be able to communicate clearly and listen actively. Mentoring can develop these skills as the relationship develops.
- Intrinsic fulfillment – helping a mentee develop, advance, and excel can activate feelings of accomplishments for the mentor, igniting their sense of belonging and responsibility
- Helps to shape tomorrow’s leaders – as well as provides the opportunity to learn from them. Often mentors are molding people younger than them, who will go on to lead the workforce of tomorrow. Mentees can impart knowledge about the latest technology or upcoming business trends.
4 Things Successful Professional Mentorship Programs Have in Common
If you want a mentorship program to yield the desired results, ticking the following boxes will make all the difference:
1. Qualified Candidates Are Recruited
The first and most important qualifier for success when it comes to a professional mentorship program is the recruitment of qualified candidates. This includes both mentors and mentees.
Mentors can come from the pool of current employees, alumni, as well as retirees. In all cases, individuals should be selected and evaluated according to merit. For instance, if a given mentorship interaction will hinge on leadership development, the mentor in question would have to be a senior leader with sufficient experience to impart to their mentee.
It’s also important to note that not every person in a leadership role would necessarily make a good mentor. Although they may be able to give insight into a particular job role or the inner workings of your organization, certain individuals simply don’t have a teaching mentality.
Ideal mentors are naturally enthusiastic, value learning, and are adept at getting people to step outside of their comfort zone. They listen actively, know how to provide feedback, and treat others with respect even though they are experts in their field.
A good mentee, on the other hand, is someone who is ready (and excited!) to receive instruction. They are ready to take action and ask questions, open to feedback, clear on their needs, committed, and respectful.
When you combine qualified candidates of this caliber, great results can follow.
2. Criteria For Matches Are Clearly Defined
To get the best possible results, your mentors and mentees have to be matched well. This calls for the use of clear matching criteria. Ideally, these criteria should also link with your business objectives in terms of the mentoring program.
For instance, if one of your key business goals is to train up a diverse management team, factors such as gender and ethnicity should be considered when tailoring mentor/mentee matches. Other frequently used criteria include job role and related skills, interpersonal skills, career level, and business function.
Once you have your proposed mentors and mentees sorted in terms of these criteria, it becomes far easier to make successful matches. This can be done in one of three ways, namely self-matching, administrative matching, or hybrid matching.
Self-matching refers to a process whereby mentors and mentees are allowed to select one another.
Administrative matching matches are made at the sole discretion of upper management.
Hybrid-matching is a process that combines these two approaches, e.g. by offering proposed matches approved by management who can then be selected or rejected by the mentors and mentees in question.
Whenever possible, give mentees a say in choosing their mentor. Mentees who are ready to take ownership of the process know what they want to get out of the relationship. They also tend to know their own quirks and preferences, which means they can select mentors with whom they can ultimately form a trusting, productive relationship.
3. Realistic Expectations Are Set
Not all professional mentorship programs are successful. Some fail due to wrong matches, while others don’t cut the mustard because either the mentor or the mentee (or both) lacked sufficient training to fulfill their roles.
Another reason for failure is unrealistic expectations. As such, it is recommended that mentors and mentees take the time to plot out their expectations of the relationship ahead of time. This should include their viewpoints on confidentiality, planning, accountability, as well as timing.
Ideally, mentees should be clear about the skills they want to develop or issues they want to learn to manage. Both parties should also respect each other’s time and stick to a predetermined schedule in terms of meetings and attainable milestones.
4. The Mentorship Program Is Proactively Promoted To Employees and Alumni
Many companies find that there is a discrepancy between the number of people who are willing to mentor, and the number looking to be mentored, with the former being fewer. The simplest way to address this shortfall is to boost awareness of the program by proactively promoting it to employees and alumni alike.
Try hosting regular information sessions to raise the profile of the professional mentorship program, and enlist managers to identify potential mentors from within their team. Being recognized in this way should be seen as a tip of the hat and acclamation of their professionalism. This can be facilitated by amplifying positive word-of-mouth accounts from former program participants.
As an example, Boeing’s mentorship program works by recruiting engineers who are nearing retirement age to become pivotal members of the technical mentorship program. Their HR department also maintains an active community of employees and alumni who collaborate, share tips, and support one another.
Keep Engagement Front and Center With Mentoring
The last few years have challenged us to reinvent work, HR, and ourselves. We may not have expected the disruption to be quite as far-reaching as it was, but now that it’s here, it’s time to adapt and thrive. Implementing professional mentorship programs as part of your alumni strategy can make all the difference to engage your employees, alumni, and retirees to steer growth.