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Mentoring in the Workplace

Businessman's outstretched arm passing a flaming torch to another businessman's open hand

‘Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.’ E.M. Forster

As Forster knew, there is a big difference between teaching and mentoring. The temptation to direct employees to follow the well-trodden path towards the higher ranks in the organisation is very strong.

After all, this path of traditional training has worked in the past – to an extent. With traditional training and the provision of step by step instructions, the employee is prepared to complete the role as prescribed by their current position description.

But what if the role changes or the organisation is forced to diversify the entire structure of what is working? The employee’s strictly prescribed skill set runs the risk of becoming narrower, less flexible, and potentially, redundant.

For many forward thinking organisations, employees are no longing relying on the ‘learn by numbers’ approach to career and skill development. Instead, many leaders are encouraging a system of continuous development, providing the encouragement and direction that is required in modern workplace roles that more often than not require multiple skills.

There are many benefits that can be a part of a successful mentoring arrangement. We’ve explored just a few of them below.

Mentorship – A Definition

A mentor in the workplace is someone who is capable of providing guidance to a less-experienced employee, the mentee. A mentor can be an employee of the same company, or perhaps a professional from an outside company. Either way, the mentor assumes a role model position as someone willing to share their knowledge, skill and expertise to give help and advice for the long term benefit of the mentee, and the entire company.

Benefits – The Employee

Each team member will be endowed with different skills and natural abilities that can be utilised to improve their performance in their role and prepare them for future responsibilities. An employee will benefit from a mentoring relationship when they are responding with enthusiasm to their training and development, and also demonstrate the ability to independently grow their career.

A mentorship arrangement can also help a gifted but quiet employee feel less isolated at work, and encourage them to interact more openly with their peers. As the employee matures in their career, a mentor can remain a valued advisor and asset to the employee.

Benefits – The Employer

An employer of a mentored employee can gain immense benefits, including greater productivity, stronger skills and fewer mistakes on the job. As the employee turns to their mentor, they make fewer errors and develop needed skills, cutting losses to the employer and building upon the innovations made within the workplace. Employees in mentoring relationships will often feel more valued, hence the rate of turnover will reduce. A well-executed mentoring program can even be a selling point to attract new and talented employees.

Benefits – The Mentor

The employee and employer are not the only ones who benefit from a mentoring relationship. The mentor also has the opportunity to develop teaching skills and can gain much sought after management skills through the arrangement. The mentor is required to listen to the concerns of the employee, developing their listening and communication skills. The relationship between the mentor and mentee can continue beyond the arrangement within the workplace, resulting in a potentially life-long connection that benefits both parties in their careers and in the profession itself.

Keen to develop your people and maintain and active and empowered workforce? Download this handy poster for your office and share it as a reminder of the benefits of developing your people.