The benefits of mentoring employees in the workplace are countless. For starters, it helps newer employees learn the office culture and gives them a point person they can go to for feedback or direction when needed. It also helps retain employees by helping them learn faster and feel confident in their work.
However, when mentoring is done wrong it can do more harm than good. According to The Atlantic, the majority of mentorship programs are thrown together by people who have too much on their plates and have never been mentored themselves, leading to mentorship programs that are out of touch with their employees’ needs.
Here are the 3 mistakes everyone is making when it comes to mentoring employees.
Mistake #1: Thinking Anyone Can Mentor
A mentor’s duty is to impart wisdom, give advice, and help a newer employee integrate into the company culture: I’ve written an entire blog post about why this matters. It might seem like any longtime employee would be able to handle those tasks, but you’d be surprised: many mentors are overworked, disengaged, or otherwise unable to give mentoring their full attention.
Don’t just assume that any supervisor, including yourself, would make a good mentor. You need someone who is honest, objective, fair, dedicated, a model of the company culture, and above all, enthusiastic about the project.
On the flip side, an employee you might have otherwise overlooked could make an incredible mentor. Asking for volunteers is a great way to make sure your mentors actually want to be involved, but you should then evaluate the candidates to make sure they have what it takes.
Mistake #2: Sticking to Your Own Department
Many mentorship programs operate by assigning a mentor to a junior employee in their own department. This is fine, as the employee will be able to talk to someone about their work and see what their future career path could look like. However, sometimes it’s better to think outside the department.
Mentoring employees from other departments can be beneficial to both parties, as you’ll experience different viewpoints and gain a deeper understanding of how the company works together as a whole.
Like I said, some of the most important qualities of a mentor are enthusiasm and demonstrating the company culture. Only considering mentors within the same department as the junior employee could prevent a truly stellar mentor from having the chance to shine. In the Law of Empowerment, John Maxwell writes “To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential.”
Mistake #3: Relying on Tradition
Traditional forms of mentoring—such as an older, more experienced employee taking a younger, newer employee under their wing—might work for some, but it shouldn’t be the only approach you take with your mentorship program.
In many cases, employees can benefit from mentors that are close to their own age even if the mentor has slightly less experience in the workforce. According to Forbes, peers can hold each other accountable and check each other’s’ work without having to worry about a power imbalance in the relationship: it’s mutually beneficial.
Mentoring the next generation of leaders is our obligation as managers and leaders. If you would like to learn more about mentoring the next generation, click here for a complimentary video coaching call. I will help you with some creative ideas.