Human Resources Kit For Dummies
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Mentoring among employees can be a great tool for fostering overall career development for your staff. It provides an eye toward career development that can last a professional lifetime. That means using mentoring to build attributes that are effective today as well as farther down the road.

Some abilities, such as people skills, are not easily taught in the classroom or through online courses. Still, these abilities are pivotal to your staff’s ability to interact with customers and with each other in the office. Mentoring opportunities are ideally suited to this kind of skills and knowledge transfer.

One reason mentoring arrangements work is that topics discussed between mentor and mentee are typically kept confidential. If an employee is having difficulty working with some of her team members, for example, she can comfortably discuss these dynamics with her mentor in a way that’s not possible in a structured setting or with an immediate supervisor.

Mentors must be trained to bring to HR’s attention any mentee concerns that could amount to unlawful harassment or discrimination, or any other possible violation of company policy.

Mentors can prove to be especially valuable resources as their partners continue along their career development paths. For instance, a mentor can recommend ongoing learning and training programs that can best serve a mentee’s career goals. If a company position opens up that represents a form of career advancement, mentors can suggest effective strategies to pursue that opportunity — or why it may not be a suitable fit.

Here are some more ways mentors can assist in your company’s career development efforts:

  • Helping to identify an employee’s long-term career goals: Many people — those in the early stages of their work life in particular — often fail to take the time to consider how they want their careers to progress over time and what that progress actually entails. A mentor can kick-start for an employee the process of beginning to think long term, not merely where he wants to be next year.

  • Acting as a dedicated role model: Instead of an employee having to reinvent the career wheel, a mentor can serve as a living, breathing example. The mentee can emulate the behaviors and attributes of someone who’s already taken a similar (and successful) career development path.

  • Unlocking the power of networking: Career development doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Mentors can introduce their protégés to others who can prove to be invaluable points of contact and perhaps become additional role models.

Think of it this way: Online courses give employees the black and white; mentors give them the shades of gray in between.

Much like career development, which it supports, mentoring is a win-win activity. The relationship benefits not just the mentee and the company but also the mentor. In addition to bolstering their supervisory competency and leadership abilities, mentors gain the inner satisfaction of knowing that they’re facilitating someone’s career growth and assisting the company in cultivating a future leader.

Helping employees work and interact more effectively also brings some concrete, practical career benefits to mentors. Serving in this role adds value to the organization and increases the mentor’s visibility and potential for advancement.

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Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, the world's largest specialized staffing firm. He is one of the leading experts on human resources and employment issues.

Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, the world's largest specialized staffing firm. He is one of the leading experts on human resources and employment issues.

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