The Importance of Mentorship
Guidance at work can come in many forms, and is crucial in supporting your business and retaining valuable employees. In the midst of a competitive labour market, we take a look at how workplace mentorship can create a cycle of development that benefits both employers and employees.
What does your job mean to you? Is it a part of your identity or merely a means to an end? For many, pegging away at their workloads each day, year, and even decade serves not only as a source of income, but also a sense of achievement and purpose. As the retirement age in Singapore continues to rise and we spend more of our lives at work, opportunity for growth has become one of the biggest career motivations in today’s workforce, as well as one of the main reasons for job switches.
Indeed, career development is something that people mull over and research into even during the job hunting process. In the competitive labour market, high salaries and attractive benefits can help to reel in talent, but it’s the invaluable work experience that allows employers to keep hold of high-performers and constantly motivate them to do their best. More precisely, about 55% of Singapore job seekers declared career progression as one of the most important factors that influence their career decisions, following wages and work-life balance.
There are many ways to approach job development, from internships to skill-specific training, which most working professionals would have had experience with. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to mentorship. In fact, there seems to be a lack of mentorship culture in Singapore. In a poll conducted by the National Youth Council, only 11% of 1,500 youths reported having participated in some form of career mentoring, whether in the early stages of their professional careers, or as students just starting to think about post-graduation career options.
But just what is so important about mentorship, you might ask? Well, as we’ve mentioned, a majority of working adults and fresh graduates seek career advancements, and having a mentor can be a useful avenue to achieving just that. Here we dive a little deeper into how mentorship is beneficial in organisations, and examine how this might look like in the present job landscape.
What is mentorship?
But first, what or who is a mentor? Quite simply, a mentor is someone with experience, knowledge, and connections who can boost the career of another—typically more junior—member. In the many mentorship programmes available today, mentors and mentees form long-term relationships that focus on interpersonal skills on an individual level. Knowing the different types of mentorships available can help employers pick the right programme to fit their organisational objectives.
Career Mentoring — By far the most common type of mentoring one would encounter in the workplace, career mentoring typically uses the traditional one-to-one method of hand-matching mentors and mentees to facilitate on-the-job learning and meet career goals.
Peer Mentoring — For newcomers navigating the complexities of unfamiliar workplaces, this is often the best approach where informal guidance and support comes from a coworker of an equivalent position and level, or who has been through equivalent experiences.
Leadership Mentoring — Strong leaders are instrumental in the success of any business, so it’s absolutely worth the time and effort to develop the leadership skills of valuable employees. Leadership mentoring allows high-potential employees to connect with and learn from leaders in their organisation or industry, and eventually grow to become mentors themselves.
Diversity Mentoring — Since diversity, equity, and inclusion have become central to the corporate strategies of many organisations in recent years, diversity mentoring has gained traction as a more thoughtful way of engaging diverse talents. By encouraging collaboration between different groups of employees, this type of mentoring can provide visibility for those who are often marginalised in the workforce, such as women and people in minority groups, giving them equal footing in recruitment and promotion opportunities.
Now, let’s take a look at how these mentorship programmes can add value to not only the mentees receiving guidance, but also the mentors that are showing them the ropes.
Upgrading skills and performance
Most of us would crave learning and thrive in environments where we feel challenged, a major reason for employees choosing to leave their jobs when they’re under-stimulated, or, in other words, job-hopping. Today, workers in Singapore typically only stay in a job for an average of two years before searching for greener pastures, sending employee turnover rates through the roof. Since the desire for growth is there, it only makes sense for employers to tap into it. After all, it’s more cost effective and sustainable for companies to retain valuable employers than to have to recruit and retrain new ones every few years.
Through structured mentorship programmes, mentors who are experienced in their fields can impart knowledge, industry insights, and helpful tips to mentees to help them develop as professionals. How does this differ from training or coaching, you might ask? Well, like Yoda was to Luke Skywalker, a mentor’s scope extends beyond technical skills to soft skills and overall competency. For instance, a mentor may notice a mentee struggling to keep up with work demands, and advise them to sign up for a course that hones a particular skillset that is pertinent to their role, so that they can work more effectively to meet deadlines.
What’s more, mentorship allows mentees to leverage on their mentors’ connections. Having a wide professional network can be the greatest asset for employees in any industry, providing a revolving door of potential opportunities for a significant boost in one’s career advancement.
This encourages a cycle of learning within the organisation where every member takes an active role towards becoming more productive and adaptable, which in turn maximises business performance and profitability too.
Fostering job satisfaction
While salary and benefits remain the driving force behind individual career choices, work-life balance is a close runner-up as a huge motivation for job holders. A prime contributor comes from finding a sense of belonging at work and meaning outside of work.
In this regard, the relationship-focused types of mentorship—especially peer mentoring—can be a vital source of emotional and professional support, since the idea of a good work-life balance is different to each person.
By offering a listening ear, encouragement, and a wealth of life experiences, such mentorship programmes can be a bridge between workers and organisations. That’s not to say that mentors exist to provide mentees with the answers to life. Rather, it’s all about asking the right questions to empower mentees to find their own solutions and pave the way for themselves, leading to a more fulfilling career and life.
When both employees’ individual needs and the needs of the organisation are in sync, workers can better focus on improving themselves and making their time at work worthwhile, creating a conducive environment for increased output.
Mentors benefit too
At this point, you might be wondering what’s in it for the mentors who devote time and effort to counsel novices in the field, often voluntarily. As with other partnerships, mentorships are only effective if both parties gain something through the exchange. In school, we hear of teachers commenting that they learn a lot from their students all the time. Likewise, mentors have much to gain from mentoring programmes as well.
Similar to the mentees they take under their wing, mentors can elevate their expertise through new perspectives and connections, and learn from other mentors too. More importantly, experience as a mentor can improve communication and coaching skills that are useful in leadership roles. These lessons help mentors become indispensable assets in the organisation, with better tools to guide others.
Oftentimes, the effects of a good mentorship can ripple beyond the workplace and leave lasting impacts. Mentors can be proud to be directly involved in developing the next generation of leaders and innovators, and ensuring that their organisations and industries continue to thrive.
Mentorship in the present job landscape
That said, how does mentorship look like in today’s working climate that has embraced the virtual world? Now that hybrid and fully-remote work arrangements have become the norm, establishing strong mentor-mentee relationships can seem all the more troublesome and complicated. But in a time where young generations of employees have little to no experience in the professional setting, the importance of mentorship is ever present.
For hybrid workplaces, the key is to keep communication open in a clear structure. It’s not difficult to stay connected with the myriad of digital devices at our fingertips, so take advantage of video calls and instant messaging in your mentorship programmes to create a better environment for learning and collaboration. Weekly physical get-togethers can also be organised to create opportunities for mentors and mentees to forge stronger bonds both within and outside of the workplace.
Mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship that helps involving parties develop their competencies and derive personal satisfaction. Not only is it important for employers to implement such programmes, we also urge employees to take control of their own growth and actively seek guidance in the workplace. When combined with other career development strategies, mentorship can create a stronger and happier cohort of workers that will ultimately raise the company’s bottom line.
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