Why You Need A Good Mentor

08.31.16 | Employee Wellness

Outstanding businesses large and small use mentoring to tackle complex workplace challenges such as outlining company succession plans, improving productivity, and, perhaps most importantly, increasing employee retention. In fact, mentoring is on the rise — more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer employees access to professional mentoring programs.

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Read on to discover how mentors in the workplace can lead to increased employee happiness, leadership development, and ultimately retention.

Why mentors are important

The Institute for Clinical Research Education says “Whether you are a senior educator or world-renowned investigator or you are in the early stages of your professional training — whether you are the mentor or the mentee — mentoring helps build a dynamic community while ensuring the success of each individual as he or she achieves personal and professional career goals.”

Providing your employees with a workplace mentorship program can serve the entire employee lifecycle, including significantly improving new hire retention rates and outlining career paths for company succession plans. Mentorship programs boost engagement, employee performance, and overall office morale. By creating a culture in your office where it is the norm for employees to talk openly with mentors, you’re laying critical building blocks for a successful team, a productive workplace, and a healthy company.

Mentorship programs enable your team to feel comfortable reaching out for help and asking for advice; and perhaps most important of all, it prepares and motivates your employees to face workplace challenges head-on. As a benefit to your company, mentorship programs create a culture of communication that transcends barriers and aids employees at all levels of their careers.

Mentorship duties

Mentorship duties can traditionally be broken down into three aspects — guidance, feedback, and encouragement.

  • Guidance: Especially among your younger workforce, leadership is an essential mentoring factor. Millennials appreciate some direction and enjoy working toward a reachable goal. Having a mentor guide them toward said goal keeps them focused and empowered to reach it.
  • Feedback: Feedback, both positive and constructive, is an essential part of any mentor’s duties. Exemplary employees will welcome advice and invite criticism so they can ensure they are on track for success in their career.
  • Encouragement: Being encouraged or praised goes a long way toward a healthy (and long) career within your company. When navigating new positions, or working toward a more senior role, it would only make sense that your team gets words of encouragement to guide them through their newly developed skill proficiency. 

How to create mentor/mentee relationships

Successful mentoring begins with a mutual understanding of what the relationship is going to look like, and how it will be managed. “Designing the alliance” between mentor and protégée ensures the relationship is a joint venture, and both parties share responsibilities for learning, growing, and sustaining the mentorship. Below are three tips for creating a strong mentor/mentee relationship:

  • Take on your mentees: It’d be easy to pass this initiative along to someone below you and request they implement it, but it’d be significantly more useful if you took on your protégées and lead by example. Being a shift leader or Lead Supervisor makes you the perfect candidate to be a mentor and share your experiences and knowledge with another individual who could learn much from your insight.
  • Encourage senior staff members to reach out to newer/less experienced staff: Think of all the valuable information your senior staff members could impart to newer or less experienced team members. Encouraging veterans to pair up with rookie employees could be the key ingredient to building a reciprocal relationship where both mentor and mentee learn from one another in different aspects of the job.
  • Allow it to happen naturally: the relationship will be much more effective if both parties share common values and personalities. If you suspect a someone isn’t getting much from the mentorship, it could be because it’s just not a good fit. Consider letting these relationships happen organically; letting mentor and mentee gravitate to one another naturally so that the relationship is a two-way street, a much more lively and energetic combination.

Steps for proper mentoring: Delivering feedback

As we mentioned above, one of the chief duties of a good mentor is to deliver feedback. While doing so is not always glamorous, it’s necessary to develop your relationship with your mentee. Efficiently offered, feedback can be uplifting and motivate your protégée to do better. However, if the delivery is done poorly, lousy feedback can ruin a mentor/mentee relationship resulting in lingering animosity, loss of respect, and demotivation. To ensure the latter doesn’t happen to you or other mentors, we’ve outlined four steps to delivering constructive criticism below. For more on this, and other vital factors, download our full Guide to Increasing Employee Retention.

  • Make it Timely As time passes, certain situations might become blurred, and people are more likely to interpret them differently. As such, the right time to give feedback is as soon as possible.
  • Stick to the Facts Discuss only what happened, not what you think happened. For example, you could say that the employee missed a deadline for a specific project, but don’t assume it’s because he/she isn’t interested in their job. Instead, explain the impact of the project not being completed on time and give your recipient a chance to explain why the deadline was missed.
  • Actively Listen How well your feedback is received will directly result in how the recipient felt he/she was heard. After you’ve shared your feedback, allow them to collect their thoughts and respond without being interrupted.
  • Always End on a Positive Note If possible, also start on a positive note. That will shift the balance in the room, lowering any defensiveness and negative feelings that may arise. Ending on a positive note will help to mitigate any lingering ill-will or tension before your staff leaves the meeting. In a changing and growing industry, decision makers are always wondering how to retain more employees. Often, they’ll look toward new and innovative ideas, strategies, and out-of-the-box methods to increase employee retention, but overlook a simple (and free) solution right in front of their faces — mentorship programs.

    Mentoring opens the channels for the transfer and exchange of knowledge, ideas, experiences, and resources between mentor and mentee. Involving everyone across the company — yes, even you — ensures that no expertise is wasted. Having these symbiotic relationships ultimately increases productivity, employee happiness, and employee retention.

    For more on increasing employee retention, including offering flexible work schedules, creating a stellar corporate culture, and sharing a roadmap for growth and development, download our full Guide to Increasing Employee Retention today.

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