Mentoring can be found everywhere in the professional world. From formal mentorships facilitated by colleges to casual mentor/mentee relationships that grow in the workplace, the potential for this learning relationship is limitless.
You may be seeing mentorship as a viable learning path for your growing team. This can be a great way to ensure that institutional knowledge is not tied up in the minds of individual employees. Both new hires and seasoned employees can benefit from the guidance of more experienced workers, so there is no expiration date on mentoring.
Still, there are many ways in which mentoring can go wrong. If executed poorly, mentorship can be treated as a nuisance to the teachers and overwhelming to the students. An overwhelming mentoring period may even leave employees with significant knowledge retention gaps if not properly administered.
Today, we will be looking at a few ways you can ensure your mentorship initiatives are set up for success.
Select and develop your mentors
Mentorship is a skill. An effective mentor not only needs a solid grasp on the material, but they must also be able to properly coach struggling learners.
Decide ahead of time what employees you want to be mentors. These mentors should
- have a solid grasp on the subject matter,
- be motivated to teach (and ideally rewarded for their efforts),
- have strong interpersonal skills, and
- be willing to learn, themselves.
If your department is big enough, consider having backup mentors in case someone is sick, on vacation, or otherwise unable to perform their duties.
Define your goals
Before assigning anybody to a mentor, determine what you want them to get out of the experience. Is this person a new hire who needs a primer on the basics of their role? Is this person an experienced worker who is struggling with certain responsibilities?
Whatever the requirements may be, define them beforehand and make sure your mentor understands what is expected of them. Create a list of realistic deliverables for the mentorship (e.g. properly answering helpdesk tickets, performing inventory counts in a specific timeframe, etc.)
Provide a roadmap
Once you have your goals in mind, plan out how your mentor and mentee will get there. While you do not want to micromanage the process, providing a general framework for the process can keep your mentor on track.
For example, you may be considering having a week-long mentorship in mind. Determine how much of that time should be hands-on training and how much should be theory. How much time should be spent on which tasks? Are these sessions going to last all day or just part of the day?
A simple way to handle this is to create a day-by-day checklist of what you would like covered. Review this beforehand with your mentor and determine if it is feasible.
Give adequate time
Having a solid plan means nothing if you do not give your mentor enough time to work. If you try to cram a week’s worth of learning into a day, your mentor may barely be able to cover all their bases, let alone provide the mentee with attentive guidance.
Likewise, if your mentor is too overwhelmed with other work, it does not matter how much time you give them. Make sure your mentors have both the right amount and quality of time to teach their mentees.
The beginnings of your mentorship initiative will involve some trial and error. It is unlikely that you will find a mentorship formula that works on the first try, so do not be afraid to learn, yourself.
Seek out feedback from both mentors and mentees. What areas should be focused on more? Was the timeframe sufficient? Was the delivery method effective? How can you better support mentorships going forward?
This will be an ongoing process, so be prepared to fine-tune your approach as you go.