When it comes to creating a pipeline of leaders, companies have traditionally relied on a simple model—teach employees managerial skills, along with high-level business concepts, then wait for them to apply for leadership roles as they arise.
But global HR expert Josh Bersin argues companies can no longer rely on this model. They need to ensure employees have plenty of internal and external exposure to leadership skills and situations. This aligns perfectly with a structured leadership mentoring program.
Benefits of Leadership Mentoring Programs
Employees are more likely to stay at a company and be interested in leadership positions if they have a chance to learn and grow. According to a LinkedIn Learning report, 94 percent of employees would be more likely to stay at a company that provided opportunities for learning and development. With the help of leadership mentorship programs, these chances can be measurable and scalable across an organization.
Mentoring gives companies a chance to identify potential leaders and establishes a framework to provide those individuals with the proper training and experience to take up leadership positions.
Types of Mentoring Programs for Leadership
Leadership mentorship programs can take on many different forms depending on the needs of the organization.
A common structure is where the company identifies high-potential employees and matches them with a mentor—often a senior employee. The mentor can share their learnings, experiences and institutional knowledge with the mentee. The mentee can also bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to help the mentor in their leadership role.
This is where a junior employee mentors a senior employee. According to an article by the University of Massachusetts Global, the multigenerational nature of today’s workforce means that everyone needs to learn from each other. Junior employees may not have much institutional knowledge, but they may be adept at new technologies and tools that their senior counterparts are not so familiar with. More and more companies have also started to implement reverse mentoring as a way to improve diversity, inclusion and belonging, as it provides a space for younger employees to give candid inputs on where the company is at.
This can also be an effective structure to mentor a greater number of high potential employees when there are limited mentors. Group mentoring allows for multiple viewpoints, giving mentees a chance not only to learn from the mentor, but from each other.
5 Tips for Running Leadership Mentoring Programs
Companies need to be intentional when running mentoring programs for them to be effective. Specifically, they need to consider the following:
- Include employees input—The aftermath of the pandemic has revealed the disconnect between executives and employees. To get the buy-in of employees, organizations need to design a program that incorporates the needs and wants of potential participants.
- Create guidelines, but allow for flexibility—It’s crucial to have guidelines that mentors and mentees can refer to, but in a way that allows them to participate according to their goals, needs and preferences.
- Build the program with DEI in mind—To have a diverse pool of potential leaders, organizations need to build DEI into the programs. That means acknowledging the challenges that different groups of employees face and ensuring that any systems take those challenges into account and minimize barriers for entry.
- Be mindful of mentor/mentee pairings—Pairing mentors with mentees can make or break one’s experience with mentorship programs. Be considerate of how you’re constructing your profile questions for mentoring participants in order to understand their objectives, needs and skillsets within the program.
- Make leadership mentoring an integral part of your culture—A mentorship program can only succeed if it’s embedded in company culture. Senior employees should be seeking opportunities to develop junior employees and peers, while also being advocates for the program and its impacts. In order for the organization to see that advancing employees internally is important, it has to come from the top down.
A robust, diverse pipeline of leaders is a key ingredient to a company’s longevity. And instituting a leadership mentoring program is a crucial first step.