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As a good manager, you do everything you can for the good of the company, yet your employees can still get hit.

They struggle with a lack of recognition and workplace transparency, disassociation from their colleagues, and poor performance.

Most times, your employees won’t come to you with how they feel, so you need to step in and intervene. One way to do this is to establish a workplace mentoring program in your company.

A workplace mentor is like a life raft for employees who are struggling with work. They provide support and guidance to these workers who are performing poorly and help them increase their productivity.

Having a career mentor works for everyone on an individual level but taking it one notch higher as a company can make a lot of difference.

This guide to workplace mentoring will teach you what you need to know about choosing a mentorship program for your business.

Workplace Mentoring

Types of Mentorship

In the workplace, there are two types of mentorship that you can adopt for your employees.

They are:

  • Formal Mentorship.
  • Informal Mentorship.

1) Formal Mentorship

Formal mentorship is characterized to last for a designated time period. The mentor in question can be a senior colleague employed in the same company as the protégé or be an expert invited from outside the company, to mentor the employee.

This type of mentorship doesn’t necessarily require a personal relationship to be formed between the mentor and mentee, as its main focus is to teach the protégé how to successfully carry out company assignments and develop them career-wise.

A formal mentorship focuses more on the professional than the personal.

2) Informal Mentorship

An informal mentorship lasts for as long as the mentor and mentee deem fit. The mentor selects a protégé they identify with to take under their wing, and the protégé shadows the mentor who’s career goals matches theirs.

An informal mentor has a more personal relationship with their mentee but disassociates themselves from office politics when it comes to company issues that concern the mentee so that they can give bias-free advice.

This type of mentor supervises and guides, but they rarely interfere.

6 Advantages of Workplace Mentoring

Implementing a mentoring program for your company provides several benefits for both the employer and employees as well.

Besides increased productivity, here are other advantages of workplace mentoring:

1) Better Job Performance

Most times, an employee may face difficulties in their job, or may not know how to do an assignment given to them, but they can’t voice their complaints because they feel that as “professionals”, they are supposed to know how to tackle every assignment they are given whether they’ve done it before or not.

And because they can’t directly confide in their boss, such employees are crushed under the weight of the pressure they feel and in turn, their productivity is affected causing their job to suffer.

Identifying and handing over the employee to a mentor they can confide in to patiently teach them, can increase their work performance because they have a steady source of knowledge and guidance when they feel confused about a task.

2) A Culture of Learning

The true purpose of mentorship is to encourage and enhance learning. In this aspect, both the mentor and mentee can benefit from each other.

The mentee learns about different roles as they transition to more qualified employees. Mentors grow and learn from teaching employees and helping them with their work performance.

The company benefits from mentors teaching employees as well, as skills and knowledge shared by expert mentors are passed down to the next generation of employees.

Another vital knowledge that can be passed down through workplace mentorship is company culture and norms. The mentors can also pass across information about which meetings employees are to attend and managers they are to report to for various work purposes.

3) Improved Self-Image

A successful mentorship program doesn’t just improve work performance and gives room for learning; it also works wonders for an employee’s personality.

Mentoring reinforces a positive self-image between mentees and enhances a professional identity and engagement in developmental activities.

4) Career Development

A good way to ensure that new hires lacking in some skills advance career-wise while working at a company is to train them. Mentorship provides that training.

A high-quality mentorship program put in place by the company creates a work environment where new and existing employees can grow in their job roles and have the opportunity for future career advancement.

5) Low Employee Turnover

One of the reasons why employees leave their job is lack of growth and development.

If your workers feel like they haven’t grown or learned anything since working at the company, they will move on to a company where they can grow.

Implementing a mentee and protégé system lowers employee turnover rate, because it creates a high success rate amongst mentees, by providing them with the tools and guidance they need to complete their job.

In addition, mentors help their mentees grow in their current job roles and prepare them for new jobs and career opportunities within the company.

6) Curbs Micromanagement

Guaranteed, managers should be aware of everything going on in their company, but micromanaging employees are not the way to go. If anything, micromanagement curbs productivity and shows a lack of freedom in the workplace.

Instead of being overly concerned with how employees are performing, assigning mentors to employees who seem to be struggling with work or not delivering on task adequately should be a standard system to ensure that workers are performing well, without suffocating them with over supervision.

A Mentoring Relationship at Work

6 Disadvantages of Workplace Mentoring

Workplace mentoring has disadvantages? Of course, it does.

Here is everything that could go wrong with implementing a workplace mentoring program at your company:

1) Mentor And Protégé Mismatching

Sometimes a mentor can be good, and a protégé can be eager to learn, but they aren’t a perfect match for each other. When this happens, it can be difficult for both parties to perform their respective duties to ensure that their mentoring relationship yields good results.

The mentor is unwilling to teach because they are overused or just don’t feel inclined to tutor an employee they don’t connect with, the protégé wishes they had another mentor or won’t learn because they feel that the mentor doesn’t have the resources and knowledge they need to advance in their career.

At the same time, pushing for two people who failed the chemistry test to work together as mentor and mentee, could lead to a forced relationship and gets in the way of either of them being productive. Kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

2) Inadequate Time for Mentorship

Mentorship works when there are constant communication and contact between the mentor and his protégé.

There has to be a sufficient amount of availability which the mentor should provide to his mentee.

