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How Finance Execs Can Create a Mentoring Culture

  • By Bill Dricoll
  • Published: 4/15/2016

ThinkstockPhotos-469753685(3)Having a mentor can play a big role in a person’s career success. Yet, while the majority of CFOs say a mentor is important for career development, only a small percentage of workers—and far fewer females than males—report being in a mentoring relationship.

When Accountemps asked 2,600 CFOs if they think it’s important to have a mentoring relationship, 86 percent said it was; only 13 percent said it wasn’t. But only 26 percent of the 1,000 workers who responded to a separate survey say they are engaged in a mentoring relationship, and the number of women with mentors is much lower (18 percent). Younger employees are more likely to have mentors: 41 percent of workers age 18 to 34 report having a mentor, while only 17 percent of workers age 35 to 54 and 15 percent of those over the age of 55 do.

Employee mentoring is a low-cost way for businesses to integrate new employees into the organization, develop in-house talent and foster loyalty. Strong mentoring relationships not only provide support for new hires, but also help create an open, inviting culture that encourages all employees to contribute their ideas for improving the company. Here is my best advice for setting up a successful mentoring program in your organization.

Matching mentors and mentees

Choosing the right mentors is the first step. Select individuals who are well respected and liked, with the personality traits needed to mentor others. In general, it’s best if a mentor is not the mentee’s direct supervisor. It’s acceptable, but not necessary, for the mentors and protégés to be in the same department. Mentees should feel comfortable asking questions of, discussing challenges with, and soliciting advice from a neutral party who has no control over their career advancement.

Great mentors have excellent communication and leadership skills, and solid connections within your organization. Additionally, a mentor should have patience and understanding, particularly with less-experienced workers, and enthusiasm for working as a team and the company itself. As you identify potential mentors, ask for recommendations from other managers as to who might make a good role model.

Establishing mentorship roles and responsibilities

Mentoring relationships and programs vary not only from one organization to the next, but also from person to person. Mentors supply advice and guidance; they do not give work assignments nor tell mentees how to do their jobs. Mentors should discuss long-term career goals with their protégés, and offer ideas on how to pursue those goals. A mentor should be a good role model, demonstrating behaviors and attributes the protégé can follow. A good mentor should also introduce their protégé to others in the industry who could help move their career forward.

For both parties to benefit from mentoring, they must meet consistently. After they’re paired up, encourage the mentor and protégé to grow their relationship by staying in regular contact. Check-ins by email or phone are fine, but occasional in-person meetings are critical. Some mentors and mentees have weekly coffee get-togethers, while others have lunch every month or two. The person overseeing the mentoring program should check in with each participant a few weeks after they’re paired up to make sure the relationship is going smoothly.

Highlighting mentoring program benefits

Even a well-thought-out mentoring initiative isn’t going to work if no one knows about it. Make your program an integral part of the company culture. Promote it during the recruitment process, start matching new hires with mentors during orientation and make sure the pairs have the tools to succeed. This requires planning, internal marketing, training and plenty of follow up. Make sure managers at the highest levels talk up the program, emphasize its importance and are participants themselves.

For employee mentoring programs to be a success, there must be buy-in from both top management and rank-and-file staff. If you’re starting a new program, kick it off during an all-company meeting or departmental retreat.

Ultimately, the learning goes both ways. By purposefully matching employees of different generations and areas of expertise, you help employees diversify their skillsets and enable career development that lasts a lifetime. By making strong mentoring relationships an integral part of your corporate culture, every participant can benefit, and that will only strengthen your organization.

Bill Driscoll is the New England District President of Accountemps, a division of Robert Half.

A longer version of this article will appear in an upcoming edition of AFP Exchange.

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