Work can be a lonely place. According to a recent Gallup research, up to 40% of employees feel left alone with challenges. Unless there is this friendly colleague sharing guidance and energy - especially when working from home. This is a peer mentor. And she can reduce that feeling to 16% as well as the risks of burn-out.
The power of mentoring to boost engagement and motivation is indisputable. But the benefits of peer mentors at work are even more. Here is why and how to tap into their potential.
Definition of Peer Mentoring - Can you be one?
Peer mentoring is a process where two people of similar experience levels work together to help each other reach their goals. The relationship is usually informal, and both parties benefit from the exchange of knowledge and support.
A peer mentor is someone who can provide guidance, advice, and support to another person. They are typically someone with more experience in the field or area than the mentee - but not necessarily.
What Does a Peer Mentor Do?
If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, it is important to have a genuine desire to help others. Peer mentoring is not a status job - it is all about being in service, reaching out, and empowering others. If you are about to agree to a peer mentoring role just to collect bonus points, leave it. If you don’t believe in the power of mentorship to help people grow, don’t have the time to invest, or just don’t like being there for others - you won’t do a good job anyway.
Second, you should be patient and understand that mentees may not always be ready or willing to accept your help. Popping up without an appointment, being a know-it-all, or patronizing your mentee, will not make you a better helper. In fact, mentoring is a great way to practice the skill of patience, as it is mostly a voluntary activity, without a formal responsibility. Use the challenge to grow!
Thirdly, it is helpful to reflect on your mentoring skills and knowledge. You can gather those on the Open Mentoring Club by Mentessa or with one of the dozens of free online mentoring courses available, such as this one from The Open University. Research by The Mentoring Group revealed that unless a fairly structured process and specific skills are applied, mentoring can result in unfairly mediocre relationships.
In addition, you should be able to effectively communicate with mentees. In fact, communication skills, are one of the critical mentoring skills. A skill, remember, is “a learned, observable behavior that indicates how well you can do something.” E.g. giving feedback, a mentoring skill we have written about in other articles, too.
Lastly, you should be able to set boundaries so that the relationship does not become too personal or one-sided. Being a peer mentor is not less and not more than that - a bidirectional relationship between peers.
What makes a great peer mentor?
A great peer mentor has a few key qualities:
They have a wealth of experience to share.
They are patient and understand that mentees learn at their own pace.
They have a large network in the organization they can connect the mentee with.
Greater creativity and innovation - mentees feel empowered to try new things and take risks.
Boosts motivation and engagement - When mentees feel supported in their goals, it boosts their motivation and overall engagement at work.
Builds confidence - One of the main benefits of peer mentoring is that it helps mentees build confidence. With someone to guide them, mentees feel less insecure and more prone to ask questions.
Examples of peer mentoring
Peer mentoring can take many different forms, but some common examples include:
A more experienced employee mentoring a newer employee at their company
A recent college graduate mentoring a high school student who is interested in going to college
A group of employees mentoring each other on how to be more effective communicators
How to set up a peer mentoring program that brings success
If you are interested in setting up a peer mentoring program at your workplace, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, consider what the objectives of the program are. Do you want to improve communication among employees? Decrease employee turnover? Enhance creativity and innovation?
Once you have decided on the goals, you need to identify who will be participating in the program. Will it be open to all employees, or just certain departments? What are the criteria for selection?
Next, you need to create a plan for how the mentoring relationship will work, including how often they will meet and what topics they will discuss. Creating guidelines for both mentors and mentees will manage their expectations and increase satisfaction. Learn as much as you can about mentoring and the different types of mentoring programs. This will help you learn about best practices and identify ideas for your own.
Providing training for mentors on how to effectively communicate and connect with mentees is necessary to implement those guidelines into practice.
You also need to develop a plan for how the mentorship pairs will be matched. Will it be done randomly, or will there be specific criteria that mentees and mentors need to meet? For example, you may want to match peers from different departments in order to increase the interdisciplinary exchange in the company. Or after a merger, you might want to match the employees from formerly different companies to start building bridges between the cultures.
However, you do the matching, it is important to assign a mentor who is willing and able to commit to the program. The mentor should be someone with experience in the field or area that you want to learn about.
Monitoring the mentoring relationships on a regular basis is necessary - especially in the context of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). This can be done through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.
After the mentoring program has ended, it is important to evaluate the success with individual anonymous feedback from each participant - on both, the mentoring program and the mentor matching itself.
If you follow these tips, you can create a successful and impactful peer mentoring program in your workplace. If you are looking for a complete overview you might find our ultimate mentoring program to-do list helpful.
Mentoring has been shown to be an effective way to support employees in developing their careers. A mentoring program can provide many benefits for both the mentee and the mentor, including improved job satisfaction, increased motivation, and better performance. While that’s true practicing mentoring skills and having motivated peer mentors on board can make or break the experience. Who do you want to be as a mentor?
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