One of the most valuable gifts you can ever give or be given is the chance to be in a mentoring relationship. When respected professionals reflect back on their careers many will site a significant mentoring relationship as a pivotal trigger or support to their current success. Many companies and professions have formal or informal mentoring programs set up.
What makes a good mentorship program?
A strong mentoring program is supported by leaders in the company who lead by example in mentoring and in being mentored. It is often guided by the Human Resources Department with a well thought out set of guidelines that are tailored to the company in order to meet both organizational and individual goals.
Individual organizations will set up their mentoring program in a way that is unique to their needs, but a basic framework often involves a mentor-mentee agreement that discusses the duration of the relationship, the time involved, the communication method, the commitment level, confidentiality and some ethical guidelines.
What companies have mentorship programs?
Mentorship programs can work in any type of organization. They are integral to successful succession planning for key roles and for passing on knowledge from long-time employees that has not been written down anywhere. 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs according to a Wall Street Journal online article.
Is your supervisor or your boss your mentor?
The ideal mentorship relationship will not be between a supervisor or manager and their immediate subordinate. A manager already has the responsibility to manage, coach, evaluate, reward and discipline the employee. A supervisor can be a positive role model – but because of their other work responsibilities towards the organization are not a good fit for a mentoring role.
What professions have mentoring programs?
All sorts of professions such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants have mentoring programs with their own formal guidelines. Inquire with your own professional association to discover if they have a program. One good example of a mentoring program is the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) Peel Chapter’s formal mentoring program set up for members. It provides a great resource for members and for other organizations thinking about setting up a mentoring program.
Mentoring relationships have a few potential trouble areas that highlight the need to have formal guidelines. It is important to be alert to issues of confidentiality and conflicts of interest in a mentoring relationship. Both personal information and strategic business information may be shared between parties that must remain confidential. The information may cross department lines or concern different clients. A mentor should not use the mentee as an information source for information from other departments or client groups. While a mentor may draw a mentee in on a special project, the mentee is not there to be a personal assistant. The relationship needs to be one in which the mentee is learning from the mentor but not doing multiple projects or assignments for them for free or without credit.
Mentoring is also not about fast-tracking career progression. One thing to consider in a large organization is the number of mentors a potential mentee is allowed to have at one time. The mentee could see having a large number of mentors as a way to curry favour in the company and fast track promotions by engaging higher level executives in their career. They may try to bypass their immediate boss and instead go through their mentor when problems or conflicts arise. A formal mentoring program supports career progression within regular company processes and is not to be seen as a shortcut to the top.
Here are a few reasons you might want to consider being a mentor or a mentee (or protégé) taken from the HRPA Peel’s website.
Benefits of mentoring For mentors
- Provides an opportunity to develop teaching, coaching and leadership skills
- Creates new networks for their own personal or professional development
- Provides a forum to develop new talents and broaden base of skills
- Develops a sense of satisfaction and pride in knowing you have helped another person
- Encourages personal growth, confidence and maturity
- Can provide opportunities for professional development and advancement
- Development of a relationship that fosters guidance and support for an extended period of time
- An increase in self-confidence and self esteem
- Provision of encouragement to go further, take risks, set goals, and work toward concrete plans
- Provision of a forum or outlet for exchange of ideas, plans and goals
- Provides a friend and forum to express fears, expectations, challenges and hopes in a non-judgmental relationship
- Provides access to real world skills by people who have experienced similar challenges in life and or work environments
If your workplace doesn’t have a mentoring program in place ask your Human Resources Department or consultant about putting one in place. The HRPA Peel also has a mentoring handbook guideline that is a useful source of information.
So give the gift of your time this coming year and take the opportunity to be a mentor or a protégé or both!
M.A., CHRP Candidate
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