Mentoring or ‘Tormentoring’? It’s all in the program design!
Mentoring can be an invaluable mechanism to help colleagues learn about an organization’s formal practices and culture as well as a way to transfer knowledge and help build professional skills. However, unless the program is well designed, your employees won’t enjoy the process, they won’t be engaged and the results won’t achieve your objectives. A mentoring program that benefits your employees also benefits your organization.
So how do you design a mentoring program that is effective and one that employees will want to participate in?
Why Mentoring Programs Fail
Historically, mentoring was viewed as a way to shape and guide an employee into an image of the “ideal” employee. Spearheaded by Traditionalists, this hierarchical relationship became the standard by which subsequent generations were mentored. Baby Boomers, who were mentored by Traditionalists, had to comply and work hard to be accepted by their mentors in order to move up the organizational ladder.
Some Baby Boomers may now try to use this type of apprenticeship format with Gen Xers and Gen Ys. However, this approach often fails because these two generations will opt out of mentoring programs that don’t focus on their interests and needs.
Designing a Mentoring Program that Interests & Benefits your Employees
Gen Xers don’t want to emulate their mentors and Gen Ys believe their mentors should emulate them. They expect a mentoring relationship to focus on their learning and development needs, not on what the mentor wants to ‘teach’. For both Gen X and Gen Y, it is imperative to create a successful mentoring relationship based on two-way respect and feedback.
Leaders and organizations have recognized that mentoring does not automatically require a more experienced (or older) employee sharing knowledge with a younger employee. Reverse mentoring can also be a useful practice to build productive, engaged teams, where younger employees assist their older colleagues in learning a new skill or technique.
Reverse Mentoring in your Organization
Reverse mentoring allows all four generations to interact and learn from one another. Organizations that actively promote this form of mentoring may find increasing numbers of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who wish to participate as mentees. And, as an added bonus, Gen Ys will be engaged early on as successful contributors to the business.
Sometimes, the experienced generations are reluctant to accept the notion that younger generations have anything to offer.
To overcome this reluctance, HR professionals and leaders should raise awareness of the skill sets that younger colleagues bring to the table. They can also highlight examples of informal reverse-mentoring success stories. For example, ask colleagues what they have learned from their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren to demonstrate that, even outside of work, they frequently learn from younger generations.