Running a successful business involves more than just selling the best products or having the best marketing team. The core component of any thriving enterprise is the staff. Having the right people in the right positions builds a strong foundation upon which to expand and grow.
But, how can you find the right people? Even if you use top recruiting firms, the chances of discovering super-talented individuals for every position are pretty slim (if not impossible). Fortunately, you don't need a divining rod to locate your diamonds in the rough. Instead, you can forge them through training programs like enterprise mentoring.
This article will dive into the world of enterprise mentoring and why it's so beneficial for your business. However, before you get started, it's crucial to understand the potential pitfalls and challenges you'll face along the way. To help you achieve success, we'll also discuss the five things you need to know about enterprise mentoring.
What is Enterprise Mentoring?
Mentoring is a process where one experienced individual (the mentor) imparts knowledge and insight to an inexperienced person (the mentee). Think of a parent teaching their child how to ride a bike or practice their multiplication tables. Mentoring is an essential part of life because it allows new generations to benefit from the experience of previous ones. That said, mentors aren't always older than mentees, but that dynamic is pretty standard.
Enterprise mentoring is the same process but within a company. For example, a manager might mentor a junior executive about the inner workings of the company and the position. One crucial point to know is that mentoring is different from training. With training, an employee is shown how to perform specific tasks by someone who already knows them. Most importantly, the knowledge is not exclusive to the trainer. Anyone can learn to do those tasks and show others.
Instead, mentoring is when one individual shares their unique perspective and insight. So, mentors can offer wisdom that only comes from their experiences. As a result, the mentee receives information that only the mentor can provide, not a training manual or something similar.
Another crucial element of mentoring is that it's a mutually beneficial relationship, not a transaction.
What are the Benefits of Enterprise Mentoring?
Enterprise mentoring is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes to utilize. Some of the top advantages of this practice include:
- Employee Retention - Typically, workers stay at a job for positive reasons, such as comfort, stability, and engaging workplace relationships. Because of the friendly nature of mentoring, you're less likely to experience high turnover rates. As employees feel valued and connected to others within the company, they're less inclined to leave for another position. Also, mentoring can empower workers to fulfill higher roles, including those at the management and executive levels. Because they see a path forward within the company, mentees are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities.
- Workplace Morale - When employees don't work together and foster relationships, the entire business suffers. Mentoring can facilitate these relationships, particularly between disparate generations and experience levels. As these bonds form, the whole workplace can feel more like a cohesive unit. Then, as employees feel better about their co-workers, they're more likely to help each other achieve specific goals and benchmarks.
- Reduced Training Costs - Because mentors can help mentees learn the ins and outs of specific positions, they can act as partial trainers for those jobs. Not only can mentors impart extra wisdom, but it's easier for the mentee to retain the necessary information. Plus, in some cases, the mentor might be able to teach time-saving techniques and workarounds that can improve your bottom line.
- Better Productivity - Happy and engaged workers are productive workers, and mentoring can help engage your employees. As long as the relationship stays mutual and beneficial for both parties, you'll notice an improvement almost immediately. On average, businesses with engaged employees are 22 percent more productive than those without them. Another side effect of proper talent matching for mentoring programs is talent mobility. You can identify high-level employees and move them to where they're needed most within the company. This mobility is beneficial for everyone because it keeps the employee engaged with tasks they're good at, and you can take advantage of their skills.
Five Things to Know About Enterprise Mentoring
Although enterprise mentoring offers some tangible benefits, you have to develop your program effectively. Otherwise, you may wind up wasting time and resources in the process. So, here are five factors to consider before rolling out a new mentoring system.
Develop Quantifiable Goals Before Starting
While mentoring can offer generic benefits, you shouldn't just partner mentors and mentees and hope for the best. Instead, it's much better to create quantifiable and achievable goals for your employees. Some examples of those goals could be:
- Internal Recruitment - Rather than sourcing talent from outside the company, mentoring can naturally lead skilled employees into managerial and supervisory roles. So, if you're looking to fill these positions soon, mentoring can be an excellent strategy.
