Is Mentoring Only for Young Professionals?

Business professionals agree that the resurgence of mentoring and the proven techniques of the practice is indeed a best practice for developing one’s organizational employees. Many companies today not only use mentoring extensively and inclusively for employee development, but they also tout the metrics of its success as a mechanism to boast higher employee retention, engage employees, and broaden the succession strategy as an overall company goal. For years mentoring has evolved from a formal to an informal developmental partnership where employees can gain advice, seek guidance from seasoned professionals, and target growth areas within their professional growth journey. So as we come upon National Mentoring Month for January 2017, why do so many believe that campaigns related to the importance of mentoring are only relevant for our youth?

National Youth Mentoring Month
National Mentoring Month is a campaign held each January to promote youth mentoring in the United States. It was inaugurated in 2002, and has been spearheaded by the Harvard School of Public Health,, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The outgoing President Barack Obama joined the efforts of The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) and declared in January 2016 that National Mentoring Month should stand as a presidential proclamation. As I continue to research best practices for adult mentoring, I am often fascinated as to why there is an overwhelming amount of material for youth mentoring, and varied amounts for professional and business mentoring. This is particularly concerning since adult mentoring can contribute to an employee’s growth tenure, overall company savings, along with producing highly engaged professionals.

Our Changing Workforce Requires Adult Mentoring
As aging baby boomers are exiting the workforce as they reach retirement age, companies locally and nationally do not want this valuable institutional knowledge leaving with them, which adds to the importance of adult mentoring programs. When this workforce moves on and retires, decades of experience will go with them unless a company has plans in place so that their knowledge is inherited by Gen X and millennial employees. Professional adult mentoring programs are a proactive mechanism, to prepare your organization, remain forward thinking, and prevent institutional knowledge from leaving your well-established practices and processes.

Encouraging Adult Mentoring Opportunities
I completely agree that a longstanding public awareness campaign should encourage all Americans to Mentor “In Real Life” as reads in the proclamation. However, I believe we miss an opportunity to create healthy thriving adults by not focusing our efforts towards individuals in an environment where they spend over 50% of their lives. To add to the importance of the campaign the relevance of mentoring on adults, while not always highlighted, continues to be an opportunity to engage and promote a company’s workforce personnel to better themselves, and perhaps reach back while moving others along. This philosophy starts with the impact on our youth, but can also be bridged effectively with adult mentoring programs.
Successful business mentoring programs continue to recognize that time spent mentoring individuals can enhance the competencies of others while also transferring knowledge and increasing the internal talent of a group of professionals. Within the Fortune 500 today, about 70% of the companies have formalized mentoring programs. In other companies, about half have mentoring functions in place that are working effectively and deploying thriving adult employees.

The Final Verdict
While three parts of the organization benefit from a formal mentoring program: the mentor, the mentee, and the organization itself, adult mentoring in the workplace can make the difference between a productive employee and an underachiever whose potential has not been fully tapped. Investing, promoting, and campaigning for mentoring programs in an organization is an easy task, as long as you are willing to do the research to demonstrate the business case for a program, versus the missed opportunities for employee development without one. If helping others is one of your passions in life, the option to mentor individuals at work can be one that is rich, rewarding, and very fulfilling. I personally enjoy seeing someone grow, move along their career continuum, and ultimately see the best parts of themselves develop through nurturing and support.

If you or your organization would like to find out more about adult mentoring opportunities, and how a mentoring program can help bridge the gaps experienced from missing employee engagement please reach out and connect with us at Coley & Associates. We are here to help move your organization forward, and we are passionate about what we do and committed to making a positive difference in our customers’ businesses and the world around us.

By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

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