Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Lucy Lloyd – Cofounder and COO at Mentorloop. Her opinions are her own.
Mentoring is experiencing a revitalization. In fact, some might even say that it is pretty hot right now, with most employers and employees looking to engage in some form of mentoring. Although mentoring is universally recognized and valued, its applications are often misunderstood or misused.
So here is a quick rundown of the things you may not have realised about mentoring today.
1. Mentoring is useful for all companies
There isn’t a time in a company’s lifecycle that it cannot benefit from great mentoring. Early stage-founders can use mentors to help them through starting and building their companies; growing startups can use a mentoring program to foster and perpetuate the founder/s and early team’s culture; mentoring offers small and medium businesses an affordable and accessible outlet for learning and development; and large corporations can create efficient knowledge sharing and more aligned companies through scalable mentoring programs.
A company is never too small or too large to engage in mentoring.
2. Mentoring is applicable to all people
Everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to share. Recent grads and young professionals have an obvious need for mentoring as it provides a proven outlet for developing skills and leadership. Mid-level managers also need mentoring support, and can learn how to better manage people and pressure, and push towards the next stage of their careers.
Less obvious but equally important, senior managers can benefit dramatically from the outside perspective, ongoing support and advice, and the reverse mentoring that a young mentee can provide in today’s rapidly evolving workplace.
3. Millennials expect to be mentored
Not only do millennials expect a mentor, they also have extremely high expectations of mentoring. In fact, 75% of millennials deem mentoring critical to their success. With millennials continuing to flood the marketplace – they will account for 50% of the global workforce in 2020 – mentoring is a necessary condition for appeasing the sometimes-not-easily-appeased millennials.
4. Mentoring isn’t coaching
Mentoring has some core difference to coaching: coaching is a short term endeavour, mentoring is long term; coaching is performance driven, mentoring is development driven; and coaches are tied to the performance of their student, while mentors are an objective and unbiased observer. Coaching has a solidified place in business – but it serves a different purpose to mentoring.
5. Mentoring is not a passive endeavour
Good mentoring doesn’t just happen; it requires conscious effort and commitment on the part of a program coordinator, the mentor, and the mentee.
In fact, the best mentor programs involve initial goal-setting, frequent communication, and a desire on the behalf of the mentee and mentor to learn and connect. While the frequency of communication often subsides as a single mentoring relationship tapers off over time and a new one begins, the weight and impact of each communication actually grows in importance over time.
6. Mentoring will inspire the B2B sharing economy
The rise of companies like Uber and Airbnb have seen the B2C sharing economy explode. The B2B economy on the other hand remains very siloed and internally focused.
Cross-company mentoring provides organisations with an incredible opportunity for inter-company interaction and shared gains. It enables companies to access and leverage a pool of people who have no attachment or bias about the company or individual – and more varied experiences, backgrounds, and ideas. Cross-company mentoring could be the next great frontier facing mentoring and the B2B sharing economy.
Informal mentoring is an age old practice that has been relied upon and valuable for thousands of years. It served as a main source of cultural diffusion and enhanced teaching well before it became a tool for corporate HR, diversity, and L&D departments.
But mentoring is experiencing a strong second-wind. It is having its renaissance in the form of formalized organizational mentoring programs, fuelled by alarmingly low employee engagement, low retention, and a more rapidly evolving workplace than ever before.
Mentoring has a long and illustrious history. But it is only just getting started.