Many companies are increasingly relying on informal training and mentorship as valuable parts of their learning and development programs. Mentors not only impart valuable skills to their mentees, but create positive company culture and increase employee engagement.
The benefits of mentoring are numerous for all parties involved. The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) lists just a few:
For the mentor:
- Their enthusiasm for their role as an “expert” is renewed.
- They gain a better understanding of challenges or obstacles that employees at lower levels of the business may be experiencing.
- Their skills in leadership, coaching, counseling, and listening are developed.
For the mentee or protégé:
- They gain the capacity to translate the company’s culture, values, and strategies into productive actions.
- Their transition into the company is smoother.
- They are provided with a greater chance for career development opportunities.
Of course, mentoring can be as formal or informal as an organization sees fit; so what are some of the proven methods out there?
Here are a few different types of mentoring suggested by the OPM in a mentoring best practices report.
This is a relatively recent concept that has been studied in pilot programs for the federal government. A low-budget and simple option, its purpose is to recruit busy executives and other senior staff as mentors without the need for them to invest a lot of time—in fact, the only requirement is a 1-hour (or less) meeting between mentor and protégé. During this 1-hour session, mentors share lessons learned, life experiences, and other advice to aspiring protégés.
The matching process is simple—mentors and protégés are matched with little or no criteria, with mentees recruiting their own mentors or even matched at random. Once a protégé is assigned a mentor, it is the mentee’s responsibility to contact the mentor within a set time frame. After this first meeting, the mentor and protégé then decide whether to continue their relationship.
Of course, there needs to be some formality to this program. The OPM states that at a minimum, basic instructions on roles and expectations should be given to both the mentor and protégé. Follow-up after the meeting and an evaluation form should also be included in this type of program.
In group mentoring, a single mentor is teamed with several protégés who all meet at the same time. The mentor poses questions, listens, and reflects in order to engage all members of the group in the discussion. In this style, each individual has his or her own experience and insight to share with the team—and can also draw their own unique learning from the conversation.
OPM’s best practice report defines peer mentoring as “usually a relationship with an individual within the same grade, organization, and/or job series.” This type of mentoring helps colleagues support each other in their professional development and growth, facilitate mutual learning, and establish a sense of community within the company. Peer mentoring is not hierarchical, prescriptive, judgmental, or evaluative.
In tommorow’s Advisor, we’ll cover a few other types of mentoring suggested by the OPM.