In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the benefits of mentoring for organisations. We now explore the benefits of mentoring for individuals.
Mentoring in the workplace: how people benefit
The best mentors are like sherpas, guiding mentees to ascend their personal Everests. But while the benefits of mentoring are perhaps most obvious for mentees, effective mentoring positively impacts both mentees and mentors.
Benefits for mentees
Mentors provide valuable guidance for their mentees’ career development. With deep knowledge of their organisation, significant expertise and established networks, mentors can help mentees gain real development opportunities – from promotions, to being assigned a desired project. The 2019 CNBC/Survey Monkey data found that 71 per cent of employees with a mentor said their company provides them with excellent or good opportunities to advance their career, while just 47 per cent of those without a mentor said the same.
This creates greater job satisfaction: at every income level, more workers who have a mentor say they’re satisfied with their job than those without a mentor. The CNBC/Survey Monkey data also found that the benefit is especially high for younger workers and those at lower levels in organisations: workers under 45 with a mentor reported being satisfied with their job by margins of up to 20 percentage points higher than workers of the same age without mentors. Mentoring, then, is especially important to keep Generation Z and millennials happy at work.
There are financial benefits too. A 2006 study on the value of mentoring conducted over a five-year period on more than 1,000 employees of American technology company Sun Microsystems, found that mentees in the company’s mentorship program were promoted five times more often than those in a control group who weren’t part of the program. And 25 per cent had a salary increase, compared with just five per cent of the control group.
Benefits for mentors
There’s more to gain from being a mentor than just the sense of satisfaction from ‘giving back’. Similar to parents, teachers and coaches, mentors grow as people through their mentoring relationships.
Mentors learn to ask good questions of their mentees (what are your strengths? what are your career aspirations?), to listen, and to see things from their mentee’s perspective, which helps mentors build empathy. And the skills a mentor develops by working with their mentee hones mentors’ leadership capabilities.
Mentors can also learn a lot about their companies and discover new ideas through their mentees. Interacting with a more junior worker improves a mentor’s network. As management expert Terri Scandura says, juniors “can provide information to mentors…. [They] are up on the latest technology and knowledge.” In this way, mentors and mentees interact to become co-learners.
Being a mentor can also create a sense of meaning and purpose, as mentors help mentees navigate career obstacles they may have faced themselves. This is particularly true of women and minorities, who often use mentoring to improve the path of those who are coming up in an organisation after them. For example, 70 per cent of women who mentor other women reported that they chose to mentor in order to be supportive of other women.
Interestingly, the Sun Microsystems research also found that mentoring had positive financial benefits for mentors, with 28 per cent of the mentors in their program getting a salary increase, compared to just five per cent in the control group (and, as mentioned earlier, compared to 25 per cent of mentees – which indicates that being a mentor is potentially more lucrative than being a mentee!).
The power of transformational mentoring
At its heart, mentoring is about building relationships between two people: a mentee and mentor. And like all good relationships, the mentor-mentee relationship has the power to be transformational, opening career doors and pathways for mentees, and catapulting mentors on a journey of personal growth. But this transformation doesn’t just impact the individual participants; it reverberates out to their organisation.
While formal mentoring has historically been directed towards more senior leaders with ‘high potential’, new mentoring platforms such as MentorKey make structured mentoring accessible to all staff. And this is important because the Sun Microsystems research found that Sun’s mentoring program was actually the least effective for their highest performers, with the researchers concluding that “the better investment for Sun would be to spend… money on lower performers to help them raise their level of performance.”
Companies that invest in their people by offering structured mentoring programs that all staff can join will not only be employers of choice, but organisations which thrive.