It is with great pleasure that we introduce today’s guest blogger, Anna Thomlinson. Anna boasts excellent credentials in all things mentoring; she is currently the Mentor Manager at Mass Challenge, and previously was the Mentor Manager at Start Up Loans Company.  Today, she writes for Urbane on the appeal of mentoring:

In big cities you can now find mentoring programmes for most age groups and across a wide variety of topics, from sports teams, to recovery from an illness, to career advancement. The appeal for mentoring programmes is ever increasing. Why? Because individuals and organisations are recognising the value of what we have to learn from those that have trodden a path before us. Mentoring is also cost effective, bespoke and covers niche topics, upskills both parties taking part in it, is easy to understand and therefore set up, and often utilises learning patterns in a very natural and unforced form.

For many decades, it was thought that upskilling a workforce required paying coaches or trainers to deliver workshops, or structured programmes where much more senior staff support the younger staff, or giving people training material such as videos. However, the process can be much more simple and tailored to someone’s needs, and mentoring does not assume in a highly tech focused age that the younger audience must be the mentee.

If I wanted to go about starting something new, the reasonable step that I would expect to take is to ask the person that has been there before me, who is also available and amenable. I would do this in some free time, in a format that works for me absorbing information, which is informal so that I am less stressed and more capable of taking in information, asking questions whenever they arise, and getting tailored responses using real life examples. Within reason I could also stop and start this when needed. This is mentoring. And the value is truly starting to be felt, widely.

A mentor offers a bespoke solution, without even asking this of the mentor, it is just the nature of meeting one-to-one. And to be a good mentor, you do not need to be highly skilled in training and coaching (although some training in good mentoring techniques can be very beneficial), so mentoring is an activity that many more people can get involved in. Mentoring is leveraging and sharing the knowledge from the specialities within an organisation in a way that a paid external could not.

Mentoring can be attractive to all types of employees. For the high flyers who want to keep moving up the company, they can stay motivated through having someone to consult on whether there is more that they could be doing or different things that they should focus on. Those taking on a new project can learn and get to grips with it faster through being given a space in which to ask questions. For the mentor, they not only gain satisfaction through their mentee’s achievements but they learn from the mentee; it is not a one way process. They can practice their leadership skills, hear about areas that they do not work on, and show their success of their role as a mentor on their CV.

All of the benefits that individuals receive can lead to retaining and better development of good talent, reducing recruitment and training costs. This is now being better understood now than ever because as results from previous generations of mentoring programmes come through, they are starting to provide the anecdotal evidence that mentoring works. However, with few options in the market to measure the effectiveness of programmes, statistical evidence of workplace mentoring programmes is hard to find.

Finally, setting up a mentoring programme is easy; the barriers for establishing one are low in terms of cost and management. Organisations are really starting to see that staff who are able to access learning support from their peers can be more happy and engaged in the company, more innovative through accessing knowledge from niche areas, and more empowered through enabling them to access support at any time.

Anna Thomlinson
Co-Founder & Mentor Manager at Mass Challenge.
Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.