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Mentoring can reinforce workplace culture 

Shaney Pendleton

Mentoring is an opportunity for more experienced employees to share their knowledge and encouragement with junior members while also discovering leadership skills. Whether it is one-on-one, informal or part of a structured program, mentoring can showcase a strong workplace culture.

Shaney Pendleton, All Walks of Life‘s COO said “mentoring reinforces the workplace culture because it allows new people to see practical examples of the expectations within the organization.”

Susan Katz, CEO of Susan Katz Advantage business coaching, notes it is important to have advocates for an organization as mentors. Besides showing faith in senior employees by asking them to help others, mentorship tells mentees the company cares about them. “They are investing someone else’s time in helping them to be more successful in their job because mentorship is all about helping someone to be more successful,” she said. “… Mentorship is a great way to build workplace and career connections.”

Pairing people together who will complement strengths while also assist with areas of improvement is also critical. “You don’t always have a perfect match, and I think at the same time it is really important to think — where does a person need to be developed and who can help them do that,” Katz said. “… If you are not good at a certain aspect of the job, finding somebody who is really good at that can help you develop that skill.”

Pendleton cautions companies to make sure each mentor is invested in the organization’s vision and goals. They could be disgruntled or looking for another job, which could lead to creating a poor cultural environment. “We are talking about cultivating people that you want to grow with your organization or at least give you (a) good amount of time to grow there,” she said. “You (could be) pairing them with a mentor that is encouraging them to leave.”

Wisdom is often a term associated with mentoring. But Pendleton said “wisdom is only useful if it is applied.” She believes there is no point in a junior employee fumbling through a task if someone on staff can help provide guidance on best practices as well as exploring pros and cons of other options they are considering.

Eileen Levitt

Eileen Levitt, founder and CEO of The HR Team, said companies with a large number of junior employees with limited real-world experience should offer a formal mentoring program. This will help them navigate the corporate culture and better understand potential career paths.

In years past, she recalls companies providing extensive training and development for employees when they first started. After the 2008-9, Great Recession, these programs were discontinued or scaled back. “You have a whole generation of managers who don’t know how to manage and employees who don’t understand what is expected of them and don’t have solid career paths,” Levitt said.

With many companies staying remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Levitt ponders how new talent is grown and developed as new employees can’t just ask a quick question and a manager won’t see them struggling.

“It is harder to develop in the virtual world we are in so you need something (like a mentoring program),” Levitt said. “The biggest issues that I have seen with young people is they don’t know when to ask questions. Sometimes they are embarrassed to ask the questions they need to ask.” Mentoring, she said, can help them learn how and when they should ask for help.

Susan Katz

The structure of the mentoring, whether formal or informal, depends on the organization and those involved. Katz believes that coming up with achievable goals drives the mentoring structure as well as setting up clear expectations for the mentor and mentee, including what to discuss, how often to meet and expectations.

“Regardless of whatever structure you set up, I think having a conversation around clear expectations on both sides becomes really important so that everybody knows what they are working toward and I think it will be a more effective program,” Katz said.

For those companies that offer a robust mentoring program, experts note this signals to potential new employees that development is valued and important to them. “They want them to be successful and they are investing the resources,” Katz said. “If you are taking someone away from doing their job that is a resource. So I think it definitely let’s them know that they care about them developing as an employee.”

Pendleton agreed, noting a robust mentoring program shows investment in employee well being and “that somebody before you has mastered it and that it can be accomplished,” she said.

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.