The Power of Mentoring in the Workplace


project runway finale char

Mentors are clearly fabulous: Tim Gunn with Project Runway Season 13 finalist Char Glover. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

It has been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This may be true but lately, mentoring has received a bit of an unfairly negative rap. First there was Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In advising women to never ask anyone to be your mentor, then came the book by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett proclaiming we should forget mentors and find sponsors instead.

While it may not sell as many books, mentoring has been an overwhelming success story for corporate hirers. At least 70% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted formal mentoring programs and, according to one survey by Robert Half International, 94% of U.S. executives say that having a mentor is important for professionals starting out. Companies large and small understand that mentoring is a powerful tool for encouraging diversity and inclusion, and making people feel more successful and gratified in their jobs. If your startup is considering a mentoring program, ignore the hype and focus on the benefits of mentoring.

Effective onboarding

It’s a familiar feeling to anyone who has been new to a job, the awkward sense of not quite fitting in. This perceived exclusion may be felt more strongly at a startup, where long working hours create close-knit staffs. A peer mentor can help to ease these anxieties and make a new coworker feel included, building a friendly bridge into the company culture. Unlike a supervisor or manager, a mentor can be a sounding board for silly questions, a friendly lunch buddy or a personal GPS to help a new hire find the printer. With a formal mentor relationship established early on, new workers are better able to quickly and successfully adapt to a company’s policies, processes and priorities.

Positive modeling

Just as a negative coworker can quickly sour the attitude of even the best employee, a positive coworker can instill confidence, optimism and job satisfaction. Strong mentors act as influencers by modeling the ethics, values and attitudes that are important to your business. This creates a ripple effect that can spread through teams and across the organization, and can even help in help building a strong brand.

Career development

The benefits of a mentor relationship work both ways, helping the mentor as well as the mentee. That’s because the skills gained as a peer mentor, including communication, relationship management, and problem solving, are important to career development. Becoming a peer mentor can give a long-time employee an increased sense of responsibility, leadership, and ownership in the success of the business.

Talent scouting

Successful peer mentors are not only likely to grow into effective business leaders, they will also gain the ability to identify which employees display the most potential. This helps you develop strong and diverse talent within the organization.

Connection building

Positive coworker relationships can help reduce turnover, encourage employee loyalty and ultimately create a more pleasant work environment for everyone. Formal or informal mentoring can also enforce strong bonds that help resolve internal disagreements and negative relationship problems.

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