THE MAGAZINE

Making the Most of Mentoring

By James Carsey

The Sun study noted that “25 percent of mentees and 28 percent of mentors saw a positive change in salary grade compared to 5 percent of nonparticipants.” Employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who did not have mentors. Mentors were promoted six times more that those who did not mentor. Rates of employee retention were also markedly improved according to the study, increasing to 69 percent for mentors and 72 percent for mentees, while in the nonparticipating control group, the retention rate was 49 percent. Sun estimated that the increased retention saved the company $6.7 million in avoided turnover costs.

Organizations that want to follow Sun’s lead need to consider what kind of mentoring program they need. For example, should the program focus on improving employee performance and retention or seek the creation of business leaders? Each of these types of programs may require a different type of mentor.

Mentors should be guides, confi­dantes, and good listeners to best help their mentees. However, mentors should not be conscripts into any pro­gram; they must choose to participate for their own personal satisfaction and development, and they must be fulfilled by their role. Those who think they are too busy, stressed, or inade­quate should not take on the extra burden of a protégé.

Companies establishing mentoring programs should recruit willing mentors who match what the mentees need. One enticement may be to explain that even short-term mentoring has a proximal benefit for mentors in terms of their own performance on the job and their recognition by coworkers and peers.

To successfully match these mentors with the mentees they will assist, there should be a vetting process in which individual information on each mentee is collected through questionnaires or interviews to build a profile that details what areas of knowledge need improving or what skills are lacking, as well as strengths that can be further enhanced for the benefit of the mentee’s career path. Mentor profiles should also be established for comparison of needs and beneficial experience.

Some organizations match one mentor with multiple mentees or a group of mentees. In any case, the important aspects of the mentor-mentee relationship are a shared purpose, communication, goal setting, and reevaluation at the end of the goal-setting period. The cycle can then continue with the establishment of fresh or longer-term goals, or if everything that can be accomplished has been, the relationship can formally end with some form of official closure.

It is typically unwise for a manager or director to mentor his or her own staff or subordinates. The mentor should be outside of the mentee’s immediate chain of command. Additionally, mentoring should never be disguised as disciplinary action to address a specific employee problem.

There are different types and dura­tions of mentoring, including flash mentoring, short-term programs, and long-term mentoring relationships.

Flash mentoring. Of interest to some organizations may be the concept of flash mentoring, originally proposed by Scott Derrick. Derrick is a founder of 13L, a group of midcareer federal employees who meet to ponder leadership issues.
 

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