December 2019

The benefits of formal mentoring programs

  • By Dr Ali Burston, Managing Director – Metisphere

When properly managed, formal mentoring programs provide a range of opportunities for both mentors and mentees at all stages of their careers

Although the goals of a mentoring relationship may differ according to context, all good mentoring partnerships involve the transfer of knowledge between a less experienced individual (the mentee) and the more experienced mentor. Mentors can provide insight and expertise to support the mentee’s individual growth and maturity (Allen and Eby, 2007).

Types of mentoring

There are generally two forms of mentoring, outlined below.

Informal mentoring

Informal mentoring typically consists of unstructured sessions with someone the mentee has (or hopes to have) a long-standing relationship with (Inzer and Crawford, 2005). The focus of discussion in these mentoring relationships varies, and is often topical or related to current circumstances. Momentum throughout an informal mentoring relationship is driven through the strength of the connection between mentee and mentor. If that connection cannot be maintained, the mentoring relationship will likely decline in frequency and quality (Gilmore, Coetzee and Schreuder, 2005).

Formal mentoring

Formal mentoring follows a structured framework to assist in several key areas:
• learning and development
• matching of mentors and mentees
• providing formal support for all participants to thrive (Inzer and Crawford, 2005).

Formal programs often consist of participant training to define the scope of the program, suggestions for fostering better communication, and expectations of the mentee to drive outcomes (Allen, Eby and Lentz, 2006; Eby and Lockwood, 2005). Momentum throughout a formal program should be driven by the mentee.

Benefits of participating in a formal mentoring program for mentees

For a mentee, a formal mentoring program encourages self-driven learning and accountability. A mentee is expected to develop agendas and complete tasks or homework. In our experience, formal mentoring programs must clearly articulate mentee expectations and provide tools to enable the mentee to reach their specific goals. This is a key differentiator between informal and formal mentoring program frameworks. Without core accountability, it may be difficult to produce the same level of tangible outcomes within a specific timeframe.

Benefits for new professionals

For new professionals, being mentored can provide a valuable kick-start to a pathway of career fulfilment. Typical benefits for early-career professionals include learning how to navigate workplace politics, setting career goals, and deciding what kind of experiences will benefit you the most to gain early career exposure (Hess and Jepsen, 2009).

Benefits for mid-career professionals

For professionals with strong work experience who are en route to building a career pathway, mentoring conversation topics may be more advanced. Benefits of formal mentoring programs for mid-career professionals include improving technical knowledge, improving leadership and influencing skills, and planning for the next career phase (Isabella, 1988). A mentor can provide practical tools and strategies to help someone transition from a junior role into roles with higher expectations and accountability (Pirotta, 2009).

Benefits for experienced professionals

Professionals with significant work experience may benefit from using a mentor to act as a sounding board, broaden networks or improve specific management skills. Often conversations provide a high-level insight into how better to achieve specific milestones, promotions or appointments (Gilmore, Coetzee and Schreuder, 2005). Alternatively, mentees may explore transitioning into a different role, organisation or industry, and insights from a mentor in the desired field can accelerate that process technically, psychologically and strategically.

Benefits of participating in a formal mentoring program for mentors

Mentoring can be a satisfying and fulfilling experience if entered into for the right reasons. If mentor motivations include genuinely wanting to ‘give something back’ and positively contributing to another person’s professional career journey, then there can be a host of ancillary benefits for the mentor.

Learning about and reflecting on individual strengths and weaknesses

Mentoring can be a very reflective process. Often the advice we give is not the sam advice we always follow. Mentoring provides the opportunity for mentors to reflect on their advice, and perhaps initiate strategies to enhance their personal attributes.

Engaging with the next generation

In a rapidly changing work climate, mentors can greatly benefit from engaging with different generations to develop insight, understand values and learn a different generation’s ‘purpose’ in the world. This can help mentors to become more adaptable leaders. Sometimes there are structural and physical disconnects that keep senior and junior people within the organisation apart (hierarchy and office layout, for example). Bypassing this divide can provide a unique opportunity to understand the motivations and drivers of the mentor’s own junior employees (Allen, 2003; Parise and Forret, 2008).

Improving the talent pipeline

Assisting less experienced individuals to thrive in their careers will create more capable and competent professionals going forward. By assisting in the career development of the next wave of future leaders, mentors can take a sense of pride and accomplishment by passing on their learnings and experiences and helping create a more sustainable and knowledgeable future workforce.

Additional benefits

Research also suggests mentors benefit from:
• enhanced job satisfaction (Ghosh and Reio, 2013)
• enhanced organisational commitment (Ghosh and Reio, 2013)
• an intrinsically rewarding experience (Allen and Eby, 2007)
• improved leadership capability (Allen and Eby, 2007
• higher work performance (Ghosh and Reio, 2013).

Finally, a question that we regularly get asked is, ‘we have an internal mentoring program – why participate in an industry mentoring program?’ The answer is simple: the agenda. Internal mentoring programs have a specific focus on attracting, retaining and developing talent within the organisation. A key focus of an internal mentoring program may involve fostering a graduate through the organisational structure and assisting them to build internal networks to embed themselves within the business.

But industry programs have an agenda to attract, retain and develop talented individuals to strengthen and shape the industry. Industry mentoring programs provide an opportunity for mentees to have a mentor that is outside of their normal network and who does not have an agenda within their workplace. Put simply, their mentor’s advice and guidance is not driven by their organisation’s agenda, and the opportunity to have an unbiased sounding board is extremely valuable.

AusIMM Mentoring Program 2020

The AusIMM launched its inaugural Mentoring Program in March 2020. The aim of the program is to develop a structured, sustainable process that supports mentees through career guidance and direction by sharing experiences, developing career goals and forging exceptional mentoring relationships that last beyond the duration of the program.

The five-month program includes a comprehensive matching framework conducted by a registered psychologist. Successful applicants are provided with the opportunity to learn and receive career guidance from a mentor that is fully invested in their career and development.

Find out more.

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