Companies face numerous challenges going into the new year: a shortage of skilled workers, employee churn, economic pandemic aftershocks, and shifting consumer behaviors, just to name a few. While there’s no one-size-fits-all fix, Bert Thornton and Dr. Sherry Hartnett say there is a powerful tool that can help business leaders successfully navigate many of the obstacles companies now face: mentoring.
“Especially as the world struggles to regain its equilibrium in the wake of the pandemic, the future is a moving target—and navigating this ongoing chaos requires a workforce with the right mindset and skillset,” says Thornton, coauthor along with Hartnett of the new book High-Impact Mentoring: A Practical Guide to Creating Value in Other People’s Lives.
“Employees and leaders alike must be adaptable, engaged, emotionally intelligent, and solution-focused—but those aren’t skills you can teach in a webinar,” he adds. “Mentoring is the obvious answer.”
There is a “huge and ironic need” for leaders to share insights with the multitude of rising high achievers who crave guidance. It makes sense for companies to bring the two groups together. But first they must know what good mentoring looks like, and they need a way to scale it in the organization.
High-Impact Mentoring serves as a blueprint to hardwire a mentorship program into your culture so that every mentee gets a consistent experience every time – including virtual mentoring for remote employees.
Thornton and Hartnett say creating a straong mentoring program can help companies thrive despite the turbulence ahead.
Consider these nine powerful benefits of a mentorship program in the workplace.
1. Mentorship helps attract and retain talent
Especially in today’s environment of uncertainty and upheaval, companies need a strong team of employees. And it’s just as crucial that, once hired, good people stay on board. A mentoring program shows them there’s a path for advancement inside your company.
“Millennials in particular deeply value training and development,” says Thornton. “By sharing their knowledge and experience with younger employees, mentors help them grow and progress. At the same time, they teach younger people how to navigate challenges specific to their workplace so they are less likely to leave.”
2. New hires hit the ground running faster with a mentor
We no longer have the luxury of long onboarding periods for new hires. The pace of business requires everyone to become a contributing member of the team almost immediately. Assigning new employees a mentor early on can help expedite progress while helping them avoid pitfalls.
3. A mentoring program can cushion training budget shortfalls
Quite often in times of economic turmoil (like now), training budgets are on the chopping block. Mentors play a huge role in transferring knowledge and vital skills. They are a great source of on-the-job training that costs very little.
4. Mentorship sets the stage for continued learning
Increasingly, we need our employees to have a “just-in-time” skill set. The education system can’t keep up, and companies will need to ramp up their training to bridge the skills gap. Mentors will likely play a vital role in helping employees perform well while they integrate new learnings.
5. Mentoring helps people weather tough storms
COVID-19 has put incredible stress on leaders and employees. In fact, many organizations have moved beyond stress and into the realm of trauma. By putting things in perspective (“We’ve lived through other hard times and survived”), providing a safe space for mentees to vent about their stresses and struggles, and sharing coping skills, mentors can go a long way toward helping employees build resilience while easing their loneliness and isolation.
6. Mentorship engages employees
Mentoring makes it more likely that people will “lean in” to their work. They’re being challenged to learn new things, so they don’t become complacent.
“Mentees have a chance to prove themselves daily, and to use their skills and talents in new ways,” says Dr. Hartnett. “They may become a wellspring of new ideas. They feel invested in and valued. All of this sparks their passion and energy for their work and shores up their commitment to the company.”
7. Mentorship sharpens a company’s ability to execute
Companies must be agile, fast-thinking, and fast-acting if they’re to survive. By sharing their years of accumulated wisdom, mentors help people broaden their perspective, cut through the information overload, and get to the heart of what matters. When we aren’t bogged down in extraneous details, we can move quickly and purposefully.
8. Mentoring builds relationship skills
Strong relationships—based on honesty, trust, transparency, and empathy—matter more than ever now.
“Companies must be masters at innovation, collaboration, and teamwork,” says Thornton. “All of these things hinge on our ability to foster strong relationships. Mentoring builds relationships in two ways. First, the mentor/mentee relationship creates a powerful bond as it evolves. But also, both parties apply the skills they learn in the process to other relationships. Eventually, a strong web of accountability, support, and continuous learning spreads throughout the company.”
9. Mentorship builds a more diverse and inclusive workplace
There is a huge focus right now on these issues. In many organizations, older employees may need to learn how best to work with those from different racial and cultural backgrounds, belief systems, and orientations.
“This is where reverse mentoring (when a junior person mentors a more senior one) shines,” says Dr. Hartnett. “But actually, any type of mentoring that puts people from different age groups together helps create more diverse, inclusive workplaces. The more folks from different generations get to know each other and have meaningful exchanges, the more we break down barriers…and the more unified we become.”
“Mentoring is a ‘must-have’ for companies wishing to proactively meet the challenges of 2022’s rapidly evolving workplace, while still driving growth and success,” concludes Thornton. “And what many people don’t realize is that mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience, not just for the mentee but for the mentor, also.”
“What’s good for employees is good for your whole company,” adds Dr. Hartnett. “As your program grows, word will spread and even more top talent will be drawn to work for you—this year and beyond.”
Bert Thornton is the former president and COO of Waffle House. His first book, Find an Old Gorilla: Pathways Through the Jungle of Business and Life, is a well-received leadership handbook for rising high achievers and emerging leaders. Dr. Sherry Hartnett is a marketing and leadership professor, consultant, author, and mentor. At the University of West Florida, she founded the pioneering, high-impact experiential learning Executive Mentor Program.
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