Think that mentoring is purely for large organisations with hundreds of employees, budgets and capacity? Think again. Mentoring schemes are just as relevant in SMEs as anywhere else. In fact, mentoring can be a surefire way of creating a culture of learning. Here’s how mentoring could help your small business.

What is mentoring?

According to Indeed, “Mentoring programmes are partnerships between an experienced staff member and someone new to the team or the industry. While these workplace relationships may form naturally, a structured programme can be a positive experience for all parties involved. Learning more about the potential benefits of mentorship can help you decide whether you want to join or begin a mentor programme in your organisation. In this article, we explain what a mentoring programme is and list the benefits of mentoring for mentors, mentees and organisations.”

It has been shown that mentoring schemes can have a positive impact on staff within a business. Forbes reports that 79% of people think having a mentor is important and that people with mentors are happier in their current jobs than those without.

Mentoring can help retain staff

In small teams where training budgets are limited, introducing a mentoring scheme can help with staff development. Not only does it demonstrate the company’s commitment to investing in staff development, but can be a great motivation tool. With the ‘great resignation’ set to continue, staff retention needs to be at the top of the agenda. Matching staff with mentors benefits both parties, particularly where senior employees are aligned with more junior – each bringing different skills to the table. We’ve often heard of ‘reverse mentoring’ whereby the more senior employee also benefits from the insights, skills and knowledge that a junior member of staff brings to the table.  In addition, when introduced as part of the onboarding process, it can really help a business to stand out from competitors and demonstrate that staff are valued from day one of their employment.

Mentoring can help you to recruit staff

Another benefit and how mentoring could help your small business is recruitment. Employers are having to work harder than ever before to stand out from the competition and attract top talent. ‘Traditional’ recruitment tactics have gone out of the window and candidates are now looking for more than just a good salary. Benefits are ranking highly on the wish list for job-seekers. The opportunity to be mentored from the start of employment can be an attractive proposition for many. If you offer a mentoring scheme, be sure to sell it in your job advertisements, job description and during the interview process.

Remote mentoring

Mentoring sessions don’t have to be conducted face-to-face. During lockdown mentoring had to go virtual, and there is no reason why this cannot continue. According to surveys like Mpirical’s Learning & Development in Telecoms report on the telecoms sector, for example, 78% of those who had mentorships reported being happier than those who didn’t. What happened during the pandemic was that junior employees suddenly had access to senior staff, typically too time-poor to dedicate to mentoring. Virtual mentoring sessions are now forging partnerships that span boundaries and age. Don’t forget, mentoring remotely can also be a huge motivator for staff who are working entirely remotely and missing out on interactions with colleagues.

Mentoring can assist with a well-being strategy 

Staff well-being is another important consideration for all people managers. According to a study by the University of Cambridge, junior employees who were mentored displayed reduced anxiety and improve the mental health of mentors themselves, particularly those in high-pressure occupations.

How to set up a mentoring scheme

  • Establish the purpose of the mentoring scheme – what outcomes do you hope to achieve?
  • Define the type of scheme and how it will work (will it be for a set period for example, how much time will be expected from both sides etc?)
  • Define the behaviours and expectations of mentors and mentees- draw up a charter to help show what a healthy mentoring relationship looks like
  • Use a staff survey to gauge who would be interested in becoming a mentor or mentee
  • Provide training or documentation on how to get the most from being a mentor or mentee.
  • Matching mentors with mentees is critical – there has to be a relationship of trust and respect.  Consider how you will manage this matching process, how each party can feedback and what happens if the match isn’t right.
  • Consider the logistics, time requirements, locations (online or in person), how you will match suitable mentors with mentees plus any associated costs.
  • Run a pilot scheme to test the water using one mentor and one mentee initially.
  • Consider how you will communicate the scheme to get buy-in from employees.

If you would like more advice on setting up a mentoring scheme and how a mentoring scheme could help your small business, get in touch with our team.

If you think you would benefit from a business mentor to grow your business, the government has useful information on getting started.