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Mentoring programs can benefit both employer, employee

It is often said that in a professional-services organization people are your greatest asset. If a business is to live by that mantra, it must develop and nurture talent and provide guidance and direction. Today, mentoring programs are one key way to attract, motivate and retain talented people.

Mentoring provides the tools, experiences, training and means to achieve individual success. At the same time a healthy mentoring environment stimulates both the mentee and mentor.

However, research shows that only one-third of U.S. corporations provide formal mentoring or coaching programs. Many of these programs are small in scope or focused only on fast-track professionals or leadership. Yet, with all of the ups and downs in business and in life, everyone can benefit from having a mentor.

Firms should get into the practice of identifying a mentor for each new employee they hire. That initial assignment serves as the basis for establishing a mentoring relationship. Employees need to be encouraged to develop that mentoring relationship and/or seek other formal or informal mentors throughout their careers. Both formal and informal mentoring activities are valuable and can result in meaningful and candid input to the mentee.

An organized mentoring program can lead to career advancement within a company for the mentee. Having a mentor positively reinforce career goals and objectives can build confidence in a mentee and create opportunities that the mentee either may not have known about or tried to tackle without the mentor’s positive influence.

Range of relationships

It is possible to have mentors for different issues — a technical mentor, a career path mentor and a mentor to look to for work/life balance guidance. All of these mentoring relationships can allow a professional to develop strategies that can be very valuable in achieving overall success.

For instance, with work/life balance programs having become such an important tool to recruit and retain employees, a mentor not only must make the mentee aware of such programs as volunteerism, community service, charitable-giving opportunities and flexible-working arrangements but also actively encourage their participation.

Entering a mentor/mentee relationship should not be taken lightly. A positive mentoring experience can leave a lasting impression on how the mentee deals with trust and relationships with leadership figures in the future.

Listen, share, encourage

A good mentor can inspire a mentee to meet challenges and achieve success. They enable them to see a wider realm of opportunities and provide valuable advice to help them excel in their career. A mentor should listen, share experiences, advise and encourage, and should always have an “open-door” policy.

Once a mentoring relationship is established, trust must be built. It is important that mentors foster a trusting environment by sharing their professional experiences, being open and honest, listening to their mentee and always conducting themselves in a professional and courteous manner.

Mentoring relationships focused on specific goals should periodically revisit the status of the relationship.
If the goals originally established were reached, the mentor and mentee need to determine whether they want to establish new goals and continue the relationship. If goals were not reached, the mentor and mentee need to determine why they were not reached and whether it makes sense to continue the relationship.

This is a time for both the mentor and mentee to evaluate their commitment to the mentoring relationship, the specific goals and the terms of their agreements. Mentoring relationships that “continue forever” without periodic reviews tend to lose their focus and momentum and exhaust resources without meaningful outcomes.

Pay attention

The mentor and mentee may have mixed feelings about ending the structured part of the relationship. The mentor and mentee should pay attention to reactions. This learning is priceless and will help the mentee think through how they will handle the mentor role.

After the mentoring relationship ends, individuals who were mentees will have considerably stronger mentoring skills and knowledge than before. They should then consider playing the mentor role.

The best indicator of a successful mentor/mentee relationship is by the number of people that stay in contact with the mentor after they have advanced within the organization or otherwise moved on in their careers. Mentoring is a selfless act where the leader serves the mentee.

It’s not easy to balance career, family and other obligations, but organizations that adopt mentoring programs that help promote multifaceted career and work/life initiatives have a greater chance at recruiting and retaining the professionals that are respected not only in the world of business but also the world at large.

Ashley Willson is the managing partner for KPMG LLP’s Jackson office. She can be reached at (601) 354-3701 or awillson@kpmg.com.

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