Mentoring in the workplace

In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half it was found that almost half (49 percent) of respondents believe Gen Y (those born in 1979-1999) are the most challenging employees to retain in the organisation. Generation X (those born in 1965-1978) is seen as the next hardest to retain at 25 percent.

One way to engage and retain this multi-generational workforce, and help them find continuous fulfilment and meaning in their work, is through mentoring or workplace coaching.

What is “reverse” mentoring?

Some companies have started to embrace “reverse” mentoring instead of simply relying on the traditional model of senior staff imparting knowledge and skills to less experienced colleagues. These newer workplace mentoring models include junior employees taking the lead to mentor more experienced staff in addition to peer-to-peer mentoring methods.

Through these less-traditional relationships, employees have been able to demonstrate how they can provide value to the business in ways beyond their basic job description – and regardless of their experience level.

How to structure workplace mentoring arrangements for success

While less traditional workplace mentoring arrangements are gaining popularity, you may need to address some potential hurdles up front – such as participants’ preconceived notions about who should be in the role of the “teacher” or “student” in the relationship.

Clearly explain what you would like both parties to gain and encourage them to avoid stereotyping based on age or experience. In addition, have the mentor and mentee agree on:

  • What each would like to achieve through the process
  • Where and how often they will meet or communicate

Finally, be sure to provide enough time for both parties to work together – and take an interest in the relationship’s progress.

Here are five tips for fostering a mentoring culture in your workplace

  1. Understand that mentoring and coaching is part of every manager’s responsibility. It is important to set a good example and make time within your busy working day to communicate with your team.
  2. Set up informal cross-training or coaching sessions so employees of different generations can share their respective areas of expertise. Sometimes, the best ideas can come from a fresh graduate, a veteran with 20 years of industry experience or someone in between.
  3. Encourage coaching in both directions, and not just “top down”. A Gen Y employee, for example, may volunteer to mentor a more senior colleague on using online collaboration tools or social media platforms in the workplace.
  4. Allow baby-boomers to take on transitional roles such as a consultant or trainer prior to retirement, to pass on their knowledge to less experienced employees.
  5. Identify your own mentoring and coaching style and encourage your team to do the same. Understanding how people approach career coaching can be useful in making sure you match people correctly and foster more effective collaborations.

A strong mentoring programme can help create an inviting culture where people are constantly sharing knowledge, generating ideas, and are mutually committed to building a successful company. And these will invariably help boost the employee retention rate in your organisation.

Want more team management tips and advice? Visit our team management hub.