How To Cultivate Mentors In The Workplace Who do you turn to when you need career or life advice? At some point in our lives, we all need guidance, and a mentor is someone who can help us by providing genuine and trustworthy advice. A mentor is someone who recognizes our strengths and helps with our weaknesses. They’re also honest and provide constructive criticism. Put another way: mentors provide a breadth of knowledge and support that we would not be able to attain on our own. Leaders of an organization want their employees to identify with their culture, develop self-confidence, and increase productivity through professional and personal growth. This keeps employees engaged, which leads to better retention, productivity, and can increase your bottom line. Gallup revealed organizations with high employee engagement earned 10 percent higher customer ratings, achieved 22 percent higher profitability, and gained 21 percent higher productivity. As a result, they also experienced lower turnover. Research from the Hay Group shows that organizations with high employee engagement scores generated 2.5 times the amount of revenue. In a survey of leaders from Fortune 500 companies, 96 percent reported that mentoring was an important employee development tool, and 75 percent said it was a key factor in their own personal success. Mentors are clearly a powerful resource for companies. However, that raises a very important question: how do you identify what employees would be good mentors? These are a few things to look for in a mentor: 1. Confidence. Words and actions lose their power if a person doesn’t believe in them. Helping others achieve self-confidence will be a futile task if the mentor doesn’t have confidence in him/herself first. 2. Commitment to their work and organization. A mentor is someone who will be willing to meet regularly. You want to make sure that the company and helping others advance is their priority. These types of people will have well defined career goals. When a mentor is matched with a mentee, having similar career goals will encourage a strong bond and mutual gain. 3. Ability to give and receive constructive feedback. Being able to approach weakness with an honest and positive attitude is a rare skill that can transform good employees into great ones. As a company, promoting these characteristics can improve transfer of knowledge, expand relationships, improve productivity, and raise up mentors in your organization. So, how do you develop these three traits in your current employees? There are two main ways to do this. 1. Offer employee development courses, promote volunteer opportunities, and put on company-wide events. To build up more mentors in your organization, provide development courses that are taught by your very own top talent. In an effort to help your employees identify a mentor on their own, host networking events for your employees, so they can get to know each other better. Offering volunteer opportunities is another way to get your employees more involved, and it helps them bond with other co-workers. Your employees want to develop and grow, and these opportunities can help them do just that. 2. Have employees meet regularly with managers. The millennial and Gen Z generations want constant feedback on how they’re doing and one-on-one interactions with their managers. This is a form of mentorship in itself, where the manager gives constructive feedback and asks how the employee is doing. This two-way communication keeps employees engaged, valued, and appreciated, and helps managers practice mastering the art of feedback. Bonus: How to Find a Mentor Once you have identified potential mentors, the next step is contacting them and setting up a time to meet. Follow these steps to insure a successful meeting: 1. Obtain a reference. A mutual contact that can validate your experience will not only get your foot in the door, but help to establish trust early on. Mentors have busy schedules and are in high demand, but a referral will show them you have something to offer. 2. Send an email. Start it all off with an email. This email should demonstrate your attention to detail and research; show that you are aware of their body of work and how it has impacted you. Be short and concise about the guidance you want, yet remain humble and never bluntly ask “will you be my mentor?” Becoming a mentor is a time-consuming commitment that must be eased into and you don’t want to scare them away. Lastly, be accommodating towards their schedule. As a mentee, don’t expect mentors to hold your hand. You should be the one managing meetings, creating an agenda, and reporting progress. Don’t make the mentor do the work. 3. Follow up with a phone call. Chances are you will get their voice mail. Reference your email. Keep it short and sweet, and they’ll get back to you when they have a chance. 4. Treat your first meeting like an interview. Dress well, arrive early, prepare questions/answers, and do research in advance. Potential questions include: “What is the most valuable advice you have given/received?” or “What are the characteristics of success”? Also, take time to explain ways in which you can mutually benefit each other: “I think we have much to offer each other in the way of experiences and insight.” Mentors need to know that the effort they put forward will benefit them as well. If you meet at a restaurant, be sure to pick up the check. 5. Send a follow-up note. After your first meeting, immediately send an email or, preferably, a hand-written note thanking them for their time. Keep it short: “I wanted to thank you again for taking time out of your day to meet with me. I appreciate your advice and look forward to speaking with you again.” This can be followed by a later email going over any next steps that were discussed or advice given that you implemented successfully. For example: “I started using your advice to improve my presentation skills and I have been asked to present at our next board meeting. Thank you so much!” 6. Don’t be overbearing. You don’t have to meet regularly. That may sound counter-intuitive, but mentors are usually extremely busy and may not have the time to meet with you on a frequent basis. Don’t be offended by that, but instead, be flexible. Maybe they only have time to meet with you bi-monthly or bi-annually. To the same point, don’t overcommunicate either. While following up is good, an email or phone call out of the blue on a weekly basis is most likely too much for a mentor to fit into their schedule. These are the steps that will help secure an influential and highly scarce role model that is invested in your success. For some, the thought of seeking out a mentor is scary and intimidating. Getting started is the hardest part, and your future self will thank you for taking the time to identify a mentor to help you in your career and future life decisions. Don’t forget that it may be a good to have more than one mentor. Like a doctor, sometimes it’s good to get a second opinion. There’s not a limit on how many mentors you can have, and getting advice and insight from multiple mentors can be extremely beneficial for you. With a mentor guiding you, you can arrive at your next difficult career decision or a tough situation at work and overcome it with ease, because you have a wise mentor guiding you through it. Mentors are beneficial to everyone, whether you’re just starting out in your career or running a business, you can never have enough advice. Whether you’re looking to cultivate mentors within your organization or find a mentor for your own career, it starts with the people you know. Now, go and find them. Can you think of any potential mentors in your organization? Kristin Lowe Kristin Lowe is a direct hire recruiter for Aureon Staffing, specializing in placing only the top 20 percent of high performing Human Resource, Sales, Accounting and Finance, and Executive Administration professionals with some of the most successful companies in central Iowa.