The Role of Mentorships in Building a Strong Workforce

By Phokham O'Connor | October 5, 2020

Mentorships are a key component of a comprehensive employee development program. Whether through a formal program or more organic and casual interactions, insurance organizations have much to gain from encouraging and facilitating mentoring relationships across the organization.

By embracing mentorships, insurance organizations are able to increase employee satisfaction and advance leadership development, among many other benefits.

Recognizing the Organizational Value

The organizational impact of mentorship programs spans far and wide. At the individual level, mentees are able to gain insight and guidance on various challenges or opportunities they are facing.

For instance, individuals may seek out mentors to help them successfully transition through a promotion or departmental move, take on additional responsibilities or pursue professional aspirations. Often, individuals may want to hone specific skills or build competencies vital to their longer term career growth.

In turn, mentors will have an opportunity to give back by sharing their experiences with others who may be facing situations similar to ones they’ve overcome. They’ll have an opportunity to connect with individuals they may not otherwise interact with, hear fresh perspectives and gain personal fulfillment by helping others achieve their goals.

Additionally, the managers of those being mentored will have engaged and motivated employees, who are actively working toward honing their skills and building additional competencies. These individuals will help build bridges among teams and foster interdepartmental relationships outside of their day-to-day interactions, which can pay dividends in the long run. And the overall organization will build a well-rounded workforce and confident future leaders who are well-equipped to take on new challenges.

Mentorships at All Professional Stages

While mentoring relationships often occur between a more junior mentee and more seasoned mentor, it’s important to note that mentorships are not just for young professionals. Mentorships are a valuable tool throughout one’s entire professional career, and their dynamics will shift based on current career stages and needs. Even the most accomplished individuals will benefit from the perspectives of trusted advisors.

Peer mentorships and reverse mentorships are also common and have their own unique sets of benefits, such as better connecting professionals with younger generations and providing perspective on new tools and technologies. Individuals who are in the same stages of their careers are able to provide support and guidance to one another at the peer level, as they are likely going through similar situations and can directly relate to issues at hand. There’s no limit to the number of mentoring relationships a person might participate in, depending on their career stage, aspirations and current needs.

Building a Successful Relationship

Successful mentoring relationships take work and dedication. Both parties must be committed to the process and make themselves available for regular meetings. To be most impactful, these relationships must be built on trust and honesty; both parties should feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly and value an outside perspective. Acknowledge the role of the mentor is to inspire, guide and advise, not to simply solve a problem or tell someone what they should do.

Additionally, it’s important to set clear expectations around what the mentee would like to get out of the experience. Make sure the mentee has clear goals, and the person in the mentor role is the best individual to help them on their journey. For instance, if an individual wants to build a specific soft skill, such as presenting more effectively in front of groups or building deeper professional relationships, someone who is skilled in those areas would be best suited to provide support. If an individual’s goal is to secure a leadership position, a successful leader who understands how to build strategic relationships and navigate the corporate landscape may be an ideal match.

In many cases, it’s helpful to determine the parameters of the relationship upfront. How often will the mentor and mentee meet? How will the mentee be held accountable? What is the timeframe for the mentoring relationship?

While mentoring conversations may have previously taken place in person, they’re just as impactful in the remote environment. It’s still possible to share coffee over a morning Zoom conversation or schedule a 30-minute virtual lunch meeting. Face-to-face interactions will always be important; try to leverage video conferencing platforms as much as possible. This enables you to read facial expressions and body language to connect on a more meaningful level.

Getting Started

It can be intimidating to create a mentorship program. However, the best thing to do is just start. Even if your initial launch is informal, with loose parameters, employees will benefit. As the program evolves, solicit feedback from both mentors and mentees, learn from your mistakes and make adjustments.

Discuss the program with your leadership team and gain organizational buy-in. Participating in a mentorship relationship should be encouraged at all levels of the organization and seen as a commitment to professional development. Ask leaders to help champion the cause and encourage their teams to participate.

As you begin to formalize your program, there are a number of considerations. How will you measure the success of a mentoring relationship? Are there specific milestones individuals should work toward? How will mentors and mentees be held accountable? You may even choose to offer micro-mentorships, where individuals can work on a specific skill for a short amount of time.

Mentorship programs are a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to employee growth and development. By encouraging these relationships, investing in employees and helping them reach their professional goals, you’ll build an engaged and driven workforce.

About Phokham O'Connor

Phokham O’Connor is a talent delivery manager at The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800- 466-1578. Email:

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Insurance Journal West October 5, 2020
October 5, 2020
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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