How to Mentor an Employee in 6 Easy Steps

Smiling female business mentor pointing at notebook and working with young colleague in office IgorVetushko / Deposit Photos

A shrewd employer or hiring manager will employ someone for several reasons; they have the skills to do the job, the personality to align with the culture, a professional character and the potential to thrive in their job role.

Hiring such a candidate has another advantage too, though. When employees show they are willing to learn, take up new challenges and want to stay with the company for the long run, then it's easier for you to invest in them and mentor them.

This is important, as mentoring an employee can have multiple benefits for your company. If the employee is inexperienced, for instance, then you can provide feedback and show support. As a result, they will grow into a far more valuable employee and buy into the culture of your business more naturally than someone who has years of experience, meaning that they will also be easier to retain. In addition, they will trust you more because they will feel that their professional needs are being met.

If you are capable of managing your time efficiently, mentoring does not have to take up vast swathes of your time, either. It's an invaluable way for you to develop as a leader, too, so the benefits work both ways.

So, with these factors in mind, how can you focus on moulding your staff into indispensable assets for your company? This is how to mentor an employee.

Know whom to mentor and which approach to take

If you recognise the potential in your employees, then the time you invest in showing them the ropes will not be wasted. This means understanding an employee's strengths and weaknesses and identifying what can be improved and moulded.

You also need to understand that different people react to different approaches. Some employees - such as graduates and entry-level workers - might require you to step in early in their employment, taking a broad approach to their development and growth. More experienced hands, meanwhile, might be focused on achieving a particular goal or target, which you could help by providing one-on-one sessions, for example.

Create an authentic connection

According to Ebsco, the most critical step when mentoring is making your mentee feel comfortable; this means that you need to cultivate a genuine relationship where both parties feel respected and understood.

There are numerous ways to achieve such a connection. For instance, in a more casual office environment, you might show your employees that it is fine to have a sense of humour and demonstrate your human side; get to know your staff and find out about their personal lives (within reason, of course). Even something as simple as sitting down and asking someone how their weekend was will strengthen the connection between you.

As your relationships develop, make people aware that any concerns or flaws they may have can be worked on together, too. In this way, you will earn their trust, and they will be more willing to learn from you.

Demonstrate model behaviour

Mentoring isn't just about the time you spend alone with an employee, or the specific methods you utilise to help someone develop. At all times, your employees are observing your actions and behaviour, identifying your style, attitude and standards; whether subconsciously or otherwise, this will, in turn, have an effect on their own behaviour at work.

If an employee is keen and observant, they will follow your lead and adopt your traits. Therefore, it is vital that you are continually modelling the kind of behaviour that you want to see reflected back to you.

Pass on your knowledge

At its core, the whole point of mentoring an employee is - within the scope of their role - to teach them everything you know. In this sense, teaching includes sharing relevant experiences, helping employees network by showing them what to pursue in a potential contact, identifying ways in which you (or others) have succeeded and always allowing them to ask questions.

Motivate and inspire

No one will want to learn from you if they are not motivated to do so. Show employees that what they learn can be put into practice and that their newly obtained skillset will bring results; if they are still not willing to better themselves by tapping into your knowledge, then it's questionable if that person is the right fit for your company.

The more that your employees learn, the better their output will be; you can then motivate them even further through bonuses, company outings or a personal gift (that will also boost your connection with your employees and show that you care).

Provide guidance and support

Even the most experienced employee will have times when they are not sure of how to handle a situation; after all, we all need some advice now and then. This is where trust comes in. If an employee trusts you, they will seek your guidance on certain matters, meaning that those relationships you have built will start to bear fruit.

Once you have guided an employee in the right direction and they have decided what to do, support them - even if they have chosen a slightly different path. Ensure that they know that they can come back to you with any other issues, as well. 

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Mentoring employees is a great way to keep them engaged, to further their development and to create a more productive workforce, so it's essential that you have a hiring strategy in place that identifies candidates with the potential and inclination to learn.

Remember, too, that mentoring is not a one-size-fits-all solution; you have to adapt your approach individually to each of your employees. If you are unsure about their development, talk to them; ask them how they think it is going, and if they believe things could be moving in a different direction. Keep the channels of communication open at all times, and everyone will benefit in the long run.

What mentoring tips or advice would you give? Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.