How mentoring can benefit your business

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Mentoring schemes are hugely beneficial, and not just because they enhance personal development. They can also contribute to the overall success of an organisation.

I started my human resources career by joining a two-year graduate programme where I was partnered with a mentor from the outset.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of the benefits of having a mentor, so I wasn’t able to fully optimise the support, and as a result I missed out on a great opportunity.

Reflecting on my experience, I wish it had been explained to me what that go-to person could have offered by way of guidance. This would have helped me immensely, both professionally and personally, as I embarked on my career.

Today things have changed. Mentoring is more widely publicised and encouraged within the workplace.

Investment in people has been heavily influenced by the millennial generation who have expected and pushed for more personal development and support. However, there are still many organisations that could be doing more.

One of the biggest challenges is training mentors to fully engage and understand the importance of their role.

It’s not enough to offer a mentor scheme that just supports those being mentored, that scheme also needs to ensure mentors fully understand their remit and the importance of supporting those they will be mentoring and for what period of time.

One of the biggest challenges is training mentors to fully engage and understand the importance of their role.

 

Interestingly, many people (particularly women) will work alongside people who are unknowingly acting as sponsors for them; sponsors are of course also extremely important in anyone’s career.

You certainly don’t have to be an expert in mentoring to become a great mentor, but you do need the support of the business to help get you there. 

Mentoring: a two-way relationship

As well as organisations investing in training for mentors and offering schemes to support mentees, it’s important that all those involved understand that mentoring is a two-way relationship. A mentor should be gaining as much from the relationship as the mentee.

I’ve been lucky enough to act as a mentor for many over the course of my career, and investing in the relationship from day one has always benefited both parties.

I’ve certainly learnt as much as those I’ve been partnered with, in terms of developing different perspectives and an open mindset as well as enhancing skills.

As a mentor, I believe in helping people find their own path by asking questions and offering scenarios that will challenge them. This coupled with providing wider guidance and answering the questions they might pose, provides a balanced approach to development.

With mentoring there comes the responsibility to be a role model, to constantly encourage people no matter their goal or the obstacles they might face.

For the mentee it’s the chance to reflect, take stock and learn. This is an opportunity to empower an individual to take control of their future. By asking questions and actively working with a mentor you can significantly enhance their confidence, individual development and well-being.

It’s also important to remember that each mentoring relationship is unique and will result in different mutual learning benefits for both parties. 

Creating a culture that fosters mentoring

Having an active mentoring programme in place (that is encouraged and driven by the business) is always going to reap the most success for all parties involved.

At Ricoh, we went through a process that changed the entire culture of our business. Mentoring is now firmly embedded within the organisation, and what started off as a formal process has created an organic culture of supporting and guiding within the workplace, helping both men and women to achieve their career goals.

Employees now feel empowered to not only seek out a mentor, but to become one and we’re seeing an ever-increasing number of women embrace the scheme.

Mentoring is a positive learning tool. Not only does mentoring in the workplace empower people, it also leads to high levels of employee engagement and productivity.

In fact, it helps many to become better equipped to overcome some of the challenges they may have initially struggled with. My experience with mentoring has also taught me that you will develop at your best when you push outside of your comfort.

Having a mentor can help you consider different perspectives to a challenge and how you might approach it, and that’s a strong self-development tool.

The best mentors are often those that can provide a different view, that will challenge their mentee’s perspective and way of thinking.

 

Developing skills and feeling rewarded

As well as helping others you learn to develop key skills such as listening, perspective, self-knowledge, compassion, courage, integrity and trust. These skills enable you to become a better leader.

Every mentorship I’ve undertaken has left me with a feeling of immense and heart-warming achievement having seen someone else develop.

It’s important that businesses focus on the rewarding aspect. When you’re busy and fighting time, it’s very easy to forget that you’re not only benefiting those you’re supporting, you’re also benefiting directly from the relationship.

This is something businesses need to promote and in doing so, provide mentors with the time to truly invest in their mentees. This will ensure programmes and individual relationships are successful.

Mentoring also helps develop and prepare people for taking on leadership or management roles. When succession planning, there is often a misconception you need to assign a mentee to a mentor in the same role or department, however, this is not the case.

The best mentors are often those that can provide a different view, that will challenge their mentee’s perspective and way of thinking.

Mentoring programmes are not only important for building knowledge and skills within the workplace, they also offer employee socialisation, wider engagement and fuse relationships across the business.

The business benefit

Fostering a culture of mentoring within a business really should be a priority. But in order to achieve this, mentoring needs to be more than an afterthought or a bolt-on activity; instead it should sit at the heart of every organisation’s training, development and learning strategy.

Mentoring programmes are not only important for building knowledge and skills within the workplace, they also offer employee socialisation, wider engagement and fuse relationships across the business.

I wish I’d had insight on how powerful these relationships could be when I was first assigned a mentor, and I’m sure my mentor would have valued wider organisational support.

Today however, we’re lucky that mentoring is becoming more common and in some cases the norm. I value the fact that so many people are benefiting from schemes right across the country; this can only have a positive impact on UK skills and the wider economy.

About Rebekah Wallis

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