The pandemic has caused many shifts to the way we work. While it has highlighted some positive aspects, including the implementation of flexible working policies, there is no doubt that some negative implications have arisen. For newer employees, a lack of physical contact between the organisation and themselves can lead to feelings of isolation and separation. Many may find that they struggle to build relationships with colleagues due to the limitations of the virtual medium.
For these very reasons, establishing a constructive workplace mentoring scheme is more important than ever, if organisations truly wish to support their new hires’ welfare and development. Research from Sun Microsystems indicates that employees and mentors alike were over five times as likely to advance in pay grade, while organisations who offered a mentoring programme had a 20% higher retention rate for staff than those who did not. With the benefits to both parties so apparent, it’s time that mentoring schemes became a workplace standard. Here are five key tips for organising a successful workplace mentoring scheme.
At the outset, it should be clear that a mentee’s line manager and mentor are independent of each other. While a line manager is responsible for distributing and overseeing an employee’s workload, a mentor’s duties include guiding their mentee’s development as an individual and assimilation into office culture. Entering a new working environment – especially if it’s their first professional role – can be a daunting task at the best of times, with the pandemic making it no easier.
All organisations are different, so the importance of having a personal guide to help navigate the unwritten nuances of a workplace cannot be understated. While many companies also possess established conventions surrounding the professional side of onboarding, there’s often little in the way of social inclusion. By ensuring that their mentees are properly integrated into clubs or groups, mentors can help foster a sense of community and make sure their proteges don’t feel left behind upon return to the office.
If the purpose of a mentoring scheme is to develop and retain talent, then organisations should ensure that their programme is available to all – regardless of background – to give the most gifted individuals the opportunity to develop. By offering resources and a supporting framework for those in difficult situations, companies can remove the hurdles facing those who otherwise couldn’t apply due to personal circumstances.
Making inclusion a priority from the very beginning can stimulate the growth of diversity further into the business. Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labour Relations found that mentoring schemes helped boost minority representation in management positions from 9% to 24%, so it’s clear that mentoring is cornerstone to accessibility.
All employees have their strengths and weaknesses – so it’s important to choose the right mentors for the job to ensure that the scheme is as productive as possible. Mentoring schemes that operate on an opt-in basis allow more nurturing members of staff to put their qualities to good use, while crucially offering the entire workforce the possibility to mentor if they wish.
Matching partners based on their role or duties can also help to maximise the productivity of the relationship and lead to greater synergy within workplace departments, with 87% feeling empowered by doing so. Providing a working example for the mentee to observe and replicate highlights best practices, while also outlining why certain processes are necessary rather than just how.
A policy of openness is the best way forward when establishing a workplace mentoring scheme. Setting clear targets helps illuminate the path towards progression for the mentee and contributes towards a more productive working relationship as a whole. Transparency is a virtue to any organisation – one that can demystify an individual’s position within a larger, more complex structure and tear down barriers to development.
Moreover, a truly successful office mentoring culture should be as beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee. Staff should be encouraged to teach upwards as well as down, to encourage growth of the business as a whole. For the more senior of the relationship, it can often be helpful to go back to basics on things that they wouldn’t usually give a second thought. Approaching tasks from the point of view of a beginner can help older staff to reconnect with their more junior employees and identify the issues that they face in the workplace.
When entering a new role, employees can often be discouraged from seeking assistance on tasks because they feel that they’re too reliant on their colleagues. This has been further exacerbated by the pandemic – what was once a passing query in the office now constitutes its own phone call, meaning asking for help becomes more of an interruption than it would usually be. Post lockdown, though many will have the chance to return to the office, many others won’t, so it’s especially important that mentors create an environment that encourages mentees to ask any question, regardless of its simplicity.
Scheduling weekly catch-ups provides a dedicated, casual setting for the mentee to voice their concerns and keep their mentor in the loop. By introducing a mentoring scheme, organisations can ensure that staff development is not lost if working from home, encouraging greater team bonding and engagement.
Workplace mentoring schemes can give rise to numerous benefits to both organisations and their employees – but only if they are integrated correctly. With the intention of encouraging development of younger staff, it’s critical that transparency is present in all aspects of the process in order for it to work effectively.
All parties involved should possess a clear understanding of their role. For the mentor, this is crucial to understanding what their responsibilities should be and outlining the guiding framework on the company’s vision, values and culture. For the mentee, it’s important for them to understand that they form an equal share of a two-way relationship, and that they should be encouraged to pose questions and voice opinions. Within the mentor’s role, open communication is key to maintaining a strong relationship with their junior partner and outlining a clear path to progression.
A true mentor should be more than colleague, but rather an equal member of a mutually beneficial relationship. Most importantly, structuring the scheme around the needs of mentees post pandemic eases the transition to an unfamiliar environment and welcomes the junior employee into the business. Doing so helps foster an overall sense of community, bolstering talent retention and making the organisation a happier, more productive place to work.
Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester recruitment agency SF Recruitment is one of the midlands’ top recruitment specialists, providing professional, proactive recruitment across nine core disciplines. Much like the most successful mentoring schemes, every effort is made to match a person’s characteristics to organisational culture in order to find a natural fit for all. If you would like to discuss recruitment trends, contact us today.