Many companies, at least in the U.S., don't have mentoring programs as part of a robust strategy to build leadership and train managers. That's despite the fact that leadership and managers drive so many things:
- Employee engagement
- Organisational success (increased profits, decreased costs)
Why have a mentoring program?
Successful managers need to check in with experienced people on difficult issues, getting in-the-moment tips to help them and their careers. Getting instruction is especially important as many managers are promoted without training.
Back in the days of yore and what still happens in the trades is that people move from inexperienced novices to experienced journeymen studying under masters. Masters gave and give newbies ideas, tips, information, and guidance.
This idea of coaching novices happens in life, too. New mothers and even fathers often join parent groups to get ideas and information from people who've already had children. They learn everything from where to buy cloth diapers to what to do about baby teething. People seek counseling when they have issues they need assistance with -- addiction, depression, family issues, spousal problems, etc. Sometimes these counselors have similar issues and have wrestled with those exact problems, providing ideas on how to overcome them. So, getting advice and help is normal.
Yet in the managing world, where it matters so much, rarely do managers get the coaching they need. Their managers often look at organisational results and outcomes, not the behavior (such as communication habits) of managers ... despite it has such a huge impact. Having that third-party, outside view into leadership helps. It takes away the concerns of being vulnerable, being seen as inexperienced, or worried getting advice will affect a manager's pay.
Mentorship program basics
What does it take for a mentoring program? Very little. In fact, it's probably one of the least costly programs a company can invest in. For success, you really only need a few things:
1. Great leaders who embody what you want in management and leadership who have time to give. You may need incentives here as it's harder to find these experienced leaders.
2. Managers who want to learn from these awesome leaders.
3. General guidelines, such as mentors and mentees must meet monthly, keep the conversation positive and focused on issues, led by the mentee.
4. A no-foul policy when a mentor/mentee relationship doesn't work out.
5. Ways for HR business partners to check in and get feedback on the program.
It's best to start informal and small, working out kinks, before engaging your entire company. That way, you're ensuring success for a much-needed program while supporting mentors and mentees. After tweaking the basics, you can continue to roll out the mentoring program to larger groups.
Mentoring is a win
You'll see improvements in your company, meeting goals more regularly and increased productivity. You'll also notice more engaged employees as well as all the benefits of that engagement -- increased customer service, quality, safety, etc. For HR business partners, you'll even see a better leadership pipeline to replace experienced retired workers. That makes your job easier. Managers will be happy too, and you'll be able to retain the ones you'd like to grow.
Tami Matthews has been an internal communications professional for about 15 years, helping companies communicate change, goals, programs, IT projects, and more. Now she works for ElevatePoint as a content strategist where she writes about the intersection of communication and technology. In her spare time, she writes, watches science fiction and any BBC production, and reads.