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Why Mentoring Programs Matter

I must say, and I mean this sincerely, I am impressed with the knowledge that people newer to the workforce bring with them into their new careers. Even if it’s their first job they often bring more knowledge than workers who entered the work force 20 or 30 years ago. 

And they know it. What they don’t know is that knowledge and wisdom are two very different things. Schools and books are all about knowledge. Life is about wisdom. 

It has been said that along with age comes wisdom. I can assure you that is not always the case. Too frequently it seems that age shows up all by itself. 

But generally speaking you can gain wisdom in one of two ways. You can live a long while or you can ask someone who has to share their wisdom with you. For the purposes of our post we call that “sharing” mentoring. 

As baby boomers continue to age out of the workforce they also continue to take their wisdom with them. Many large companies have formal mentoring programs in place. They encourage their experienced employees to leave some of their wisdom behind. But some companies actually “dispose” of that wisdom. They “encourage” or even force their more experienced people, and their wisdom, out the door. 

It’s only a matter of time before those companies that devalue wisdom wise up and discover the costly mistake they have made. Some unfortunately are already figuring that out. But the horse as they say, has already left the corral. 

All organizations, large and small, will benefit from a formal mentoring program. Paring a mentor with incoming employees shortens the learning curve of the incoming employee. Having a mentor helps the new employee quickly apply their impressive amount of knowledge. That enables them to “earn their keep” much sooner. 

Being a mentor allows the mentor to “borrow” some of that knowledge from the new employee. Combining that new knowledge with their wisdom often reengages the mentor. It renews or increases their productivity. 

It’s a win, win, win. A win for the new employee, a win for the mentor and a big win for the company or organization. 

But there can be some potholes to look out for. Not everyone can be a mentor. Mentoring is serious stuff. If someone is not enthusiastic about mentoring then they should not be a mentor. Depending of the demographic makeup of the workforce in your particular organization that may mean mentors will be in short supply. 

You may need to allocate your mentors accordingly. Perhaps only to people who demonstrate a passion for learning and growth. Mentoring also requires a significant commitment of time, for the mentee for sure, but especially for the mentor. While they can likely mentor more than one person they can’t mentor so many that mentoring becomes a major focus of their job. They need to continue to do their job in order to maintain the credibility that is so vital to a mentor. As soon as someone says “well back when I was doing the job” they are no longer an effective mentor. They still have wisdom. They can still be a great life mentor. But their effectiveness as a career mentor within the organization has greatly diminished. 

When pairing a mentor with a mentee every pairing should be considered a trial run. They need to “click.” Not clicking doesn’t mean failure on the part of the mentee or the mentor. It’s just how life works sometimes. The mentor has to care enough about their mentee to invest a significant amount of time with them. The mentee has to trust their mentor enough to at least consider the advice they are being given. If after 30-60 days there is no “click” then it’s time to try another pairing. 

If your new to mentoring programs I’d recommend starting small. Ask a handful of experienced team members about their willingness to mentor. Don’t try to talk them into it. If they don’t care to mentor then they won’t care about their mentee and as a mentor, caring is essential. 

Select a few candidates to be mentored and ask them about their interest in having a mentor. Again, don’t force it on them. If they have no interest in learning from actual experience rather than just a book you may have learned all you need to know about that candidate’s future with you organization. 

Get started today. Don’t let even more wisdom walk out the door. One day you’ll look around and realize you have a bunch of really smart people in your company. You will also realize they don’t possess the wisdom required to put their knowledge to work. 

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