Chitra Baskar, Chief Operating Officer and Global Head of Funds & Product at Intertrust Group.
Earlier this year, LinkedIn published a list of the 50 best companies to grow a career. According to the report, the most attractive companies set themselves apart with three things: flexible work, healthcare benefits and professional development opportunities (for example, mentorship).
These days, employees, many of whom are in the beginning chapters of their career stories, are relying on mentorship more than ever. Professionals from all walks have considered joining the so-called “Great Resignation” as they consider themselves to be at a career crossroads. Who can blame them? After the emotional intensity of the past two years, it’s clear many people are feeling lost both personally and professionally.
As some employers look to update mentorship programs or even explore the mutual benefits of a program for the first time, the following considerations are critical in order to give mentees the needed guidance and support.
Assess Company Communications
Particularly, when I think about mentorship, I think it’s easy for global organizations to tout robust and often cross-country programs, but I always find myself asking: Is the underlying message of mentorship even embedded in their culture?
To have a mentorship program within your organization is one thing, but to be consistently communicating the importance of helping each other (whether on a work project or just navigating a healthy work/life balance) is another. Mentorship is not a one-time program. It cannot be transactional. To be successful, a business needs to create the right environment first. Enabling an atmosphere where mentorship is a serious part of a management role can inherently create a deeper-rooted company culture.
Organizations should methodically analyze their corporate communications. How much is the “work together” and “team” mentality woven into the fabric of the company’s conversations? What about phrasing surrounding assisting or supporting one another?
True mentorship may require an organization to retool its ethos to align accordingly.
Not Every Program Should Be Rigid
While most company-backed programs could and should provide structure, a forced framework can prevent organic mentorship from happening. It’s the simplest piece to fit into this puzzle: being human.
In the 30 years I’ve been working, the people who inspired me most and I’ve felt the closest to are those who I met and connected with in a similar fashion to how I’d make friends. It was organic, based on common interests or shared values. Sometimes it started with a question and that question led to wise counsel, which then led to problem-solving. Other times it started with one person listening to another because they needed an ear. Companies big or small should consider the possibility of mentorship in a less formal capacity. If two people are in sync, leave them to explore that relationship. It’s often more successful than formal assignments.
It should be a given that managers, at a base level, are mentoring people they work with. Providing feedback that isn’t always task-oriented can be considered mentorship—and it should be encouraged at all levels of the organization.
Educate Employees On Expectations
In any circumstance, formal or not, it’s important companies also educate employees on general protocol. Often, mentees assume mentorship means “training.” That is not the case.
Mentorship should not be rigid, but rather it should be up to the mentee to come up with a list of challenges they want to overcome. As for the mentor, seeing what they can do to influence their mentee’s personal growth is key, too. It’s on mentors to help paint the bigger picture and think beyond the confines of their current jobs.
In the end, the mentor-mentee relationship can be the answer to a plethora of business obstacles—retention, problem-solving, creativity blocks, growth, you name it. In today’s world, a management team that can hold onto people is critical. Having a solid program in place that reflects your company spirit can significantly change for the better the way employees feel about your business.
On this point, I invoke the popular maxim, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think if we remember this, then the people involved can only succeed.