My career growth was not only as a result of my dedication to my work, but also as a result of the mentors that I included in my career journey. I have had about 10 mentors in my career so far and they have been instrumental in creating my career success. I have also had the opportunity to drive mentoring programmes for organisations and to volunteer in various mentoring programmes.

A mentoring culture is where all employees have access to experienced business advisors internally or externally and where the focus is on supporting mentoring throughout the organisation. It is therefore not only about having a mentoring programme, but also about continuously driving the culture by:

  • Linking it to strategic business needs.
  • Building the ready-now-capacity of mentors.
  • Entrenching support mechanisms that ensure the process is consumable.
  • Identifying mentoring opportunities that are aligned to organisational growth.
  • Continuously reviewing and measuring impact and need for mentoring, and reinventing to maintain relevance where applicable.
  • Aligning mentoring to the organisational culture.
  • Ensuring continuity by entrenching a self-learning culture.

Business case

Businesses operate in a Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Technical skills are evolving faster and that change comes with the need to have a workforce that adapts quickly, is learning agile and resilient.

More than 50% of the workforce are millennials and they are asking for someone to learn from. Organisations that consistently create value for mentoring achieve positive results and these include:

  • Increased retention rates.
  • Improved staff morale.
  • Engaged teams.
  • A heightened individual and organisational learning mindset.
  • Accelerated leadership development.

5 key steps to building a mentoring culture

I found the below 5 steps from my experience in building a mentoring culture in organistions very useful:

1. Define: this is about developing what the meaning of a mentoring culture means for your organisation. Assess the cultural context in which mentoring will be implemented. The critical key stakeholders include leaders of the organisation across functions. It is critical to ensure buy-in or alignment right from the beginning by including leaders at the concept stage.

2. Develop: craft a mentoring process, develop supporting material/ documents, clarify roles and responsibilities. This allows both mentors and mentees to know how to practically use your mentoring guidelines. This includes mentoring opportunities, which could be the what, when and how of embarking on mentoring. For example, you can use mentoring for:

a. High-potential employees.

b. Technical expertise.

c. New hires.

d. Leadership development.

e. Graduate development.

f. Peer mentoring, etc.

Its beneficial to outline the mentoring opportunities so that you are able to measure and direct energies to key business needs for mentoring.

3. Activate: Activation includes creating awareness, alerting all employees about the what and how of mentoring, and training both mentors and mentees. Employees seek mentoring as a way of developing or improving their skills, so it is important that communication when activating, is clear and simple. It helps as HRD professional that our communication material is simple and specific. For example, a one-pager explaining the process (documents, tools, roles, timelines, etc.) is impactful. Have regular information sessions about mentoring, plan regular training, etc.

4. Measure: This is about measuring impact and applicability. I encourage regular reviews to assess progress. During a recent project, I had monthly review sessions with mentors and mentees about the mentoring process and progress on their mentoring goals, and this proved useful for both parties, since this was a newly acquired skill for them. We then had quarterly reviews. The internal HRD person’s role was to follow up on outcomes/action plans and rectify where necessary.

5. Sustain: this is about ensuring that a mentoring programme is not a once-off event that is merely revisited every two years, or when employee engagement surveys suggest that there is not career development. Embed the mentoring process into your talent management process and create regular check-in points. Practically, this could mean that you could include mentoring in your talent management calendar/processes by:

a. Recruiting/encouraging leaders to participate as mentors on a yearly basis.

b. Arranging regular training opportunities for mentors.

c. That the performance management process includes mentoring as one of the learning options.

d. Culture creation, etc.

We live in a competitive business climate where the need for continuous learning is critical. We are also hungry for meaningful human connections. Mentoring provides a blend of learning and human interaction. It encourages individuals to grow and thrive and when individuals thrive, the organisation grows.

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