There are many different types of business mentoring, as mentoring can be used to accomplish a number of business objectives. There’s traditional business mentoring that focuses on skill development, mentoring to improve company culture or to support diversity, equality and inclusion efforts, and reverse mentoring that puts the more junior employee in the role of the mentor. One type of mentoring that has gained popularity over the past few decades is career mentoring.
Why is career mentoring important?
Career mentoring is a specific kind of business mentoring that focuses on helping the mentee navigate their career path and strategize to achieve their career goals. It is even more important today than it was in the past. In the age of the “organization man,” promotions were often based on seniority, and job changes were typically promotions. It was generally straightforward as to what one’s next career move would be: their bosses’ role. As organizations have grown more complex, employees often need to take a more meandering path to top leadership positions instead of a straight line to the top. Lateral moves to different departments or divisions can broaden employees’ experience to prepare them for a larger role, for example. Being strategic about career moves is more important than ever, and that’s why executive mentoring has become so critical.
There’s a number of different ways that a mentor can support a mentee’s career development. First, the mentor should help the mentee define their career goals. Some individuals want to grow into top executive roles, while others might want to focus on a more technical track. Whatever the mentee’s goals, the mentor should help the mentee identify specific developmental objectives that are necessary to achieve their goals. For example, an employee that has worked exclusively in sales and marketing might want to pursue a lateral move into an operations role in order to prepare themselves for a general manager position. A career mentor can help the mentee identify specific developmental needs and come up with a plan to address them.
A mentor can also help a mentee make specific decisions about their career. For example, a mentee might be faced with a decision on whether or not to accept a developmental role overseas. The mentor generally has a broader perspective of the organization and the industry as a whole, and can provide a different point of view for the mentee to consider. The mentor can also help the mentee think through implications of decisions, and potentially identify blind spots.
Typically, the mentor is at least two levels above the mentee in the organization. As a result, the mentor can support the mentee by helping the mentee grow their network. By introducing the mentee to the mentor’s peers, the mentee has opportunities to build relationships with people that could give the mentee their next promotion.
Starting a business mentoring program focused on career development.
While the benefits of career mentoring for the mentee are clear, there are also benefits of mentoring for the organization as a whole. While companies used to expect lifelong loyalty from their employees, it is no longer a reasonable expectation. Therefore, companies need to work harder to retain their employees. Ambitious employees will leave to pursue better opportunities, and so it’s in the employer’s best interest to help these employees develop their career while staying at the organization.
A solid corporate mentoring program will help organizations increase their employee retention and engagement. This is a worthwhile investment for organizations, as increased employee engagement is related to higher productivity and increased employee retention is associated with reduced costs for things like recruiting, onboarding, and other costs related to turnover.
If an organization is starting a mentoring program for the first time, it’s a good idea to get some outside expertise. If an individual without the proper training and background is tasked with starting the business mentoring program, they’re likely to make some missteps and the business mentoring program isn’t likely to be as successful as it could be. Find a consultant who is experienced in running mentoring programs. It’s also a good idea to invest in mentoring software for the mentoring program. Mentoring software can help with the administrative burden of running the program, and provide additional resources like mentor and mentee training and support in matching mentor and mentee pairs.
Many organizations find that the investment in a professional mentoring program provides a healthy return. In one study by Sodexo, the financial gains of the mentoring program were realized within six months and were twice as much as the cost of the program. Other studies of executive mentoring programs have found similar returns. There are other non-financial gains that are important to organizations, including increased job satisfaction and increased organizational commitment. Clearly, an investment in career mentoring pays dividends for organizations.