Mentoring is an age-old practice that has gained new relevance in today’s hybrid workplace. Mentoring helps individuals realize their potential and organizations thrive. Benefits include career and leadership development for a strong talent pipeline, higher engagement and performance among the workforce, and greater retention of skilled employees.
A growing number of companies are creating structured programs to harness these advantages. However, programs often fail to realize their full benefits because mentors aren’t trained to make the most of their mentorships. Only 35 percent of organizations say a majority of their mentors are highly effective, according to HR.com’s 2021 The State of Coaching & Mentoring Research Report. At the same time, 53 percent of organizations don’t provide formal training to their mentors.
While some mentors may have good natural instincts or previous experience to help them, some might struggle—or need guidance in how to establish milestones or provide proper feedback to their mentee. Meanwhile, mentees also benefit from training so they can gain the full benefit of the relationship. Learning how to drive the mentoring connection forward, establish agendas and set goals, for example, can make a big difference in their experience.
Without the right training, mentors and mentees could be left to wing it on their own, representing a wasted opportunity for truly impactful mentorship programs.
For organizations, training mentors and mentees provides a simple solution to this problem. Training not only helps participants develop the skills they need to be effective, it also ensures a consistent mentorship experience across the organization. When participants have a common understanding of goals and proven techniques, they are better equipped to create quality mentorship experiences that align with the company’s mission.
What does effective mentorship training look like?
Not all training is created equal, however. The most effective learning programs have certain characteristics in common that lay the groundwork for successful mentorships.
- Knowledge assessing
Self-paced training allows learners to approach the material how and when works best for them. In fact, 74% of employees want to learn during spare time at work, according to a LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report. Self-pacing allows learners to focus on the task at hand without other distractions, take their time in engaging with the material and return to it when needed so that they can fill in any gaps and deepen their understanding.
Effective mentorship training should reflect the unique needs of an organization. On a macro level, training should be designed to help mentors support the company’s overall mentorship vision. On a more individual level, it needs to mesh with the company’s culture, communications style, and tools. Well-designed training eliminates barriers and makes it easy for employees to engage in learning on an everyday basis.
Good training requires participants to do more than just study the material—learning is more effective when participants have a chance to test their knowledge. Tests and quizzes throughout the training process help learners remember what they have studied, assess their knowledge level, and motivate them to learn even more.
One major benefit of mentoring is the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to engage in a way they might not otherwise. This fosters connection within the organization and furthers diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Good training programs prepare mentors to approach their mentorships through an inclusive lens so that mentees feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, no matter their unique identity.
Setting your mentoring program up for success
Providing effective mentorship training can create success within the program, as well as impact organizational goals. According to HR.com, high-performing companies were more likely than low-performing companies to provide mentorship training. This should come as no surprise; leading organizations routinely train their employees when they need to learn new skills or improve existing ones.
Effective mentoring is central to the success of mentoring programs, which in turn help companies develop employees’ skills, keep them engaged, retain them longer, and more. Mentorships deserve the same kind of organizational support as any other key skill. When organizations invest in helping mentors and mentees obtain the skills and tools they need to be successful, they can reap the full rewards that mentorship offers.