At one point or another, whether in a personal or a professional setting, most people have had a mentor. Despite the benefits that mentoring can bring to individuals and organizations alike, it is an underused and undervalued development tool. As a result, there are limited mentors available in settings across industries.
Finding the right mentor for your professional development journey shouldn’t be difficult. The truth is, a mentor does not have to work on the same floor as you, or in the same office building or even in the same city. And yet, it’s still difficult for individuals to find mentors.
In 2015, Lucy Lloyd and Heidi Holmes sought to fix this. After researching how mentoring was being managed across companies – large and small – and between individuals, Lucy Lloyd, co-founder and CEO of Mentorloop, says that she and Heidi Holmes, her co-founder and COO, discovered that while there are many people who believe in the value of mentoring, there was a disconnect between that belief and actual mentoring in workplaces. As a result of this research, Mentorloop was born.
Lloyd describes Mentorloop, which is based out of Australia, as an online platform and “dating site for mentoring relationships,” offering “a way to find and connect with that future version of yourself to help you navigate the next steps.” Its purpose is to help make mentoring experiences more accessible.
The Right Connection
How do you know you need a mentor? And how should you approach finding one? Lloyd suggests starting with the goals you want to achieve both professionally and personally in one year’s time, three years’ time and five years’ time. Are these goals that you can accomplish on your own, or would you benefit from “advice from a future version of yourself who’s already achieved it”? If you answered “yes” to that last question, then it’s time to start looking for that right connection for you.
When doing so, don’t fall into the trap of what a traditional mentoring relationship might look like: a young, inexperienced individual being taken in by an older, wiser individual. Lloyd argues, “The best mentors aren’t always those people light-years ahead of you, but rather those who are closer to your stage, for whom the battles you’re fighting are still vivid, so they can offer a relevant perspective.”
Try to look past age to focus on individuals who have or had similar goals as you and can help you align those goals to your career plan, someone who can teach you new skills, and maybe even someone close by who you can meet with often. Lloyd says that so long as there is a “will to mentor,” the right match can be made.
“We believe the right connection can change your life,” says Lloyd. But finding that right connection – that individual who can help you in your professional journey – can seem impossible at times. Mentorloop tries to give individuals the opportunity to identify their professional development goals and, in the process, choose “the right connection” to help achieve those goals. It gives mentees a way to “access new opportunities to connect” and prompts mentors to extend a helping hand.
What if organizations could build an internal mentoring culture that provides something similar to their employees?
“Employee development is essential as businesses look for a competitive edge,” Lloyd says. She believes that mentoring can help. While it is true that mentoring has vast benefits for the individuals involved, it can also benefit organizations. “The companies that are going to win the next couple of decades are the ones who will put their people first,” says Lloyd.
Investing in the future of your employees by providing opportunities for mentoring will not only help in continuing the professional development of your employees, but it ultimately means that you’re investing in the company as well. When you develop and improve the knowledge, skills and productivity of your employees, it only stands to benefit the company as a whole.
If you’re looking to build a mentoring culture, ask yourself this question: “Why mentoring?” While it’s true that mentoring offers benefits for both individuals and organizations, Lloyd says, “It can turn into a curse when they haven’t thought critically about why they want to build a mentoring culture.”
In order to make the investment in the future of your company and your employees a success, she suggests keeping in mind four key elements to offer at the start of mentoring: encouragement, insight, experience and generosity. Additionally, make a plan to keep the focus goal-oriented. How can you align the goal of furthering your employees’ professional development to the goals of the company? The next step would be to use “content and training to [optimize] the experience of both mentor and mentee to ensure success” for everyone involved.
How do you know that mentoring is benefiting and contributing to the success of your organization? Lloyd and Holmes have figured that into their online platform with one aspect of any training and development initiative that most people might not associate with mentoring: measurement.
Lloyd recommends reporting on success in quantitative metrics (activity/responsiveness, engagement levels, etc.) and qualitative metrics (“which take the form of sentiment analysis and check-ins” to see how both parties are faring and “tracking against their goals”). In addition to this reporting, Mentorloop conducts a longitudinal analysis every 12 months to measure employee engagement and retention.
While measuring success of training initiatives is crucial, it’s easy to get stuck on the metrics. Lloyd cautions against doing so: “Mentoring is a very human and personal thing.” She says that while there are many reportable benefits of mentoring, “Sometimes the true value lies in the personal anecdotes of how these connections have resulted in a promotion or even changed a life.”