[Today’s guest post comes from Sharlyn Lauby, human resources professional with over 20 years of experience and accomplished blogger.]
Back in 2009, approximately 70% of Fortune 500 companies offered mentoring programs. Today, we hardly hear about mentoring within organizations – except in cases of a poor performer needing a mentor to improve performance. Some could argue those situations are really more coaching than mentoring.
I define mentors as subject matter experts in the topic they’re mentoring. They teach, train or develop others using their knowledge and skills. Anyone at any level in the organization can be a mentor. Age and job title should not be factors in a mentoring relationship.
Sue Meisinger, former CEO for the Society for Human Resource Management, wrote a thoughtful piece for Human Resource Executive about redefining the mentoring experience. You can read it here. I agree with Sue that it’s time more companies broaden the traditional definition of mentoring. A good place to start is with a list of what corporate mentoring programs can bring to businesses.
Informal Learning – While informal learning has always existed, companies are recognizing the value informal learning brings to the business and dedicating resources to expand its use. Technology is fueling this trend. We are no longer limited to learning in the classroom. We can learn anywhere and anytime from anyone. As an example, I’ve participated in several online mentoring programs, where each person was able to ask and answer questions at their leisure.
Leadership and Management Development – Often, this is the most traditional approach to mentoring. Many corporate development programs include a mentoring component. It can be structured as a way to touch base with participants during the program. Participants can discuss how they’ve been applying the concepts learned in the development program and get answers for challenges they are experiencing. Consider how the mentoring aspect of development could be enhanced with social media or mobile technology.
Employee Engagement – By definition, employee engagement is about involvement. What better way to get employees involved than through a mentoring program. It allows employees to learn and improve their skills. More importantly, it gives employees a chance to share their expertise. Mentoring can be integrated with the company onboarding program to help new hires acclimate quickly.
Replacement and Succession Planning – At some point, organizations must realize that employees will leave. They might transfer to a different department or division. They might get promoted. Identifying those employees who are capable of moving into open positions is essential. If an employee has many of the skills necessary, but maybe not all of them, mentoring can be an option. For example, a supervisor that has the potential to eventually become a department head, could benefit from a mentoring relationship.
Knowledge Transfer – Much of the historical and institutional knowledge in an organization is held by people. Employees who can tell you why the company created a policy or the history behind a department tradition. The business has the records that document the evolution of a process, policy or procedure. Often, we don’t have the backstory. Mentoring relationships can provide a catalyst for sharing knowledge in a casual, unforced way.
Mentoring programs have the capacity to help employees become productive quickly, learn new things, study the past and prepare for future responsibilities. When one program has the ability to accomplish so much, it only makes good business sense to expand its scope. Smart companies are viewing mentoring as a way to more fully engage the workforce.
Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP is the HR Bartender, whose blog is a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When she’s not tending bar, Sharlyn is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. Her off-hours are spent searching for the best cheeseburger on the planet, fabulous wines that cost less than $10/bottle and unusual iPad apps.