The word mentor, as a noun, is defined as an experienced and trusted adviser. As a verb, it means to advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague). A mentor invests time and energy in the growth and development of his or her mentee, and can be an integral part of future success.
In the specific context of the workplace, a mentor should not be confused with a career sponsor. A sponsor is similar to a mentor, but specializes in helping you to excel within a particular organization, often for a specialized role within it.
Although mentors do not have to be a part of your organization, there are many benefits to both employees and employers in the organizations who foster these types of professional relationships.
For the employer, mentored employees are often more productive. They can turn to their mentors for advice, and they make fewer mistakes resulting in decreased losses to their employers. Employees in a mentoring relationship tend to note higher job satisfaction as well, which means increased morale and potentially fewer turnovers. A company can tout the benefits of their mentoring program to attract high-quality talent.
Likewise, employees themselves benefit from having experienced guidance to shorten the learning curve and accelerate their careers. A trusted advisor can help them navigate the ever-changing professional landscape, avoid costly mistakes, and expand their professional network through connecting them with more established colleagues and contacts.
In any given profession, the long-term benefits of mentoring are that of strengthened communication and problem-solving skills, a deeper commitment to the sharing of information and collaboration, and an interest in the participation in professional organizations which benefit all involved and the progression of the profession at large.
If your organization is contemplating the inclusion of a mentoring program, it seems that starting as early as possible, adopting a multi-mentor program and encouraging cross-cultural mentoring are all worth consideration.
This article explains how earlier and improved mentoring in academia, specifically in PHD programs, could be the key to taking isolated, paranoid and and depressed students (which are quite common among these program) and helping them to thrive. PHD programs have an estimated dropout rate of over 50 percent, though research tells us the vast majority possess the academic ability to succeed. If mentoring can change that, imagine what it could do to the average, disenfranchised employee?
Finally, cross-cultural mentoring is an important idea to consider. As defined by Betty Neal Crutcher, cross-cultural mentoring involves the ongoing, intentional, and mutually enriching relationship with someone of a different race, gender, ethnicity, religion, cultural background, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or nationality. Betty believes that cross-cultural mentoring can be a pathway to make excellence inclusive, the next step in bringing us closer to the world of our dreams.
The importance of having a mentor in long-term professional success cannot be understated. So to develop and foster these types of relationships within your organization can be a fantastic way to standout in your industry. It will help you to develop top-performing employees with stronger communication skills and a commitment to collaboration, decrease losses, increase productivity, and ensure higher company morale. It can even help you to attract high-quality talent.
And after all, what organization can say it wouldn’t be interested in adopting a pathway to making excellence inclusive?