Starting a formal mentorship program might seem like an awful lot of hassle for something that is typically handled off the cuff. After all, aren’t your new employees already getting an orientation and training? If they need help, they’ll ask, right?
While it does take a fair bit of time, effort, and buy-in to get a good mentorship program started, the many benefits actually make it incredibly worthwhile.
Having a mentor lowers the stress levels of your new employees.
Starting a new job is stressful. You’re out of your element, you’re hustling to learn the requirements of your new job as quickly as possible, and it’s quite possible you’re in a probationary period as well. Even highly qualified people feel anxious as they work to assimilate a new culture with new expectations and protocols. You, of course want your new employees to ask questions and get help when they need it.
But they don’t necessarily want to ask their boss.
If you have competent managers in place, they will of course be happy to answerproductive questionsand help the people who report to them settle in. But let’s be honest— there’s something really scary about going to your brand-new manager and saying “I’m not sure if I know how do do this. Can you help?” This is why having a mentor is such a relief.
Mentors aren’t supervisors. They don’t make hiring and firing decisions, and while they should be consulted about performance reviews, they’re not the ones personally responsible for them. The role of a mentor is to help their mentee succeed. And this can help new employees seek out advice right away, rather than trying to hide their confusion out of fear of seeming incompetent.
Assigning a mentor lowersyourstress level.
You might know everything there is to know about puppet manufacturing, but if you’re responsible for building relationships with children’s theaters across two different continents, working one-on-one with your new Puppet Limb Design Associate is probably going to be an inappropriate use of your time. Your options here are
Leave your new employee to figure things out on her own
Try and manage all your new employees as well as your own work, leaving you working nights and weekends and still falling behind
From this perspective, assigning a mentor is no different from asking someone to take on responsibility for managing a client or vendor relationship. It’s not abdication, it’s delegation, leaving you free to focus on the most critical parts of your job.
Mentorship builds leadership skills.
Not every employeewill be interested in serving as a mentor, of course. (And not every employee, or even everygoodemployee, is suited to the role. That’s okay!) But mentoring gives high-achieving individual contributors to hone management skills in an atmosphere that is less high-stakes than actual supervision. Becoming a mentorhelps develop critical skillssuch as:
Training and coaching
Verbal and written communication
If you have excellent employees but don’t have a way to promote them, asking them to become mentors is a way to acknowledge their contributions and help them to grow in their careers. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that they are given the time and resources (and training) to mentor successfully.
Having structure is key.
Every mentor/mentee relationship is a little different, of course, but putting some structure into your mentoring program (Who assigns mentors, and based on what criteria? What sort of things should mentors do with their mentees, and how often? How long does this relationship last?) will help things go much more smoothly.