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5 tips to make mentoring a real asset

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Alexandre Diard
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Mentor is a character from Greek mythology, son of Alcimus, and trusted friend of Odysseus. He was charged by Odysseus with the education of his son, Telemachus, and the management of his estate when Odysseus left for the Trojan War, because he recognized great wisdom in Mentor that made him a good tutor and a trusted advisor. Today, the corporate mentoring of employees is important, and mentors continue to guide learning, and promote the transmission of values and knowledge, though they are neither coaches nor thought leaders.

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What is the business mentoring of employees?

In Coaching and Mentoring by Parslow and Wray (2000), Megginson and Clutterbuck (1995) define mentoring as a reciprocal and meaningful relationship that develops between two people to successfully pass on knowledge, work, or skills.

The mentor, often considered as a guide, is there for the "mentee", and intervenes in his professional and/ or personal development, to give him advice, share his experience or his contacts, and helps him to identify what his strengths and weaknesses are and how to make the right decisions.

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Business mentoring

Today mentoring of employees is practiced very little in companies while it could be way to make employees loyal to the company.

In fact, according to a US study conducted in large companies, 33% of new employees plan to leave their company within a year. This figure drops to 16% when the recruits are accompanied by a mentor, and Anglo-Saxon companies have understood this. They are formalizing this practice of the mentoring employees more and more and are making business mentoring a real asset for employees and the company as a whole.

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But faced with the demands of good corporate governance and ever-increasing financial pressures, managers themselves, especially first-time managers, are increasingly using mentoring on employees, a process that usually takes around 6 months. According to a recent study conducted by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) of Lausanne, carried out by heads of FTSE 100, CAC 40 and AEX, structured mentoring improves the performance and decision-making process of managers:

- More than 80% feel that they have gained confidence, accelerated their grasp of their role and improved their leadership of employees vis-à-vis the executive committee and the board

- 76% consider meeting shareholders' expectations better

- 71% have improved the company's performance

- 69% make better decisions

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Be careful, however, to respect certain rules that are essential for the effectiveness of mentoring in companies:

- First, the relevance of the mentor's experience

- The relationship of trust between mentor and mentee

- The mentor must be independent and from outside the company

- The mentee must meet several mentors

- Mentoring must be anticipated and therefore take place before the role commences

But business mentoring is no longer just the business of professionals. Indeed, it is more and more common to see companies calling on young employees to take on this role with senior employees. This is called "reverse mentoring".

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Reverse business mentoring of employees

Reverse mentoring is a new practice put in place by major groups, and consists of assigning experienced managers to a mentor who is a young employee of Generation Y. These young employees have grown up in a digital environment and have numerous skills in digital tools and communication, that more experienced employees do not necessarily have. The mentor will therefore be charged with helping the mentee to better understand and integrate the new codes and practices related to information and communication technologies.

This new work organization allows managers to be quickly informed of the latest means of communication, new modes of consumption, new trends and so on. Many of them admit the positive effects of this mentoring system on employees and consider that they could not have otherwise obtained the information and advice received.

Today, companies such as Danone, IBM and SNCF use reverse mentoring as a means of supporting employees.

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