Everyone has already heard the term mentoring. In practice, it usually refers to a very classic mentoring approach: an inexperienced mentee learns from an experienced mentor – and to be a mentor or participate in a mentoring program, you first have to qualify. “Reverse Mentoring” (old learns from young) is slowly (and complementarily) gaining traction. However, most of these programs are still controlled top-down, and thus not by the mentors and mentees themselves, but by an organizer. It’s high time to clear off the dust collecting on conventional mentoring programs!
Still far too often, mentoring programs require a lot of effort
Mentoring can do a lot – and above all be more natural and casual – if we dare to turn away from the classic top-down approach. All too often, mentoring programs are controlled and managed in a very complicated way. Finding and selecting the participants (mentors) is difficult because, of course, they have to make a commitment and will want to be fully involved if they do so. The matching – which mentor best suits which mentee – is sometimes very time-consuming and is often still done by hand.
Mentoring = knowledge transfer
Mentoring can do a lot and, especially within organizations, can contribute to a better transfer of knowledge, a valuable exchange of experience, and a supportive culture. Constant learning, personal development, and the ability to tackle individual challenges – all of which can be promoted through mentoring and ultimately contribute significantly to employee satisfaction and, thus, to the success of the organization.
Basic assumption: anyone can be a mentor
Our basic assumption and conviction is that every person, every employee in a company, in a certain field, or subject area can be a mentor – and in turn everyone can learn from others in certain fields. Using this belief as a foundation and mirroring it on potential mentors and mentees means more and more colleagues will automatically be willing to share their knowledge. The message alone shows appreciation and will delight most recipients, since almost everyone likes to talk about what they do, learn and experience every day, about their specialties, passions and expertise.
Mentoring can be more than personal career development
Mentoring can take on different facets and forms – and provide added value in many more areas than in classic personal career development. There are at least 6 main areas where mentoring can be useful:
1. Subject-related knowledge transfer: Exchange with other experts from the same field
2. Personal Career Development (Classic): Experienced executives advise young talent on career issues.
3. Onboarding: “Old hands” make it easier for newcomers to get into the company.
4. Intercultural exchange: Exchange of experiences with colleagues from other cultures; e.g., before a change of location.
5. Intergenerational exchange: Mutual support between young and old.
6. Interdisciplinarity: Exchange between colleagues from different disciplines and fields.
Mentoring does not need to be a “ball and chain”
Establishing a steady mentoring program for two or more years with regular meetings can be daunting for many. Not because they do not want to get involved, but because there’s an unnecessary hurdle right at the beginning. Maybe a long-term connection develops, but maybe not. Mentoring can and should also be spontaneous, short term, and completely informal – it does not necessarily have to be a ball and chain. When mentoring in organizations becomes more and more a matter of course, a natural behavior, then we have come a step further on our way to a better transfer of knowledge and realized cooperation in an increasingly complex (working) world.