mentorship staircase

Many organizations are beginning to place an increased emphasis on management soft skills training. A crucial element of growing soft skills is giving employees the opportunity to connect with one another meaningfully, and this can be accomplished through mentorship. Employees that participate in mentorship programs tend to have higher job satisfaction, increased job efficacy, and upward mobility in their careers. But many organizations are failing to properly develop and implement mentorship programs. In this guide, we’ll cover how to grow your people with mentorship, including what successful mentorship programs accomplish, and the attributes of a good mentor.

Debunking Myths Around Mentorship

When you hear the word mentorship, what comes to mind? Do you get nervous, thinking about stiff, formal interactions with executives that don’t really offer much information of substance? Do you start sweating just thinking about finding the perfect mentor? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have preconceived notions about mentorship.

And although more companies are realizing the value of mentorship, these deep-seated myths about mentorship programs prevent mentorship from becoming a common component of every workplace. But, At Verb, we believe myths were made to be debunked.

Myth #1: The best mentors are found at other companies.

Reality: While it may seem ideal to seek out a mentor who works at a seemingly more prestigious company or could offer an unbiased opinion, there’s actually great value in developing mentoring relationships within the workplace. This allows the mentoring relationship to focus on both general skills development, and skills that are specific to the company. It allows the mentor to have more context for specific situations as well, not to mention that the mentor is likely more vested in the mentee since they work in the same company. It also allows for knowledge growth and retention to occur and remain within the organization.

Myth #2: Mentees only leverage relationships in order to get a better job.

Reality: The ultimate goal of having a mentor is to improve your skill set and to grow as an employee and as a person. But the idea that mentorship is only valuable as a stepping stone to help an employee secure their next best role is misleading. Mentorship should not be a short-term, quick turnaround situation, but rather an ongoing practice that benefits the mentor, the mentee, and their organization.f it happens to empower someone to be ready for their next opportunity inside the company more quickly, then it is a win-win for both parties.

Myth #3: Mentoring doesn’t benefit the mentor in any way.

Reality: Traditionally, mentorship relationships have been seen as teacher-student relationships, where the mentor imparts knowledge to the mentee. To view mentorship in this way ignores the fact that mentorship is a two-way street– the mentor also stands to learn and grow professionally and personally, and practice many professional skills like imparting valuable feedback, active listening, and empathy. Studies show that participants of mentorship programs (both mentor and mentee) see greater career success, including promotions, financial gains, and increased career opportunities.

What Successful Mentorship Programs Accomplish

To put it simply, mentorship makes business sense. It’s not just something you engage in for the sake of it. Implementing a mentorship program in the workplace has benefits that cascade down through all aspects of the organization. And when you implement a successful mentorship program, you will see a dual ROI: return on investment AND return on impact.

Successful mentorship programs:

  1. Tackle workforce engagement programs: We already know that disengaged employees cost the company money. When employees are regularly engaging with other employees, whether as mentors or mentees, they become more involved in the company culture, feel more valued, and feel more confident that they have a career path inside their company. Long story short, it’s a win for everybody.
  2. Foster knowledge management and retention: When key individuals leave an organization their knowledge usually leaves with them. By keeping employees around longer, mentorship programs ensure that valuable knowledge and expertise stays within the organization, allowing the organization to grow alongside its people. 
  3. Improve job satisfaction and increase retention: As a result of this increase in engagement, many employees feel an improvement in their job satisfaction. This leads to improved employee morale and retention.
  4. Improve diversity and reduce unconscious bias: Many companies are struggling with diversity and inclusion, but workplace mentorship programs make diversity a reality. Mentorship exposes both the mentors and mentees to different perspectives. In addition, research from Cornell has found that mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level from 9% to 24%

