Why does your company need a mentoring program?

One of the main problems that organizations have in our country (and, in fact, in the whole continent) has to do with the very way in which the idea of business has been assumed. For a long time, since the times of wealth and growth, in the middle of the last century, the business world has focused on the mere idea of production, enrichment, and expansion. Precisely, that is where the problem lies since, although it is necessary to make money and not stop growing, it is also necessary to think of the world we are building. Creating a business culture is as important as economic development. One of the ways to foster that business culture is through mentoring.

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Mentoring is closely linked to our Western literary history. In Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ we find the term ‘mentoring’ for the first time. Mentor was an old man who lived in Ithaca, and who was responsible for helping Ulysses in his absence during the War of Troy. His work also consisted of training Telemachus, the first son of the hero. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Athena used the face of Mentor when she wanted to communicate with Telemachus while he was looking for his father.

Recommended: Coach or Mentor? You Need Both

Therefore, a mentor refers to a counselor, someone who is capable of giving wise and prudent advice. Recently, the term has been widely used in the business environment since it has allowed to enhance the learning of employees based on the help of more experienced workers. There are two great types of mentoring. The best-known is called ‘behavioral mentoring.’ In this category, there is typically someone with more experience that tells the mentee what things should be done and how according to the way the mentor has worked for years in the company. This is a simple transmission of knowledge, like a father who’s teaching his son how to keep carrying out his profession.

The other mode of mentoring is known as ‘development mentoring.’ In this type, the process is not limited to a vertical transmission of knowledge from a mentor to a mentee. Here the mentor seeks, above all, that the mentee develops skills, finds ways to solve problems, to find ways to develop his or her own methods. For this reason, although the mentor must be someone experienced, it is more important that he or she be trained to develop the mentee’s intelligence.

Read also: Why people in the business world need a mentor?, by Suzzanne Uhland

This type of programs, especially the second one, not only allows the productive capacities of the company to continue in constant expansion but help the employees to build themselves as persons. It is, in some way, a social investment. When employees have gone through mentoring processes, particularly development mentoring ones, they generally positively affect the business environment and produce changes in other employees and processes of the entire company. This happens, above all, because development mentoring aims at a modification of the identity rather than just a behavioral programming. When the mentees have changed (actually, improved) a series of mental patterns, they become better people and employees.

Mentoring is more than a necessity for companies. Some might think that mentoring processes only take place in large companies, with a large human resources departments. Actually, it is not like that. In fact, mentoring programs in small and medium-sized companies have been as frequent as in large ones, and for several decades.

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The reasons why a company needs mentoring programs are basically two. The first one is that companies, like all systems, are becoming more complex as they grow and form subsystems (in the form of departments, such as logistics, marketing, production, etc.,) and these, in turn, gain depth during the growth of the company. This is one of the great objectives of any organization, but here there may be a problem if the departments start operating as independent entities and thus lose the direction of where the organization should go as a whole. Mentoring is, then, a way of building bridges between different areas, of transmitting knowledge among them and redistributing information more equitably.

The second reason is that mentoring itself leads us to question the idea of professional success. What does it mean to be successful? Certainly, it is not just about making money, but about building ourselves as people. Mentoring, then, is a possibility to do so, to bring new values to society, instead of focusing solely on productivity.

Mentoring makes us more human, in a moment of history when the obsessions with artificial intelligence and large-scale automation processes force us to rethink our situation in the world as human beings. Companies do not function thanks to the workforce of millions of machines (at least not for now,) but thanks to human beings who feel, who dream, who seek to improve themselves. So, it does not matter what industry a company belongs to, nor how big it is. A mentoring program can be tremendously beneficial in any case.

In this TED video, Kam Phillips explains how mentoring has the ability to change the world.

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Mentoring techniques: Which suits you best?

Coaching and mentoring are widely used strategies by organizations to promote the development of the potential of their employees which have been implemented in our country for more than four decades. This type of human resources techniques is very useful to encourage the adaptation to the change of the employees both operationally and technologically.

Nowadays, some of the capabilities that most companies look for in their employees include implication, commitment, and adaptation to change. For this reason, it is important to make a series of improvements within organizations and go beyond the role of managers. These must acquire a different role, which is not only to direct, control, and order, but also to guide and teach their employees. They must know how to give the necessary tools so that their work team can carry out all the work for themselves, revitalizing the value of the work done and the objectives achieved.

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For this reason, the training departments of companies today should help the development of this type of skills by encouraging the constant learning of their employees. Companies seek to develop both interpersonal and professional competencies at the same time, but they usually tend to develop only interpersonal skills.

Mentoring techniques are one of the most effective tools for disseminating knowledge which are often produced internally, with an applied approach that ensures the transfer of knowledge and, at a lower cost than an extensive training plan.

Read also: How To Start A Great Mentoring Program At Work, by Suzzanne Uhland

One of the best-known techniques is sponsorship mentoring. In this category, the power and influence of the mentor are important to the relationship. In addition, supervising or being responsible for the development of the mentee is a task that the mentor performs according to his or her ways. The important thing to understand here is that this modality of mentoring is based on the fact that the mentor takes charge and is permanently aware of the development of the mentee.

Rather than the mere observation of a vertical relationship between boss and employee, what is important here is the transmission of knowledge and the verification that this knowledge is properly assimilated. In addition to the technical knowledge that can be conveyed, one of the most remarkable aspects of sponsorship mentoring is the transmission of the wisdom derived from years of experience: Precisely, what textbooks do not teach.

It should be noted that the transmission of knowledge here is unilateral. This means that only the mentor teaches the mentee, and this often happens with bosses who, for example, are about to retire and need to leave someone in the position they are going to leave behind. For this reason, the power and authority of the mentor are basic aspects of this teaching relationship. In fact, the mentor often acts on behalf of the mentee to make decisions, and for this reason, this technique is usually not free from conflicts in practice. Although it may be very useful, and, in fact, it has been for many years, each time it loses more strength as a trend.

On the other hand, development mentoring is a technique in which the main idea consists mainly of co-learning. This means that someone should help others to make better decisions and increase their wisdom, as a result of a deep self-awareness, but it is not a one-sided relationship, unlike sponsorship mentoring. This technique, much more trendy than the other, is focused on finding someone’s best skills and helping them to reach the maximum potential they can so that they (mentors and mentees) can be what they want to become. It is not a usual experience within traditional organizations where employees simply adapt to the company’s schemes, and can rarely deploy creativity and implement the knowledge learned in college.

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In broad terms, development mentoring points to a relationship without hierarchy. In this case, what is really relevant is the experience that can be shared by the mentor and the mentee. The key skill of the mentor in this learning relationship lies in being able to adapt to the nature of the aid provided to the mentee’s needs over time.

Both learn here by using this technique. This is quite positive since, in this way, the mentor also oxygenates his or her knowledge with what mentees bring from the universities. Above all, when it comes to technology, mentors always have things to learn. Therefore, in mentoring development, the power and authority of the mentor are not highly important. The mentor, rather than instructing the mentee, teaches him or her to think, to decide what he or she wants and to plan a way to reach it. This relationship, based on opportunities for mutual learning and friendship, tends to be more positive in practice, especially in a millennial society.

Adopting one technique or another depends mostly on the way the company has operated in the past and on the decisions of employees that may offer new ideas and can be listened.

Which suits you best?

Recommended: Modern Mentoring Is The Key To Retaining Millennials 

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