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How Mentorship Programs Return Investments

May 5, 2014
Sharing knowledge and expertise through mentorship programs benefits all participants and helps build and strengthen an organization’s competitive standing.

There’s a common thread in my conversations with thought leaders in the automation industry when we get down to the secret of their success. Most of them attribute a big part of it to having a great mentor.

Mentoring is more than simply answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help to mentees. Mentoring is about an industry expert maintaining an ongoing personal relationship of learning with a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

I’m a firm believer in mentorship programs and their value. Mentors help mentees learn from their successes and mistakes. They can also help build a foundation of industry knowledge and skills and help fresh talent achieve the level of success they want.

Material handling and logistics organizations usually offer four types of mentorship programs:

Formal Mentoring: Offers employees the opportunity to participate in an organized mentoring program. Protégés or apprentices are usually matched with a mentor by a program administrator or a mentoring committee.

Informal Mentoring: Takes place in organizations that develop a culture of mentoring but do not have a formal mentoring program in place. These companies may provide some tools and resources and encourage managers to accept mentoring requests from members of the organization.

New-Hire Mentorships: Set up to help new employees acclimate more quickly to the organization. Newcomers to the organization are paired with more experienced people to obtain information, good examples, and advice as they advance in their careers.

High-Potential Mentoring: Used to groom up-and-coming employees deemed to have the potential to move up into leadership roles. Here the employee is paired with a senior level leader (or leaders) for a series of career coaching interactions.

While types of mentorship programs differ, they are similar when it comes to the steps needed to create and develop effective mentorship programs:

  • Seek out people who are truly passionate about being a mentor and helping others succeed;
  • Identify or nominate the mentees for participation in the program;
  • Match the right mentor with the right mentee;
  • Schedule meetings for all participants to connect and share their experiences.

In a global marketplace that is “on” 24/7, mentorships are advantageous. Mentors are ready to guide and advise mentees as well as make their career path smoother and more successful. In fact, a study done by Sun Microsystems University Mentoring Program followed the career progress of mentees over a five-year period and it showed that mentees were 20% more likely to get a raise sooner than other employees and were promoted five times more often than those who did not have a mentor.

Here are five ways mentors help mentees get ahead faster:

  • Knowledge and contacts: This combination is unique with each mentor and not available anywhere else.
  • Insight: A good mentor can arrange experiences, such as participation in meetings, events or work experience, which will enable the mentee to get insight into an organization’s culture and systems.
  • Wisdom and learning from past experiences: This includes both successes and failures. Sometimes, hearing about failures can offer more valuable information than successes.
  • Improved performance: A good mentor will provide valuable feedback or make suggestions that will enable a mentee to improve skills or to experience personal growth, ultimately leading to improved performance.
  • Talent development: Where a mentor is an expert in a particular field, they'll often be able to spot unique talents and make suggestions about how to further develop and make the most of talents and gifts.

While mentees get ahead faster, organizations greatly benefit from establishing mentorship programs as well. About 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs because the results give them a competitive advantage. Think about it…these businesses are able to develop new leaders, retain valued workers, attract top talent, improve employee skill sets, and place high potential employees on a fast career track. There’s a measurable and impressive ROI.

Dan Charney is president & CEO of Direct Recruiters, Inc. His specialties include Material Handling & Logistics, Packaging, Capital Equipment and Automation Systems. He can be reached at 440-996-0589, [email protected] or

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