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The Importance of Mentoring

“Rewarding Reads” is a space for articles and personal essays meant to be thought-provoking and informative for human resources professionals, from sharing the “human” perspectives on workplace issues to book reviews of business titles we find inspiring. Have an essay or blog post to share? Contact us at workspan@worldatwork.org.

Think back over your career and consider which jobs really stand out in your mind. For me, there is a mix of both good and bad. But if I repress the bad memories (try as I might) and focus just on the good, I start to notice similarities. One similarity is that in those good roles, I had someone who acted as a mentor, guiding me along with right path. In some cases, I may have even had more than one! Their guidance helped me to not only do that specific job better, but it paved the way for what I would do in the future. To this day, there are times when I will find myself in a situation and think, “What would so-and-so think about this? How would they handle it?” And I find myself coming up with solutions that perhaps I would not have even considered had it not been for “so-and-so’s” influence.

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Not all that long ago, I was working in human resources at a large tech company. About a week or so into the job, I decided to take over one of the large whiteboards in our team room in order to prominently display said company’s “Leadership Principles” (which were pretty good). My goal was to encourage my teammates (as well as myself) to consistently adhere to these principles as we did our jobs.

Just last week, I discovered that a former teammate from said team had followed my lead and filled the whiteboard in his new team room with the principles. “I adopted an unused whiteboard to help inspire my coworkers to greater heights of customer satisfaction,” he said.

I must be honest: The amount of pride I felt upon learning this was significant. He never “gave me credit,” as it were, but hey, he got the idea from somewhere! I just happened to know where it came from.

This all served to reiterate to me how important mentoring is, even if only in an informal capacity.

The good news is, most organizations do recognize the value of mentoring. In fact, about 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs installed. That 70% of organizations appear to understand that mentoring employees can be a great way to attract and retain them, from a variety of angles. From a new-hire perspective, having a mentor can help an employee navigate through the new waters. For existing employees, a mentor can provide personal one-on-one guidance as to how to deal with workplace issues or how to further a career. The mentor can, in a way, serve as an ambassador for the organization as they help ensure that the needs and values of the employee are aligned with the company — and maybe vice versa.

Like any program, mentoring programs need to be adjusted every so often to ensure that the needs of the mentees are being met. Perhaps your organization’s mentor program is based on a peer-to-peer system and maybe your employees have advanced to a point where they need a career mentor, or even a life mentor. In some cases, one mentor may be all three of these things, but not always.

And that underlines the importance of pairing the right mentor to the right mentee. Does your program have a process in place to help facilitate that? If not, should it?

At any rate, one thing is for sure: Mentoring programs can improve the employee experience at all levels. Mentees feel supported and encouraged, and mentors … well, mentors get to have that “warm and fuzzy” feeling when one of their mentees succeeds.

And that “warm and fuzzy” feeling makes it all worth it.

About the Author

Stephanie N. Rotondo is a writer/editor with WorldatWork.


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