Our latest two blogs have focused on learning & development and how to make this work within a small or medium-sized business. In the same vein, we mustn’t forget about mentoring and the value this can provide to any size business, big or small. Smaller businesses often write-off the idea of rolling-out a mentoring program because it's often thought that it can only really work in a large organisation with an HR department to manage the scheme. However, read on to understand how, if approached in the right way, you can get mentoring running effectively in your small or medium sized business.
Mentoring should be informal and non-hierarchical. It simply provides employees with a dedicated person in which they can confide, seek support with work issues and help to develop knowledge in a specific area. It complements the relationship the individual has with their direct line manager, as opposed to replacing it.
It differs from coaching in so far as a business mentor will have specific knowledge that they can share with the mentee as a way of helping to inform, whereas a business coach will use questioning techniques to unlock knowledge as well as helping the individual apply this learning to their everyday tasks.
There’s no point introducing a mentoring scheme for the sake of it and without being clear about what you actually want to achieve. Make sure you link this back to the overall business strategy as well as your learning and development strategy. Are you struggling to find the right people to support growth plans? Are you having retention issues because employees just don’t feel supported? Do you need to think about succession planning in case key people were to leave in the future? Within a small business you can target your efforts in areas which can make a true difference.
Keep it very simple – There’s no need to create a complex program which involves all manner of administration. Mentoring should be a formalised informal process and mentees should be supported as opposed to micromanaged and constantly hassled. As the business owner or manager, you should lead by example because if your employees see you investing your time in others, they are more likely to want to do the same.
Who in your business do you feel would benefit from being mentored and who do you think would be best to mentor them? Don’t be afraid to ask the mentees themselves who they would potentially like to work with and who they feel they would learn best from. Make it clear to all involved that it’s a learning and development opportunity.
Of course you can’t just match a ‘couple’ and hope for the best. It’s important, in this two-way relationship that both parties understand what success looks like and the best approach for learning and support. You don’t need to spend loads of time and money on expensive external training programs, however, you could simply start by running a few lunch and learn sessions to explain what mentoring is, why you’re running the scheme, how it fits in with your overall strategic direction and the types of skills and attitudes your mentors should have.
As you can see, it really can be very simple to roll-out within an SME and you can realise some far reaching benefits for the company, the mentor and the mentee. What can sometimes be tricky is making sure you keep the momentum going once the program has begun. There’s no point entering into it with the greatest of intentions, communicating it to the entire business, with it fizzling out quicker than it’s begun.
So, if you have limited capacity to support such a scheme you could think about who could run it for you or of course employ third party assistance. If you would like to talk about a mentoring scheme or your learning and development strategy in general, please contact me now on: 01453 297557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.