How to build a mentoring culture in your company
Most on-the-job training happens outside of a structured classroom environment. That’s why mentoring
plays a crucial role in preparing your staff to
excel at their job responsibilities and grooming your company’s future leaders.
“Over the last five to 10 years, there’s been
a significant increase in the commitment by
employers to employee engagement,” says
Brian Lamb, business banking executive
with Fifth Third Bank Tampa Bay and director of Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance.
“Unless you really support a culture of developing your employees, you’re not developing them to their full potential and most likely will lose them to competition that does.”
Smart Business spoke with Lamb on the
importance of building an effective mentoring culture in your company.
What are the different ways that mentoring
can take place at a company?
Mentoring typically falls into two main categories: formal or informal. The first occurs
when employees go through a company-structured mentoring program that focuses
on exposing top talent to different parts of
the organization for professional development. This could happen because the leadership team has identified key employees
that they want to develop for the next stage
of their professional career or this formal
system could train employees for new functional areas. For example, someone in the
product development area who wants to
transition into sales could spend time with a
sales leader to learn key roles and responsibilities of the particular position. If a company is considering a formal program, I would
encourage the senior leadership to work
with the human resources department to
ensure they build a sustainable mentorship
program that is a good fit for the company.
Informal mentoring may focus less on
building technical expertise and more on
individual employee development and professional guidance. These types of relationships can occur when key leadership identifies employees with the talent and ability to
move to the next level. I have personally benefited from the informal approach to mentoring by having a trusted adviser help me
make tough career decisions or share past
experiences on topics that impact daily job
Should this take place as soon as employees
Mentoring can happen in various stages.
The key point is that mentoring should meet
the personal or professional need of the
mentee involved. If employees take on a new
role where they have the talent but may not
have the specialized skills for the position,
immediate mentoring can be extremely beneficial. A more experienced mentor can
accelerate their understanding of the business and enhance their ability to perform
effectively. Late stage mentorship can help
seasoned employees bring their career to the
next level, whether it’s preparing for a promotion or learning management skills. In all
cases, mentoring should happen when it is
mutually beneficial to everyone involved.
How are mentoring relationships established?
With formal mentoring, it seems to work
best when human resources professionals
structure the eligibility requirements and
program guidelines, and the managers execute the program within these parameters.
Having human resources involved in the
process helps ensure a consistent application of formal programs throughout the
organization. Typically, the eligibility for
a formal mentorship program is tied to a
performance-based assessment of the
Informal mentoring tends to happen when
a mentor or mentee seek one another out.
These relationships may be established
through introductions from mutual friends,
business colleagues or some interaction in
the work environment. In all cases, the
mentee should benefit from the mentor’s
experience, guidance and knowledge. These
informal mentor relationships can evolve
into long-term friendships and go beyond
even the employees’ tenure at the company
as they move forward in their professional
How might it benefit the employees and the
Top talent is attracted to organizations that
emphasize professional and personal development. Recruitment can be enhanced
when potential candidates understand that a
company wants to mentor them so they can
become the best professionals they can be.
Also, employees find it incredibly exciting
to have great leaders as their mentors. When
they receive encouragement, guidance and
perspective, they know they are being developed and learn more quickly.
Are there challenges to consider?
On the employee side, mentees need to
make sure not to get distracted by the mentoring program and lose focus on their daily
responsibilities. It’s essential that employees
continue to perform well and use the knowledge gained from the mentoring program to
further their career. From the company’s
perspective, it’s important to apply the formal mentoring program consistently so that
everyone feels like they have an equal opportunity to participate.
BRIAN LAMB is a business banking executive with Fifth Third Bank Tampa Bay. Reach him at (813) 306-2491 or [email protected].