Create A Mentoring Culture In Your Organisation

by Lisa Cheong

With the war for talent raging on globally, smart companies come to realise that mentoring programmes are one of the most effective learning & development tools that companies can make as both mentors and mentees stand to gain from this learning & development investment. For business leaders, being a mentor helps to secure their position as a leader in a particular subject matter. It also exposes them to new ideas, knowledge and thinking, which helps in their work. Mentors will also gain from the opportunity to reflect on their own goals and work practices and can use this time to develop their own leadership and coaching styles.

For mentees, they can be exposed to new ways of thinking and working. They will also be guided on how to develop their strengths and overcome their personal weakness, especially in the areas of personality and leadership issues.

Moreover, companies also stand to reap the benefits of implementing mentoring programmes. Not only is mentoring a cost-effective way of retaining the company’s best talent, it helps transfer knowledge and skills from one generation of workers to the next. Mentoring also promotes a learning culture within the company, whereby employees across all ranks are encouraged to develop and improve their skills constantly.

While mentoring may seem similar to coaching on the surface, the two have different objectives. Coaching is used to improve performance on a specific skill set such as sales or customer service, while mentoring is a tailored programme designed to develop the overall potential of an employee.

Additionally, coaching is also for specified period or until the time it takes for an employee to gain and master the requisite skills for the current position while mentoring is a long-term investment that may continue even when an employee has transitioned into a leadership role.

Types of mentoring
When it comes to mentoring, there are different ways of setting up a mentoring scheme within the company. The type of mentoring depends on the demographic of employees, the time and cost investment which the company is willing to put in, among other factors.

1) Formal mentorship programme - This is one of the most common mentorship programmes seen in companies today. Driven by the HR department or the executive leadership team, this is a structured programme that is often used as part of the company’s overall leadership development strategy. Its mission is often driven by business needs and focuses on grooming high-potential and high-performing employees for specific leadership roles in the organisation.

As these programmes are structured, mentoring often comes with a defined plan. For one, mentees are often assigned a mentor based on what the company thinks is the best fit. A structured programme would also specify the smaller details, such as how many meetings should take place, how long a meeting should last, as well as the specified time period for each meeting. The content of these meetings are geared towards helping mentees develop their leadership potential, such as developing their influential skills or decision-making skills.

The formal mentorship programme can also be used as an opportunity for leaders to impart their experiences and company values to mentees. By doing this, companies ensure a continuity in leadership profiles as mentees learn and emulate the leadership values of the company.
As the business has a vested interest in these schemes, mentoring programmes are evaluated at least once a year or more frequently in order to measure the results and tangible benefits to the investment. HR practitioners are also often available for support to mentors if they are unsure as to how to proceed with achieving the mentoring objectives.

2) Informal mentorship programme - Unlike formal mentorship programmes, informal mentorship programmes are unstructured and undefined. In these programmes, mentees usually approach leaders on their own initiative to ask if the leaders would be willing to mentor them.

As these programmes are not driven by the business, informal mentorship programmes are a lot more flexible in nature. They may not have a specified time and date for meeting, but instead depend on the commitment levels and availability of mentors and mentees. These mentorship programmes often take place out of office hours as well, such as over lunch hours or after working hours.

Should these mentorships be encouraged? Yes. Even though companies may not be able to invest in formal mentorship training for all their employees, informal mentoring is an investment that will still benefit the company.

HR practitioners can help facilitate these informal mentorship programmes by creating an avenue whereby leaders who are keen on mentoring can be introduced to eager mentees. HR practitioners can also hold courses or provide material for both mentors and mentees.

3) Peer-to-peer mentorship programme - Peer-to-peer mentoring is another type of mentoring programme whereby employees pair up with other peers to mentor each other. The peers are usually similar in terms of job role, age or managerial level within the organisation. Peer-to-peer mentoring is usually an informal process, where mentees will seek mentors out on a personal basis to ask advice on issues such as career advancement and personal development. There are certain factors for why these programmes exist in the workplace. This is usually due to the unavailability of senior executives, or it may be that the company is a young start-up with fewer senior executives.

Peer-to-peer mentoring can be extremely useful in integrating new managers into the organisation. Unlike formal mentoring where the senior executive may be removed from the day-to-day issues, a peer of the same managerial level can help the new recruit tackle daily work issues better.

However, there are some pitfalls to peer-to-peer mentoring. One of this is inaccurate or skewed information from the mentor, as the information provided would be based on the mentor’s experience with no guidance from HR. Furthermore, without any support from the business, the mentoring partnerships may fizzle out or may be ineffective to both parties.

Whichever type of mentoring programme your company decides to implement, it is always good to note the qualities which make up a good mentor. Not only should a good mentor possess the right skills, he or she should also have enough knowledge, experience and wisdom to share.

But above all, mentors should have the commitment and dedication in helping other people become better at their careers.



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