Three ways to make mentoring part of your culture

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Written by Laura Francis on 17 October 2019

Reading time: 4 minutes

Mentoring is a go-to employee development solution for organisations because it can impact employee retention, productivity, engagement, leadership abilities, skill development and morale.

DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2018 report found that having a formal mentoring programme led to the following benefits:

  • 23% more critical roles can be filled immediately.
  • 46% higher leader quality overall.
  • 20% lower turnover.
  • 1.7 times more capable of capturing organisational knowledge before it is lost.

Making mentoring a part of your organisational culture is one factor that will set great organisations apart from the pack. To achieve this, you must have an intentional plan for your mentoring programme, and you need to have the support of your executive team to make sure it happens.

Here are three steps you can take to get started on creating a mentoring culture in your own organisation.

1. Connect mentoring with other initiatives.

Most organisations already have leadership development initiatives and performance development processes in place for their employees.

Integrate your mentoring programmes with these existing initiatives to take advantage of well-established programmes where mentoring fits in naturally.

To help you envision the possibilities, consider what other organisations have done in this regard. One of our clients had its people use River mentoring software to find a mentor after they completed their required leadership development courses.

Another organisation had mentees set up relationships so that they could work on their performance development goals.

Yet another organisation used River to set up mentoring groups that employees used after their training courses to help reinforce their learning as they applied it on the job.

Some other ideas for leveraging what you already have in place:

  • Use existing communities of practice as launch pads for deeper learning through group mentoring, and for individual mentoring relationships with peers.
  • Incorporate mentoring with your new-hire orientation to introduce new employees to mentors and to the role mentoring plays in your organisation.
  • Integrate mentoring with your overarching diversity and inclusion initiatives to bring more visibility and opportunities to a diverse employee population.

Making mentoring a part of your organisational culture is one factor that will set great organisations apart from the pack

2. Consider many types of mentoring.

Some companies may say they want a mentoring culture, but then relegate mentoring to a small, exclusive, high-level programme that impacts leader but few others.

With this approach, mentoring becomes seen as an activity of the elite. This is not to suggest that mentoring should not be leveraged in such programmes, but rather that mentoring should not be limited to them.

Those lucky enough to be involved may feel like the organisation has a mentoring culture, but no one else does.

To broaden the application of mentoring, try a multi-pronged approach to push your programme forward. Encourage mentoring that allows for traditional advocacy relationships where mentors sponsor mentees and help them navigate career choices, while also encouraging peer-to-peer mentoring and information sharing relationships.

And don’t overlook reverse mentoring, which is when the older/more senior person in the relationship is the mentee, and the younger/more junior person in the relationship is the mentor.

By opening mentoring up to all of these possibilities, you can create an environment where everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.

3. Choose a wide range of advocates.

When trying to create a mentoring culture, you are going to need support from those around you in the organisation. Three ways to find advocates for your plan include:

  • From the top-down. Find senior leaders and executives who will endorse the mentoring programme, give you testimonials to share with others when recruiting new participants, and even participate themselves in the mentoring programme.
    This type of top-down visibility can give your programme the boost it needs to attract attention and achieve legitimacy as part of the organisation’s employee development strategy.
  • From the middle-out. Consider the same type of activities you need from senior leaders (endorsements, testimonials, participation), but recruit middle managers for the job. Having a direct supervisor say it’s OK to take time for mentoring can go a long way to improving the number of people who sign up for your programme.
    They can also help by suggesting mentoring to direct reports as part of their development plans.
  • From the bottom-up. Don’t discount the power of the individual employee. Employee resource groups can be a great way to push out your mentoring message and attract new participants.
    You might also look for individuals who are passionate about mentoring and willing to spread the word to others, simply because they believe in the process. This type of grassroots effort can be successful, especially as people talk up their own mentoring experiences and share what benefits they’ve received from participating.

With vision, passion, and support, you can make mentoring an integral part of your organisational culture – to the benefit of all.


About the author

Laura Francis is chief knowledge officer for River, a mentoring software company based in Denver.



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