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A formal mentorship program should be part of any organization’s strategy, says Jeff Hanan, who leads the mentoring services group at professional services firm Patina Solutions. The national practice director-leadership and organizational development shares his insight into the creation of productive mentor-mentee relationships.
BMA Buzz: What is the value of a mentorship program?
Jeff Hanan: A mentorship program can significantly improve retention, especially among younger employees. A recent study showed that 98% of the millennial generation believes working with a mentor is a necessary component of their development. Providing mentoring opportunities to high-potential young professionals demonstrates that you believe in them and value their contributions.
Mentoring can also help develop the soft skill sets of individuals and prepare them for promotion. Mentoring is a capacity-building strategy and a risk-reduction strategy that can prevent a company from being caught with an insufficient amount of talent.
BMA Buzz: How can business leaders work as individuals to become effective mentors?
Hanan: Mentor training is necessary. Some tips: Recognize that a mentee may be uncomfortable asking for help. Break the ice by sharing your career experiences. Let the mentee set the pace of the relationship. Advise and ask questions, but do not manage or direct the mentee. Use reflective listening and provide feedback.
Everyone in the C-suite should consider becoming a mentee. Leaders go first.
BMA Buzz: What structural elements should companies put in place?
Hanan: Elements could include a “mentee generation” presentation, a list of potential mentors and an expressed expectation that part of the development process includes mentoring. Train mentors and mentees before the process begins, and set expectations on meeting frequency, the amount of time to be dedicated to the task and goals.
Organic and informal programs do not deliver sufficient value. You need formal structure.
Mentoring availability should be expected of experienced professionals and people in leadership positions. However you should not force people into either role. The matching process has to allow options and the opportunity to decline a partnership mentee. Personal chemistry is important.
External mentors should be available when a match in not available internally.
BMA Buzz: What is the best way for young professionals to identify and approach potential mentors, especially outside of an official mentorship program?
Hanan: Choose someone who has developed a career to which you aspire. Explain why you are approaching them and how you feel they can help you. Be specific about what you are looking for. Both the mentee and mentor must have a feeling that they could work successfully with their partner. Once a mentor has agreed, create an expectations agreement, set specific goals and discuss how you’ll evaluate progress.
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