Attributes of a Good Mentor

  1. Relevant knowledge or expertise and willingness to share it. It is important that mentors have valuable knowledge or expertise to share. But having knowledge or expertise is not enough. Mentors must also be willing to share this knowledge and expertise. They must understand that the mentee has less experience and stands to learn and grow a lot from the mentoring relationship. A good mentor remembers what it is like to be just starting out in the field, and has a desire to genuinely help someone in that position.
  2. Positive and enthusiastic attitude. A good mentor does not view participating in the mentoring relationship as a chore, but as a privilege. They give the mentee the feeling that they are genuinely interested in and excited about being a part of the mentoring process. They show up to meetings with a positive attitude and communicate enthusiastically between meetings.
  3. Ability to provide honest and constructive feedback. While mentors should be positive, it is also crucial that they are able to provide honest feedback that helps the mentee grow as an employee and as a person. Mentors should feel comfortable pushing the mentee out of their comfort zone, but ensure that their feedback is constructive and not overly critical.
  4. Displays empathy active listening skills. A good mentorship program is not one-sided. Mentors should be asking questions, not just simply telling the mentee what to do. Good mentors should demonstrate active listening. If mentors are not able to listen to what the mentees are saying, they will not be able to properly guide them in the right direction and be truly helpful.
  5. Recognizes that they have just as much to gain from the mentoring relationship as the mentee does. While it is true that mentors have more experience and expertise than the mentees, good mentors know that there is a lot that they can learn from their mentees. Mentors should not have a high-and-mighty attitude. They should know that they have a lot to learn from their mentees and be openly enthusiastic about doing so.

How to Ask for Mentorship

Ideally, organizations have an established process for creating mentoring relationships amongst employees. If this is not the case, however, employees must take it into their own hands to find a mentor and establish a successful mentorship relationship. Here are some steps employees can take to ask for mentorship.

  1. Find the right person. Prospective mentees should consider their own career goals and the areas they want to grow in, and seek out someone who has the title, experience, or position they are hoping to find themselves in within the next few years. In addition, prospective mentees should seek out mentors that are available and interested in being a mentor.
  2. Reach out for an initial conversation. Once prospective mentees have identified someone that could be a good mentor, they should reach out to that person. They should mention why they think that person would be a good mentor for them. In addition, they should communicate the goals they are hoping to work on, and their hopes or expectations for how the mentorship relationship will play out, such as how many times to meet and when.
  3. Acknowledge and respect the potential mentor’s time. Entering into a mentoring relationship is a time commitment, and potential mentees should not reach out with the assumption that the mentor will be totally willing to get involved. They should frame the mentorship relationship as something to consider and should respect the potential mentor’s time and bandwidth. In addition, potential mentees should be gracious whether the potential mentor is able to participate or not. 

How to Build a Scalable Mentorship Program

Many employers know that mentorship can be beneficial, but are failing to implement. Why? Because many mentorship programs are not scalable. Here at Verb, we help companies build scalable mentorship programs. Our platform is designed for the way adults want to learn. That means incorporating mentorship in a way that’s accessible, able to be reinforced, and effective. Here are some key steps to developing scalable mentorship programs, and how Verb can help you bring these steps to life in your organization.

  1. Put thought into matching mentors and mentees. The onus of mentorship pairing should not fall on the employees themselves. Putting careful thought into mentorship pairing ensures that both the mentor and the mentee are able to benefit fully from the relationship. In Verb’s mentorship program, our matching experts pair employees based on their areas of expertise, interests, and personal goals.
  2. Make it easy to incorporate into daily work life. Mentorship should become a regular part of the workplace, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Ensuring that mentorship activities fit into the day seamlessly makes employees more likely to gain value. The Verb platform supports this through microlearning, which involves short activities that take 5-20 minutes to complete. In addition, Verb emphasizes drip learning, in which users log in multiple times per week, instead of logging in for one long session.
  3. Make sure there’s a good infrastructure in place. It’s important that mentorship programs don’t feel too formal or rigid, but having a good infrastructure in place is still crucial to the success of the program. Verb makes it easy by providing a structured yet flexible 12-month mentorship journey equipped with discussion guides, related content collections, and feedback tools.

Mentorship should not be a chore. With the right tools, you can establish a mentorship program in your organization that enables the whole person development of all employees.

When mentorship programs are truly scalable, they are more effective and create spillover results that positively impact employees and the organization as a whole.