A mentoring program in the workplace is an effective tool in regards to training in an organization. We’ve all heard the phrase “been there, done that.” That single phrase defines the entire framework for the concept of mentoring. Mentoring is the ability of the mentor to share their vast experiences with someone with less knowledge and experience.
The goal of the mentor is to guide them through the mentee’s own journey based on the knowledge, perspective and experience of the mentor. This makes mentoring a one-sided approach because the only knowledge and experience being shared is that of the mentor. While the approach is generally one sided, it does not negate the benefits of the working relationship. The knowledge level of the mentor goes far beyond what is written in a personnel manual. The relationship provides the mentee with advice on how situations are handled within the office and provides accurate information about company expectations. Much of a company’s nuances are never written down on paper, making the mentor a valuable wealth of knowledge based on experience.
From a human resources perspective, one of the reasons that there is such trepidation about the upcoming mass retirement of the “matures” and baby boomers is the lack of documented experience. Much of the insight and wisdom, as well as, procedures are often in the heads of the people that have worked in the position for years. These soon-to-be retirees have learned, if not established, much of the true “behind the scenes” inner workings of the organization. They know all of the tips and short cuts that make the work productive and manageable. Mentoring takes that information and shares it with the people that will be replacing the current workforce.
Why would anyone desire to have a mentor in the workplace? The reasons are clear. The mentors provide advice on how to overcome obstacles, solve problems and improve work performance. This information is then balanced with the mentor being the supporter and cheerleader to ensure success. Mentors compress the learning curve required by sharing the lessons that are often learned only through long term, first hand knowledge. Mentors also provide career counseling and can prepare a mentee for career advancement. Mentoring takes the information off the paper and brings it to life.
What make a good mentor? The knowledge level of a mentor is extremely important. They know the latest information and trends going on in the workplace and industry. Mentors are also good communicators so they can effectively share information.
Finally, what makes for a successful mentoring relationship? First, there must be a commitment to the process by both parties. If either party is not fully committed to the relationship then valuable time is wasted. There should also be a high level of confidentiality and trust while respecting each other’s differences. The relationship and expectations should be clear.
Mentoring is not a single act, it is a process. The process begins with exploration and uncovering strengths and identifying developmental areas. Then the parties must collaborate and develop a mentoring plan. After the plan is implemented, it is important to evaluate for effectiveness and ultimate achievement. Successful mentoring ensures that “the baton is successfully passed.”