In their May 2021 Harvard Business Review article, What Great Mentorship Looks Like in a Hybrid Workplace, Marianna Tu and Michael Li write that mentoring can help early career employees succeed in their professional lives and help employees develop much-needed work relationships. Further, mentoring can help build organizational culture “that supports diversity and inclusion initiatives in the middle of a pandemic.”
Given all the benefits of mentorships, why aren’t companies using the tactic to build better teams? That’s the question Chris Danek poses in Promote High Performance With Team Mentoring. Danek then provides guidance on how an L&D professional can get a team mentoring program off the ground, starting first by ensuring that it’s the right time for your organization to develop such a program. For example, are your employees change weary? If so, adding another program may not be a good idea.
Benefits of Team MentoringA team mentoring program offers benefits to individual team members, their manager, and the team. They can expose employees to leaders they might not have had the opportunity to meet and engage with and can reveal new ideas and other departments within the organization.
Managers are often rated on their ability to get projects done. Mentors can highlight more effective ways team members can work with their manager and give team members the opportunity to try new things and fail—something that managers may be hesitant to do as their goal is to finish projects.
Finally, team mentoring can lead to improved project outcomes, better working relationships, and identifying emerging leaders.
Getting StartedYour first step, Danek explains, is to define the team you want to serve with your team mentoring program. Do you want to improve the workings of a specific functional team, such as the customer care department? Or perhaps work with a project team that is focused on a short-term initiative?
Also, consider the resources you have to devote to a new initiative—financial resources, time, and staff.
You’ll also want to look at how teams currently work together and what mentoring programs are already in place.
Designing Your ProgramWhat will success look like for your team mentoring program? That is, what are your programmatic objectives? To answer this question, you’ll want to keep your selected team in mind, as well as the resources you have to work with.
Next, select your mentors. You might consider subject matter experts, who can offer insights into technical aspects of the team’s work or institutional knowledge. Or you might select individuals who have mentoring expertise. There should be a baseline of knowledge, however, about mentoring and the technical aspects of what the team does.
Your mentors should have credibility with their team as well as with leaders. They could come from within the organization or outside of it. Emerging leaders are one pool to consider selecting your mentors from.
Giving Mentors the Tools They NeedWhen you create your team mentoring program, ensure that mentors have a defined role and expectations, such as frequency of meeting with teams. The mentor also should stay actively involved and be available outside the specific meeting times.
What tools might your mentors benefit from? The first one is training. Think about hands-on training, with mentors practicing outside the organization—for example, in academic settings.
You can also help mentors by creating a buzz for the program prior to launch. This will help team members get excited about the approaching experience and its myriad benefits.
Team engagement checklists for mentors can remind your team to connect with their mentees one-on-one in addition to as a group; staying up to date on the team’s activities and progress; and asking questions of the team, such as the greatest challenges they’re facing and any resource constraints they’re up against.
Keep It Going and Improve ItHow’s your new team mentoring program going? Are team members pleased to be part of it? Are they learning? Do mentors feel comfortable and proud of what they’re offering to their team and the organization?
When the time is right, scale the program so that additional teams can grow and develop and the organization reaps the rewards more broadly.