A mentor in the workplace is someone who is capable of providing guidance to a less-experienced employee, the mentee.
The essence of mentoring recognises the value of learning from each other.
We all use other people to help and support us in our day to day lives - usually people whose opinions we value because of their experience. We can also apply this in the workplace by using experienced people to 'mentor' others and help them achieve their full potential.
There are 3 overriding principles of mentoring:
- The mentor must be outside the mentee's direct line management chain, with greater experience in one or more areas, and be able to exchange knowledge with another through a relationship of mutual influence and learning.
- Participation is on a voluntary basis.
- The relationship is confidential.
We set up our mentoring network in April 2019, following feedback from colleagues that they did not know how to gain a mentor. We were aware this was happening informally, through existing working relationships.
The network was set up as an opportunity for our people to learn from a more experienced colleague to:
- share their knowledge and experience
- encourage networking opportunities
- break down silos across the organisation
To date, we have 18 mentors providing guidance and support and sharing their experiences. And all have varying skills and knowledge from across the organisation.
For National Mentoring Day, we ran a ‘Meet the mentor’ event where colleagues could talk to members of the network about what they’ve gained from being a mentor or a mentee.
This proved to be really popular. The interest in mentoring has seen an increase of 15% this past month. Mentor requests have also doubled, and a further 8 people have shown an interest in becoming a mentor for the organisation.
Here are stories from 2 of our colleagues who share their experiences of our mentoring network.
Before joining the Companies House mentoring network, I hadn’t done any formal mentoring. But in my role as a senior HR business partner I’ve done a lot of informal mentoring with managers in a number of different organisations.
I joined our mentoring network as I was keen for others to learn from my experiences and not only to be doing this as part of my role in HR but also from a personal perspective.
What I’ve learned
Sometimes people just need a different, independent perspective, especially where emotions are running high.
There’s a feel-good factor when you can help and support someone through a situation. You not only realise that all the knowledge and skills you’ve learned can help others and is highly valued, but you get to learn even more about yourself.
It's a great personal development opportunity to learn where you need to develop, but it also confirms that you have something positive to offer, and I feel valued for that.
I was fortunate to have a very good mentor who built a good relationship from the first meeting. I had encouragement to develop myself and look at my strengths, while identifying my weaknesses.
We discussed how to overcome my weaknesses and how to make improvements where needed. My mentor was the first person I turned to whenever I needed advice or simply just wanted someone to bounce fresh ideas off.
What I’ve learned
The first thing I learned was to embrace all opportunities that came my way, and to not be afraid of taking on new duties and learning new skills.
I applied for a team leader role and was fully supported throughout the process. And I’m pleased to say I’ve now secured this promotion.
Mentoring has highlighted to me the importance of sharing knowledge, skills and experience to not only get the best out of everybody, but to also break down barriers where every individual feels worthwhile and valued. I’m now able to adapt to different situations comfortably and with ease, and that’s totally down to having had meaningful and valuable meetings with my mentor.
For me, having a mentor has been invaluable. I’ve been able to gain from their experience and their perspectives on situations to help me make the right decisions.
I gained more confidence when communicating with others and putting forward my ideas. I was supported and encouraged to develop myself through learning new skills and by pushing myself to succeed. It was a great experience where I not only gained a good mentor, but also gained a friend who I trusted and respected.
Without doubt, I would recommend securing a good mentor who believes in you and your capabilities and encourages you to look at situations differently.
Improving our network
As a result of the hard work and dedication of our mentors, we now have an active mentoring programme across Companies House.
This is a great opportunity for staff to take accountability for their own personal development. By networking with likeminded people, they can build on professional working relationships, and raise their self-awareness and skillset for their day-to-day roles.
Going forward, we’ll be continually reviewing and improving the mentoring programme. We hope to widen the offering across government departments and also introduce reverse mentoring.