Before we learned how to read and write, we were transferring knowledge through mentoring. In fact, the word mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus departs for the Trojan War and leaves his son in the good hands of his friend: “Mentor.”
It’s not just humans that depend on mentoring to survive but also animals. From meerkats that teach their young how to eat scorpions to falcons that drop-dead prey for their young to learn how to hunt, the animal kingdom is full of mentors. So why mess with mother nature? Why not let people connect through informal mentoring channels to learn and grow just as we have been doing since the dawn of time?
For starters, the workplace today is more diverse and interconnected than ever before. We have built the largest corporations ever known to mankind. They cross generations, geographies, genders, languages, cultures, and ethnicities. This melting pot of diversity is one of the reasons we have been so successful in innovating and creating significant wealth for millions, but it’s also creating more complex workplaces for us all to navigate.
The challenge with informal mentoring programs is that “leaders tend to coach and mentor their ‘own’… because they see less-experienced versions of themselves in these folks.” Unfortunately, this means that growth and advancement opportunities tend to go disproportionately to those who already have a head start. Furthermore, networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. That introvert or first-generation college graduate may not have the same ability to navigate the complex workplace and find a mentor that will transform their career. So how do we level the playing field to bring the best and brightest out of this incredibly talented and diverse workforce?
Organizations that have formal mentoring programs are seeing success in retaining and developing their diverse and talented workforce, which leads to financial success for those talented individuals and ultimately the organization itself. By creating a formal mentoring program, organizations are modernizing their mentoring culture and leveling the playing field for all people in the diverse workforce to tap into a wealth of knowledge that can be leveraged to create a more innovative, dynamic and diverse workforce.