Mentoring is definitely not a recent concept. It has been around in the corporate world almost from its beginnings. Traditionally this means pairing an older, experienced employee with a younger one who is considered to have great potential.
The benefits of having good mentoring programs within the organization are great.
Mentoring encourages the development of a corporate learning culture, a culture where employees take an active role in the dissemination of knowledge and best practices among peers. The collaborative nature of mentoring doesn’t only aid the development of individual employees but also helps create interpersonal networks of professionals, thus increasing engagement.
Corporate mentoring is meant to aid both career development and talent management as employees acquire new skills and have a clear image of where they want to get within the organization.
All these lead to increased engagement and better retention rates.
The new faces of mentoring
With the emergence of a new type of employee, however, the types of mentoring need to change in order to accommodate the non-traditional young adults (also known as Millennials).
The Millennials are a very social bunch. They are actively involved both on social media and on the professional online platforms and networks available to them. It’s not that they don’t value the expertise of one exceptional person but they need to share it. They also want to hear different opinions and learn from various experiences.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that all of this is done within group dynamics. Even in a collective environment, learning is an individual activity and each mentee is following his or her own development goals, choosing the preferred method of acquiring new skills and competencies.
One of the main benefits for the organization is that it can use an otherwise limited number of mentors across a much larger number of mentees. Furthermore, since there is a choice, there is no risk of pairing up a mentor and a mentee that really can’t work well together – this often happens when employees get assigned to one another without any say in the matter.
When thinking about the appropriate size of a group, it should be large enough to allow for an array of projects and opinions, but not so large that it is an impediment to everyone participating. Having one to three mentors for a group of maximum ten mentees should ensure all involved can fully benefit from the experience.
Having facilitators join the group is also very important to its success. Their role is to encourage participation, make sure focus is not lost and moderating discussions if these get too heated or off track. When everything is running smoothly they should be no more than a very discreet presence.
With micro learning already being the go-to for Millennial learning and development needs, micro mentoring is the next logical step. With time being a big issue for most professionals these days, short, concentrated sessions of mentoring seem the optimal way to go.
Yes, traditionally mentoring meant having a long term relationship between mentor and mentee, extensive discussions and building of mutual understanding and trust. Yet the informal and highly casual nature of today’s employee as well as so many valuable connections at their fingertips gave birth to this new kind of mentoring interaction.
It’s a common misconception that Millennials do not trust hard-earned expertise. They may be questioning the status-quo quite a lot but they do know how to value precious experience – honestly they just don’t have the disposition to hear all the titles and listen to long introductions.
They are, however, constantly looking for information so they may actually have quite a number of mentors over a small period of time as they will seek out the advice of the best professionals in the area that they are interested in. This area may be product development in one week, online marketing the next and ensuring a positive ROI a few days later.
This may mean that they don’t dwell on a certain field long enough to get a full grasp and understanding of it but today’s corporate environment asks for fast thinking and optimal solutions in record time. Micro mentoring will help them achieve that.
As the name suggests, it’s a type of mentoring where younger employees become mentors for more experienced ones. At first glance it sounds a bit upside down or even outrageous but if we take a few moments to think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Older employees may well be experts in some subject matters such as marketing, advertising or recruitment. However, the mechanics of all these areas have changed greatly with the evolution of new technologies. It’s improbable that higher executives are aware of the complete workings of social networks or that they understand the trends in online communication (which is pretty much most of communication for the younger generation and thus a rather big chunk of any company’s target audience).
Having this type of mentoring within the company has benefits on both sides and closes the learning gap between the different parties involved. The younger employees who take the role of mentors feel both understood and valued while the otherwise traditional mentors get a first-hand glimpse of technological novelties and how they feel and work for the new generations.
Where logistics are concerned, this works perfectly within the already established frame the organization has for mentoring. What’s highly important, is that the mentor and the mentee have a certain chemistry. This is where the facilitator or HR specialist comes in to make sure they put together two or more employees that like and trust each other as to be fair, this type of mentoring is slightly more sensitive.
Mentoring is as important today as it has always been in the corporate environment if not more important. Sprucing up its methods will lead to better performance and increased engagement.
Roxana is a learning and development professional with over 10 years experience in corporate training.