As the end of 2018 approaches and small-business owners make their company resolutions for 2019, they would be wise to focus on employee mentorship efforts. While establishing a formal mentor/mentee program is not a must, as businesses look to the future, developing a culture of mentorship within a firm can help build team rapport, increase employee satisfaction and reduce talent shortages.
It is undeniable that mentorship programs benefit businesses. In fact, Gallup recently reported that mentorship programs increase employee productivity by up to 88 percent. While increased productivity is certainly a tangible byproduct of mentorship from an operational perspective, it should not be the focus of a firm’s mentorship efforts. Rather, building a trusting advisory relationship between mentors and mentees should be the aim.
CARE IS KEY INGREDIENT
The most crucial ingredient for a successful mentorship initiative is honest-to-goodness care; that is, truly caring about a colleague’s happiness and career development – even more than the company’s needs.
Mentorship should not just be about fulfilling a human resource initiative but about deepening a personal relationship with a colleague to fully grasp their goals and dreams. A small business’s leadership team can encourage a culture of mentorship by enabling mentors to meet one-on-one with team members, underwriting informal, individual breakfasts or lunches off site for career-development discussions, and by simply setting monthly or quarterly reminders for mentors to connect with mentees.
Once a strong rapport of care has been developed with their mentees, mentors would do well to analyze employees’ strengths so that they can best suggest next steps for professional growth that are in keeping with personal interests and goals, such as valuable conference attendance or educational programs for professional certifications.
Giving a little push to encourage mentees to take that next step in their career, and offering support along the way, benefits the individual worker while simultaneously building talent within the firm.
MATCH OPPORTUNITIES, INTERESTS
Another way to mentor employees is to look for opportunities within the average workday to expand the knowledge base and skills of an employee. Often this takes time, patience and a willingness to let go – which can be challenging for some in leadership positions.
Sometimes it is necessary for mentors to provide industry context or regulatory background before making such an assignment, but by giving more responsibility to mentees and guiding them as needed, a mentor helps employees gain confidence and mastery.
It is important to remember that the best mentors welcome new ideas from employees about how to better meet client needs, how to improve company processes or how to enhance a company’s work environment.
Sometimes, because of the inevitable time constraints faced by mentors in leadership positions, it may be tempting to quickly negate this type of input from an employee, especially if the idea is not actionable, but mentors would do well to offer an open mind and gratitude rather than discouragement when such concepts are presented. Who knows? The employee’s next idea may be one that saves the company valuable resources – and if open communication is thwarted rather than celebrated, the employee may be reluctant to share their next great idea.
BENEFITS TO MENTORS
As one might expect, mentees are not the only beneficiaries of mentorship initiatives; mentors are as well.
When a more senior employee shares insights and advice with a mentee, they are undoubtedly reminded of best practices in their field. If, for example, a mentor advises a mentee to communicate more clearly and readily with a client, that mentor is reminded to do the same.
In addition, by contemplating next steps in a mentee’s career, a mentor is also reminded to pursue career-development opportunities themselves.
All in all, resolving to emphasize mentorship in 2019 is sure to be valuable to employees, their mentors and their employers!
Marilee Falco is a principal and financial strategist at Agili in Bethlehem and Richmond, Virginia. She is responsible for client financial strategy and counsel, comprehensive financial planning and investment management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.