- Career Development - Perhaps you have employees with lots of ambition, but you're unsure how to use them effectively. Mentoring can help shape that raw energy and talent into something productive and valuable over the long term. At the end of the program, you have a more knowledgeable and adaptable worker that can help push your company into new directions. For the mentee, the system allows them to find a stable career path, so it's a win-win.
- Departmental Knowledge Sharing - Mentors don't necessarily have to be in the same position or department as a mentee. In many cases, when workers understand the ins and outs of other departments, they can be more mindful of how the company thrives as a whole. For example, how does product development impact sales and customer service? Knowledge sharing between departments can make the business more cohesive, with departments working together, not independently. So, mentors can be peers from other areas sharing their knowledge and insight.
Once you develop these goals, be sure to create benchmarks for success. For example, if you run the program for several weeks, what results should you achieve? If you're trying to fill a position, is your mentee ready to take the reins or do they need more time? These benchmarks not only allow you to measure progress but also provide opportunities to check-in and communicate with mentors and mentees.
Find High-Quality Mentees
As the saying goes, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. So, simply putting mentors and mentees together doesn't mean magic will happen. Since mentoring is about developing relationships, you need to ensure that both individuals can work together and get along.
On the mentee side, you want people who are eager to learn and are enthusiastic about getting a mentor. This passion and drive will make the program run much smoother since the mentee will likely retain the wisdom gained from mentoring.
Another point to consider is that you want mentees who will stay with the company after going through the program. Ideally, you don't want to mold employees into top-level workers, only for them to leave to work for a competitor. One way to avoid this problem is through a contract. For example, mentees must agree to stay with the company for one year after completing the program.
The mentee selection process is vital because it ensures you'll actually meet your mentoring goals. Otherwise, mentors might impart wisdom and insight that will ultimately go to waste.
Vet Your Mentors
On the other side of the equation is your mentors. In the same way that not everyone will make a good mentee, you should ensure your mentors are capable of mentoring. Just because they have years of experience within the industry or company doesn't mean they'll be good at sharing that wisdom.
Ideally, you'll have individuals who've mentored before, so they know what it's like and what to expect. Otherwise, putting your mentors through a training class might make sense before partnering them with mentees. Not only can a course help them understand what they're supposed to be doing, but you can incorporate your business goals and corporate culture as well. This way, mentors are more likely to relate information that pertains to the business, not necessarily life in general.
Keep Track of Progress
As we mentioned, establishing benchmarks is an excellent way to verify your mentoring program's success. You should schedule check-in meetings at various intervals throughout the program. The number and duration of these meetings will depend on the length of your program. For example, if you're setting a goal of four weeks, you might check-in after two weeks to see what's going on.
Another point to remember is that these check-ins are not just to see how much progress has occurred. If necessary, you might have to change directions or find different partners. For this reason, you should monitor your mentors and mentees and visit them relatively early in the program. If there are problems, the longer you wait, the more time and resources wasted.
Establish Open Communication
Enterprise mentoring shouldn't happen in a vacuum. Similarly, you shouldn't assume that check-in meetings and progress reports will cover the scope of communication between you and the participants. If a mentor or mentee has a question or needs to reach out to someone, there should be clear lines of communication and a chain of command. For example, if a mentee is having problems with a mentor, who can they tell? What if that person doesn't address their concerns adequately?
You also need to verify that communication flows openly between mentors and mentees. Ideally, both individuals can meet in person regularly to discuss topics and go over specific information. However, since that's not always possible, mentors may send details or information to the mentee to read through at their leisure. In this case, you must make sure the mentee is actually paying attention and getting the right value.
Enterprise mentoring is a powerful tool for businesses to create a stronger, more cohesive workforce. However, because the process is inherently subjective, companies have to ensure they get the best value from their programs. Whether the goal is internal recruitment or knowledge sharing, it's crucial to develop a comprehensive outline. Now that you know what to expect, you can take advantage of this process.