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8th Mar, 2023

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Digital Content Writer

Investment in employee progression is one of the best ways to become an employer of choice today.

Mentoring is a win-win experience for both parties. It not only benefits the mentee in learning from a more experienced professional but has ‘reverse mentoring’ advantages – where the junior employee shares their expertise, often in tech-related topics, with a senior colleague. This can help build professionals’ confidence and encourage them to meet their career goals.

It’s an excellent learning and development strategy/practice and has been proven to boost business growth.

Nick Ross, Founder and CEO of Guider, a platform that facilitates peer learning and external mentoring relationships, including that of our own Women in Technology Mentoring Programme, explains more in his interview:

Nick Ross - Guider founder and CEO

Nick Ross, Founder and CEO, Guider

Q: Why is it important for businesses to have a mentoring scheme?

A: Unlike many corporate employee practices, mentoring and its benefits are not a new phenomenon. Mentoring in itself has played a fundamental role in society since the days of Socrates and Plato – filling the human desire to connect, share knowledge, support and learn from others.

The impact of formal mentoring in a workplace context has been well documented, and the idea that a company wouldn’t have a mentoring scheme in place in 2023 is absurd to me. Why would you not want to connect your employees to have meaningful conversations resulting in increased fulfilment, progression opportunities, confidence, productivity and more?

The real challenge most businesses face is the ability to scale mentoring beyond a small programme, to truly create a culture of social-learning and knowledge-sharing in their organisation.

Q: Who is mentoring for?

A: Truly, everyone.

Find me someone who would not benefit from speaking to another well-matched person about a challenge they are having, or someone who could not offer support on something they are skilled at.

There’s still a prevalent misconception around mentoring that to be a good mentor you need to be over 40 years of age, have decades of experience in your industry, and in a leadership role. This is an outdated view which limits access to mentorship and reinforces barriers for those from under-represented groups.

If you have done something a few times, you’ll be able to mentor someone who has never done it – it’s that simple. So, from a business perspective, the more different types of people you have coming together and sharing perspectives and personal experiences, the better for your workforce.

Q: Is there a reluctance among older UK workers to seek mentorship? If so, how can this be changed?

A: I think the reluctance to seek mentorship can come from a number of factors. These outdated conceptions that a mentee must be young and junior, and a mentor more senior, means older workers do not see mentorship as being something that’s for them.

It also comes from a lack of access. Approaching someone to be your mentor is a daunting task for anyone, let alone an older worker who doesn’t think they fit the profile of a ‘mentee’.

Organisations should be working hard to re-educate their workforce on what mentoring is – critically that it’s a two-way relationship where both parties learn and grow. Implementing the concepts of peer mentoring [where people at the same career stage support each other and share knowledge and skills] and reverse mentoring will help more senior workers feel included, and that they have something to offer as well as learn. They then need to provide equal access to mentoring opportunities for all employees that want it; platforms like Guider enable that to happen.

Q: To what extent is mentoring an effective form of upskilling?

A: Incredibly effective. Research has shown that we are more likely to retain knowledge when it comes from someone we trust and respect. Whereas 90% of new skills learned through formal training are forgotten in 60 days, according to research by Qstream.

Humans are social creatures, and if we had a choice to learn by watching a five-part video course on a learning management system or having someone who has done it many times explain it to us in a personable way on a call, the latter would win almost every time.

That’s not to say formal training is redundant, but mentoring can help to make sure that knowledge is retained and put into use in the context of your business.

Q: How can mentees get the most from their mentor?

A: Self-awareness and preparation is the key to great mentoring relationships. You should go into mentoring with a good idea of what you’re looking to improve, gain, or work through, because a mentor can’t tell you.

If you have a mentor, you should be coming to each session prepared to maximise the time together, because it goes quickly! Be curious, ask good questions that help you learn from your mentor’s experiences.

Finally, I always recommend sending an agenda to your mentor the day before, outlining what you’d like to cover. It helps them come to the session prepared too, and means you get to the good stuff quicker.

Q: What makes a good mentor?

A: Someone who sees the relationship as a learning opportunity for them as well as their mentee. There’s nothing worse than a mentor who thinks they have everything to give and nothing to gain.

Good mentors are also working on their growth and development throughout the experience, honing their management and communication skills, and learning from someone else’s perspectives. They are open about their own weaknesses and mistakes, which helps build trust and balance the dynamic in the relationship.

Another trait of a great mentor is the ability to actively listen. You’re not there to give your life story – be inquisitive of your mentee’s situation, challenges and goals, and then use your experience to share ideas with them.

Q: How can successful mentoring relationships be built?

A: Like any relationship, building a successful mentorship takes commitment from both sides, consistency and good communication.

What I’m really proud of with the Guider platform, is how easy it is to make quality matches and get connected quickly. When you match with the right person and get that chemistry, it’s much more likely that your mentorship will thrive.

Often the most successful relationships are down to chemistry. When you feel that you’re bonding with someone and able to trust them, you’re going to be able to open up and start seeing value from those meetings. We see that once people get talking and feel connected, the sky is the limit for mentoring.

Q: What is the business case for offering a mentoring scheme?

A: At this point, the question is really what’s the business case for not mentoring?!

There are so many benefits: more engaged employees, upskilling for both parties, better retention and satisfaction rates – the list is endless. Best of all, mentoring tackles some of the biggest blockers to building productive workplaces with one smart solution.

Of course, businesses large and small will always have to think of their bottom line. Thankfully, many of the benefits of mentoring provide essential investments that will save money long-term. Think about the cost of developing and retaining your staff: mentoring provides an excellent opportunity to tackle both these issues in one. That’s a benefit you just can’t ignore.

Q: What are the benefits of external vs internal mentoring?

A: Really, I think both have huge benefits to the people involved. These will differ slightly between the two but overall, it’s worth seeking out both internal and external mentoring opportunities when you can.

Internal mentoring is a great way to expand your network within your current business. This can help you gain insight into other teams or areas that can develop skills and career direction. It’s also a great way to build a positive working culture as everyone you’re interacting with in that scheme will be benefitting.

On the other hand, external mentoring is great for smaller organisations where you can’t match people effectively internally. It opens people up to new businesses and industries, to essentially learn faster and bring all that learning back into their organisation. One of the key benefits of external mentoring is how much it can help you build a network beyond your current role – these are the people who will support you throughout your career as you grow and develop.

Q: How can business leaders nurture their mentoring schemes?

A: We always say that one of your first steps to setting up a mentoring programme for success is to get senior leaders involved in mentoring.

Their buy-in will help promote the scheme to the wider business and will have a trickle-down effect on building a mentoring culture. So, the best way a business leader can nurture their scheme is through participation.

On top of this, singing the praises of the people involved is fantastic for promoting the programme. Champion your programme as widely as possible and really make sure people know that commitment to mentoring is recognised and rewarded.

To find a talented professional or take the next step in your career, contact your nearest Reed office.