How Can a Mentor Help Develop Employees at Work?

Managers: Help Your Employees Through Mentorship

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Mentorship is a formal or informal relationship established between an experienced, knowledgeable professional and an inexperienced or new worker in an industry. The purpose of a mentor is to help the new employee quickly absorb the organization's cultural and social norms.

Whether you're seasoned in your field or just out of college, a mentor can help you grow in your career. Mentorship is also a useful resource for employees just starting out at a new job or in a new role; a mentor can help them quickly learn what they need to know to succeed.

An overall career mentor can help an employee develop skills, take on more challenging roles and responsibilities, and generally, guide the progress of an employee's career. This individual may work in the employee's organization or, more likely, the relationship may have developed several companies ago or from a professional association relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • Mentors play a key role in companies, helping employees and professionals at all levels navigate their careers.
  • You can have a mentor at your current company, a mentor while in college, or a mentor who you meet through a networking event.
  • You may have one or multiple mentors in your life.
  • Mentorship helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and more so that you can follow the career path that is best for you.
  • Managers should help their team members find mentors in the company; this can help retain the employee and help them grow into larger roles.

A Mentor Is a Sounding Board, Sometimes an Evaluator

A mentor can also serve as a sounding board as the new employee is assimilated into the company. The mentor can help the continuing employee become more knowledgeable and effective in their current job. They help continuing employees reach new levels of knowledge, sophistication, and career development.

The best mentoring relationships involve the exchange of a particular body of knowledge that helps the new employee quickly come up to speed as a contributor within your organization.

The mentoring relationship can also be evaluative in nature to assess the assimilation of the new employee in their new role. Mentoring is provided in addition to your new employee onboarding process and should have different content and goals.

Mentoring helps you navigate the learning curve inherent in any new role, organization, or relationship.

New Employee Mentors in Onboarding

Many organizations assign a mentor as part of their formal employee onboarding process. Other mentoring relationships develop spontaneously and over time. All mentoring relationships are encouraged as research indicates that employees who experience mentoring are retained, learn more quickly, and assimilate into the company culture more effectively.

A 2015 Harvard Business Review article reported that mentors help professionals, particularly those at more junior levels, advance more quickly, earn better salaries, and find satisfaction in their jobs.

"For employers, the benefits are not only higher performance but also greater success in attracting, developing, and retaining talent,” Suzanne de Janasz and Maury Peiperl wrote in the article.

A mentor is often provided in addition to the other components in a new employee onboarding process. A mentor for employee onboarding may be the peer of the new employee, a coworker who is more knowledgeable and experienced, or a supervisor or a team leader.

Mentoring by Immediate Managers

A mentoring relationship frequently occurs between an employee and their immediate manager; in fact, this was the normal mentoring relationship in the past. These mentoring relationships are still encouraged, but it is recommended that employees and organizations pursue additional mentoring relationships.

A mentoring relationship with an immediate manager or supervisor never loses the evaluation aspects necessary for the employee to succeed within your organization including decisions about pay and promotions.

Mentoring is a skill and an art that can be developed over time through training and participation.

The Mentoring Buddy

In many organizations, an employee, sometimes called a buddy, is assigned to a new employee for new employee orientation and onboarding. The buddy performs a role that is like the mentor's, but the buddy is usually a coworker and/or a more experienced peer of the new employee.

The mentoring buddy is expected to do everything that they can to assist the new employee to become fully knowledgeable about and integrated into the organization. The buddy relationship can last a long time, and the employees may even become friends.

Often working in the same or a similar job in the organization, the buddy plays a special role in helping the new employee become comfortable with the actual job by training them. The buddy is also responsible for introducing the new employee to others in the organization.

A good buddy provides additional assistance such as taking the new employee out to lunch with a small group. Another responsibility of an employee or coworker buddy is making sure that the employee is meeting the appropriate managers and members of the senior team. 

A buddy in conjunction with an effective new employee orientation will bring an organization a successful new employee.

Seeking Out Additional Mentors

Additional relationships with a mentor can develop spontaneously and over time. Or, an employee can seek out a mentor because they want to experience the power of a mentoring relationship in his or her career growth.

These unassigned mentors are often more experienced employees or managers who can offer the mentee (employee receiving mentoring) additional information that the employee wants or needs. For example, a product team member seeks out a mentoring relationship with the manager of the marketing department.

They hope to learn how to understand markets and customers better before the team develops a product that no one wants to buy. This type of sought-out mentoring relationship can foster much success in an organization.

Mentoring Relationships Are Powerful

Another instance in which a mentoring relationship is powerful occurs when an employee identifies career skills that they lack. The employee then seeks out an individual in the organization who exhibits these skills and identifies that the employee is someone from whom the employee seeking a mentor believes they can learn the skills.

In a less frequently pursued mentoring relationship, an employee can reach out to a professional they admire who works in a different organization. This mentor will lack the experience and understanding of the employee's current organization. This is offset by the mentor's general knowledge and experience in other organizations.

These relationships generally form when an employee reaches out to a more experienced colleague. Or, they develop professionally over time through a relationship developed through such activities as an active professional association membership.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone who has experience and knowledge, plus connections, that can help you advance in your career. They offer guidance and advice for navigating your career and overcoming career challenges, such as how to negotiate your salary for a new job or what to do when you're laid off.

How do you find a mentor?

To find a mentor, you'll need to network with those around you. At work, look around to see who you look up to and would like to learn from. Go to an event and see who you connect with. Once you've identified someone you admire and want to learn from, ask them to get coffee or lunch so you can talk to them about their career. Develop your relationship through emails, conversations once a month or quarter, and events you can attend together.

Article Sources

  1. American Psychological Association. "Introduction to Mentoring: A Guide for Mentors and Mentees."

  2. Harvard Business Review. "CEO's Need Mentors, Too."