However, one problem with mentoring is that there may not be enough time set aside for mentor and mentee to meet or for the mentor to provide feedback. This can be because they both have different schedules, or the mentor has more responsibilities and as such can’t always be available. When this happens, the relationship is strained.

Insufficient time for mentoring can also be an issue in a remote work setting, because the distance barrier affects steady communication and understanding between mentor and mentee.

3) Toxic Mentorship Relationship

Mentors are supposed to guide employees towards bettering themselves and the organization; it’s why a manager feels confident enough to hand one employee over to the other.

But, this arrangement also gives room to toxic mentorship relationships where the protégé begins to exhibit counterproductive work behavior passed on to them by their mentor. This type of exposure is especially common with new employees who have not fully understood the company’s culture and how things generally work in the office.

At that point, they are easily susceptible to control, impressionable enough to want to please their mentor so that they mentor can put in a good word for them with the boss, and are so gullible to hang on to whatever that mentor tells them since the mentor is the first point of contact they have with learning about the company.

4) Frustration Due To Slow Progress

This disadvantage usually springs up, when the protégé’s progress is slow, even after extensive tutoring. The mentee feels like they are not making fast progress and the mentor is disappointed with their unwillingness to learn or grasp things faster.

Their frustration leads to an unwillingness to follow directions on the part of the mentee and they may start looking for another mentor. On the other hand, the mentor doesn’t give them the required guidance.

5) Subjective Knowledge

It’s a mentor’s job to teach his protégé, show him the ropes of the job, pass on the necessary skills, and help them grow.

The problem with this arrangement, however, is that the type of knowledge being passed across is highly subjective, purely based on the mentor’s opinion and ideas.

In such situations, the mentee can’t think out-side-the-box or come up with their own knowledge and ideas, or solutions on how to solve a problem. They can’t step out of their mentor’s shadow.

6) Role Conflict Between Mentor And Boss

If a mentor also happens to be his mentee’s boss, it can cause a role conflict for the mentor who is stuck in between playing a role of mentor and a boss to his protégé and isn’t quite sure which role he should prioritize more.

His role conflict stretches the mentor thin, and he struggles to find an unbiased balance with how much he should interfere with his mentee’s work performance with other authority figures, like a supervisor.

Boss Mentoring Young Employee

6 Steps For Designing A Mentorship Program At Your Business

You have been introduced to what workplace mentorship entails, understood its types, and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of workplace mentoring.

One important aspect remains to be covered, which is, how do you design a mentorship program for your business?

Since you asked, this is how to design a mentorship program for your business:

1) Make It Part Of Your Onboarding Process

On one hand, companies spend a lot of money in training new employees. On the other hand,  they can save a lot of money by getting existing employees with outstanding work performance and knowledge, to tutor new hires.

Why not do the same? You can make the mentorship part of your onboarding program and ensure that every inexperienced new hire shadow experienced workers in your company for a while so that they can be brought up to speed about how things work in your company.

If this system runs well, you don’t have to worry about how to train the new sales representative who has never worked in sales before in his life.

2) Set The Goals You Want To Accomplish With A Mentoring Program

A mentoring program sounds good. Half of your low employee productivity problems can be solved if you used it as a way to get their work performance up.

But, if you really think about it, mentorship isn’t just something you should decide your company needs, not until you make it clear what you hope to accomplish with this initiative.

You have to ask yourself do I want to imbibe the company culture and objectives into the hearts of the new hires? Help my managers develop leadership skills? Improve retention rate? Promote positive workplace relationships and collaboration? Or help struggling employees?

Having goals will help you measure the success of the program, including how well things have improved since it was implemented.

3) Keep It Flexible

Workplace mentoring isn’t a do or die affair, it’s not something that should be forced, it should instead be given room to grow.

Match mentors and protégé based on how compatible they are, allow their relationships to grow, try to minimize your interference with mentors’ mentorship style, give the protégé time to grow into their role and let the program last for as long as needed.

4) Supervise The Relationship Between Mentors And Mentees

Although the mentors you pick for your employees are experts who know their onus and can run the program on their own, you should also have some form of stake in how the relationship should work.

Check-in occasionally to make sure that both mentee and mentor are not facing any challenges, discuss mentee’s progress with the mentor, ask the mentee what working with the mentor is like, and mediate when there is a conflict.

No matter how much control you have, avoid excessive micromanagement of a relationship between mentors and their protégé’s. You need to trust that the mentors will do a good job of training your employees.

5) Evaluate And Appreciate Mentors

Mentors and mentees both benefit from mentoring programs.

Yet, in as much as a mentor’s coaching skills are developed by teaching other employees, it shouldn’t bar you from appreciating their efforts through suitable recognition and reward.

6) Find A Mentoring Program That Suits Your Business

While selecting a good mentoring program for your business, don’t hesitate to experiment with various types until you find one that suits the needs of your employees.

If you lack mentors from your organization, you can always invite external experts in relevant industries to train your employees.

Keep exploring till you find what works for your business and your workers and avoid failure that is associated with some workplace mentorship programs

As a manager, you can only do so much to ensure the wellbeing of your employees. Implementing a mentoring program might just be what it takes to do that.

Written By
Jane Njoku is the community Manager for MyJobMagSA, a career and job site in South Africa offering recruitment and career-related services.

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