Three Key Steps for Mentorship in the Workplace

Mentorship in the workplace can be a critical factor in the overall success of employees. When we think about how often managers do or should interact with their employees, there are opportunities for leaders to naturally serve as mentors.

Because we already ask a lot of our managers, what are some practical tips for mentorship, and are there different strategies whether an employee works on the frontline, in an office, or at home? My fellow advisory board members offered many useful insights as part of the latest weigh-in column. Here, I provide my extended thoughts on this topic.

When looking for an ideal way to mentor either types of workers, or any type of worker for that matter, there are some common tools to consider. Although a one-size approach will not likely fit for all mentorship programs, below are three key activities in which to consider for mentoring frontline and remote workers, and one important consideration when developing any mentorship approach or program.

First, the manager must know if the employee wants to be mentored. The best way to know the answer to that question is to simply discuss this option with the employee. Let them know that you and the company are interested in their professional development and growth — if they, too, are interested in that development and growth. It would be a mistake for a manager to conclude that all workers want to grow professionally, or that they have a desire to be mentored.

It is essential to be clear about the definition of “professional development and growth” with the mentee. Many employees assume such terminology is analogous for getting an automatic promotion or pay increase. While professional development can often lead to pay increases, either within the same company or another company, professional growth and pay increases are not the same, and that distinction is critically important for the mentee to understand when talking about any mentorship program.

Second, when an employee indicates they are interested in being mentored, the next key question is “which job skills” would the employee like to explore developing through a mentorship approach. The mentor and employee should agree upon the outcomes of the program, along with common skills, or set of skills, in which to focus. The importance of defining the purpose of the mentorship approach is essential to its overall success.

After gaining perspective on these two areas, the third step is for the mentor and mentee to jointly develop an action plan in which to proceed. This type of plan will be especially important to frontline employees, since having dedicated and distraction-free time for this work is an essential element to an effective mentoring outcome.

For example, when meetings are scheduled during normal work hours, which will often be the case, consideration must be taken for scheduling meetings around times when a backup person is available during mentor meetings, to help ensure the meetings are uninterrupted. Conversely, remote workers will usually need more intentionality on the time and date to schedule the meetings. And, either type of worker might be interested in eMentoring programs, which can further facilitate mentoring.

One consideration to keep at the forefront of any mentorship program: even though a methodology and one or more processes can be designed for mentoring employees — or even the use of eMentoring programs — all employees, mentor and mentee alike, are unique people. As such, for optimal outcomes in any mentorship scenario, one must necessarily have flexibility in the mentoring method used to allow for individualized customization, even when the customization is relatively minor in nature.