No matter the size of your organisation, here’s what to look out for when identifying potential mentors and developing a mentoring program.
How mentorships help employees and businesses
1. Employees learn to navigate the organisation
Guidance from a senior member of staff can be invaluable when a young employee enters the workforce, says Kimberley Dawe, KPMG’s Senior Manager, Learning, People Performance & Culture.
For graduates coming in to their first job, an internal mentor will help them figure out the dynamics and structure of the workplace, how to bring their ideas to life, and how to influence others.
A mentor gives young employees someone to turn to with tricky questions when they’re faced with challenges, helping them feel part of the organisation.
“It helps them to do that in a confidential, non-judgemental relationship where they can have honest conversations,” Dawe says.
“A five-minute conversation with a mentor can lead you in a positive direction as opposed to struggling your way through blindly.”
2. New staff are more likely to stay
New employees are more likely to stick with a company if they feel valued through a mentorship, says Dawe.
“Mentorship gives them a sense of being seen and valued. If they feel like someone is invested in them, they will want to stick around,” she says.
3. Mentors foster career progression
Bobbi Mahlab, the founder of Mentor Walks, says mentors can help mentees if they’re wondering how to take the next step in their career, how to juggle work and family, or whether they’re ready to set up their own business.
“Mentoring helps mentees ask the right questions, see things from different perspectives, and identify the next steps to help them set their goals,” she says.
“Mentors bring diverse experience and thinking to a problem and can have extraordinary wisdom and experience to bring to the way you operate in the world.”
4. It’s rewarding for mentors, too
Formal mentoring relationships give mentors the chance to pass on their experience and knowledge, Dawe says.
“It's really satisfying for mentors to see people grow and develop, watch them work through challenges, succeed in their career, and know that they've had a part in shaping the future leaders of the business.”
5. Mentorships develop future managers
If a business invests in its people right from the start, helping them develop critical thinking and decision-making skills with the help of mentors, the business will reap the rewards, Dawe says.
“By the time they’re stepping into a management role they will have a huge amount of people skills and knowledge about the business.”
The qualities to look for in potential mentors
Mahlab and Dawe say a great mentor will:
- be a good listener and know how to ask the right questions at the right time
- be a good manager of people
- be able to have honest conversations and be good at giving feedback
- have experience that mentees will benefit from
- embody the values of the business and believe in it
- genuinely want to invest in a mentee’s development and success
- be in a position that the mentee aspires to, and help them understand the pathways to get there.
Formal mentorships match skills
If you’re matching mentors and mentees in a formal mentoring program, work out which skills and capabilities you want them both to develop and whether their relationship will support that, Dawe says.
KPMG matches staff case-by-case to develop an employee's specific skills.
“For example, if you want to develop someone's emotional intelligence, you would match a mentee with a mentor who embodies that emotional intelligence in the way they work with their clients and teams, and can bring that self-awareness to the mentee,” Dawe explains.
Informal mentorships flourish with support
At KPMG, employees are encouraged to build a mentoring network of five or six people that will help them through their career.
Informal mentorships thrive when supported by the organisation through initiatives, role modelling and encouragement, Dawe says.
For example, at KPMG employees are given coffee vouchers to encourage them to connect with others and initiate being a mentor or mentee.