Mentorship in companies: why and how to incorporate

Polina Kuchkovskaya
17 June 2020

The development of a strong HR brand and the engagement of the best specialists in your team is a complicated and complex process. One of its significant parts is the investment of resources in education and comfortable conditions for development. There is a great number of tools that are used in this process, and new approaches and methods appear every day. Yet, the classical mentorship was and still remains one of the most effective formats of knowledge sharing. Why? Let’s figure it all out.

What is mentorship?

Mentorship is a method of knowledge sharing within the educational process in a company. It’s a tool that provides a possibility to develop individuals and to convey practical experience from hand to hand.

At some moment, the needs for development appear within a company, and they can be clustered as follows:

  • the desire for self-development – individuals who want to develop in their sphere and learn something new, expand their knowledge in the related spheres or even change a profession;
  • the desire for developing others – individuals who have already become experts and are ready to share their knowledge.

The mentorship can become a great tool for achieving the synergy of these two sides. The essence of this approach is in the integration of these sides in a single team. In this way, what we get is a couple consisting of a mentor who has the knowledge, skills, and experience and is an expert in his or her sphere and a mentee who has a desire to get this knowledge, skills, and experience.

As a result of the mentorship process, both sides get the possibility for development at the same time: while a mentee is getting new knowledge, a mentor is developing as an advisor.

Types of mentorship in companies

The mentorship can appear differently in companies. Most of the time, mentorship is understood as professional tutoring that is the sharing of practical information and specific hard skills that allow a mentee to increase their professional level. This can be general knowledge (for example, Senior Java Developer shares general knowledge and examples of complicated tasks solutions with a Junior colleague) or specific information for a certain company or team (all kinds of best practices and special details that are to help one perform their duties better).

If you are a fan of cinematography, a very vivid example of such information-sharing for you would be the scene from a Harry Potter movie where Harry gets a book with the notes from the Half-Blood Prince at the Potions class. Such notes are valuable knowledge that one can get only from practicing. Sharing this knowledge with a successor would save a lot of time and effort. Notably, such knowledge is in all kinds of companies and in all kinds of professions, starting with factory workers and ending with IT developers. This is exactly why the mentorship as a tool is as universal as possible.

Just like the hard skills mentorship, there also is a soft skills mentorship. In this case, an individual with a well-developed skill of, for example, feedback provision teaches it to others and shares their experience.

Another type of mentorship is mentorship for newcomers. In this case, a mentor does not necessarily have to be a great expert or have specific skills. Their main task is to adapt a person to a new place, introduce a newcomer to colleagues, and tell them how everything works in the company and whom they can contact in different situations.

The mentorship can be conducted both individually and for a rather big audience. The main characteristic is the practical usage of the knowledge received.

A mentor is not a teacher or professor. He or she does not grade or provide certificates. A mentor is rather a tutor who shares his or her advice and experience.

Benefits for each of the sides

It may seem that the mentorship is profitable for a mentee in the first place. And it really is because, for a mentee, it is an opportunity to get the needed knowledge and improve one’s skills. However, each of the sides gets its benefits. The process will allow the mentor:

  • to learn how to share knowledge and convey the expertise;
  • to shape a strong environment around them;
  • to get experience in management;
  • to learn how to give feedback;
  • to structure their own experience and knowledge;
  • to understand their strong sides and highlight the spheres for development;
  • to receive recognition;
  • to get additional encouragement from the company’s side;
  • to shake up their performance without changing their sphere.

The launching of the mentorship brings numerous benefits for the company as well. They include:

  • keeping talented and loyal people in the company;
  • the introduction of the knowledge sharing culture;
  • the development of the feedback provision culture;
  • the creation of the educational materials and experts base;
  • the professional development of the employees;
  • the development of the professional standards;
  • the improvement of the communication, both vertical and horizontal;
  • the increase of the efficiency and productivity of the employees;
  • the acceleration of the introduction of changes;
  • additional networking and team building.

How to introduce mentorship: practical recommendations

If you are ready to launch the corporate mentorship in your company, you are already halfway through. A little is left to do – to set up an organizational component. Consider following this roadmap:

  • The settlement of the interaction scheme and the approval of the conception. Before moving to the introduction of the mentorship, you’ll have to clearly specify its format and get the approval for it (in case there is a need for such approval and you are not the person who provides the final confirmation). At this stage, it is especially important to evaluate the potential cost of the program that the company will have to cover and the resources that will be needed for the continuous support of it.
  • The preparation of the rules and conditions for employees. They should include the essence of the mentorship, the instruction on how one becomes a mentor or a mentee, the opportunities and bonuses (if provided).
  • The preparation of samples for documents and process schemes, the assignment of the responsible figures. Think through who will be a responsible administrator, how the entire process will be recorded, where the information about the mentorship couples will be stored, how are you to evaluate the progress, who and when will be providing bonuses/compensation.
  • The announcement and answers to the employees’ questions.
  • The definition of the first couples. The introduction and conduction of the mentorship.
  • The start of the mentors base shaping. It is the base with the list of all employees who have enough expertise and are ready to become mentors with the specification of their profile directions. In the future, this base is to be extended on a regular basis.
  • The collection of feedback, the process improvement. Each company has its peculiarities. It is impossible to launch a process from the very beginning foreseeing all the details, taking into consideration all the nuances and choosing the best out of all alternatives.  Be ready for the fact that you will have to improve the process basing on your experience. Also, a model that has proven itself as the most effective in another company will not necessarily show the same results in your company.   

Within the preparation, pay specific attention to the process of shaping the mentor/mentee couples. Sometimes, the desire to learn and the desire to teach bring the future mentorship couples together automatically. In other cases, assistance from a third party might be needed. It can be a recommendation either from a manager or from an HR-manager (Learning & Development specialist).

What the process may look like

  • The mentorship application filing and approval.
  • The specification of the mentorship aim. Depending on the aim, the duration of the mentorship process will be defined. If the mentorship is planned not on a regular basis but for the achievement of a particular aim, it is important to understand even before the beginning of it what the mentorship couple wants to receive in the end, how this result is to be evaluated, and, most importantly, how does one understand that at the end of the mentorship, the aim was achieved.
  • A mentor and a mentee set up the format of the education (online/offline) and the frequency of meetings (once a week/month).
  • Basing on the particular request, the mentor develops an educational plan that is to define topics and time that will be needed for the learning of them. One should also think through the transitional tests (maybe, in the form of homework). It is great when a mentee also provides his or her feedback and tells about what was easy and what appeared to be complicated to handle by themselves.
  • Final project work – something that will help to systematize and prove out practically new knowledge and experience of the mentee.
  • The grand finale of the mentorship: a promotion, a transfer to another position, etc. for the mentee or a reward for the mentor.

According to the Employer Branding Community data, the mentorship programs on a regular basis are successfully functioning in SottServe, Luxoft, Tickets.ua, Intego Group. What is more, in SottServe, around 700 mentor/mentee couples were created. In Boosta, the number is not that significant, but we have positive results with both the professional development of colleagues and cases of changing qualification/acquisition of the related spheres. The experience shows that the existence of the mentorship program in a company has a positive impact not only on the professional level of employees but also on their motivation and satisfaction.

In case your company has acquired enough expertise, and your aim is to grow professionals inside your company instead of hiring more qualified workers from outside, the mentorship will become a great HR tool in the management hands.

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