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Mentorship: the next frontier in career development

Today’s employees crave connection at work. They want people who care about them involved in their career, providing regular feedback and advice that helps them grow. But employers aren’t meeting this need. Many employees feel alone on their career journey, with 77% believing they are on their own to determine their career development. They need a more effective way to build relationships, strengthen professional networks, and receive feedback on their career trajectory. Businesses have a major role to play in being proactive and encouraging these relationships.

Establishing a mentorship program can be a great way to facilitate meaningful relationships at work and support career development. Mentors can play a significant role in the career of a mentee. They are trusted advisors who share their experience and knowledge and help mentees learn new skills and navigate various workplace situations.

But traditional mentorship programs can be hard to execute. Research finds that only half of employees believe their companies can deliver these programs in an impactful way. A focus on purposeful development and connection can help get mentoring initiatives on the right track. Here are some tips and tricks to help establish a successful mentoring program:

Utilize organic matching

Some mentorship programs end up with a select group of mentors and mentees who simply sign up and are matched without much thought—maybe even at random. This doesn’t necessarily result in a good fit for either participant. Successful mentoring relationships are often based on shared interests or skills. So, instead of a formal assignment, encourage employees to seek out potential mentors or mentees organically, focusing on skills, interests, or experiences that both parties share or want to learn more about. This can be made easier through a self-populated, searchable database housing employees’ skills and interests, or something as simple as a coffee date.

Support meaningful conversations

Once a mentoring relationship is established, it’s important for the participants to have productive conversations. Invest in training for both the mentor and mentee so each person understands their roles. Provide suggested conversation guides that focus on a variety of topics, like what really drives each person in their career, or their goals in and outside of work.

Track progress

It’s likely that these meaningful conversations will spark some follow-up tasks or to-do’s. Mentors and mentees should track their progress and refer back to these conversations to help identify successes and future learning opportunities. Tracking these conversations can also help companies see the success of their mentorship program or where they might need to provide additional support.

Encourage openness

Honesty and openness are important parts of any relationship. Mentoring is no different. From a program’s inception, mentors and mentees should feel comfortable putting themselves out there to pursue connections. People often enter into a mentoring relationship to receive advice and feedback. Both the mentor and mentee need to remain open to each other’s thoughts and opinions and ensure the relationship continues to be beneficial and meaningful.

Find what works for you

Keeping these tips and tricks in mind, companies should strive to implement a mentorship program that’s uniquely tailored to their culture and their employees. Whatever tools are used to create matches, support meaningful conversations, and track progress should enable people to form connections that help them be more effective in their careers.

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