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Mentorship in the Workplace: The Workforce Institute Weigh-In

Mentorship at work can take many forms. This month, members of our advisory board offer their perspectives on ways managers can serve as mentors for employees, no matter where they work.

The Workforce Institute Weigh-In for March 2023: What’s the best way for managers to mentor employees 1) who work on the frontlines and/or 2) who work in a remote environment.

“Assuming the manager is on the floor with a frontline employee, then mentoring can be effectively done in the moment. Frontline work is usually quite tangible, so it’s easy to point to things that were done well, and things that could be done better. The challenge is that some people don’t like to [receive feedback], and, in these cases, the manager has to work hard to find ways to phrase things so that the employee takes them in. This can be frustrating, and managers should take real pride in their ability to mentor people who resist learning.” — David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

“I don’t believe there is a ‘best way’ or that where the employee works actually matters. Is it helpful to be able to mentor in person? Perhaps, but that’s not always realistic. The key is recognizing mentorships are give and give. When entering a mentorship, there has to be a freedom of trust, transparency, and willingness to learn. By building a foundation and sense of security, you can offer any employee direct and honest feedback that is delivered with empathy. Both the mentor and mentee have to have a sense of their roles and responsibilities within their work and the mentor-mentee relationship. Therefore, determining what you want out of the relationship and approaching the learning journey with intentionality and desire to change will lead to a successful mentorship. The miscue with mentorships is that the mentor is the only one teaching and the mentee is the only one learning. Learning from each other, with guidelines on the mentor-mentee relationship, will help both individuals deliver successful outcomes and achieve the sharing of powerful knowledge.” — Chas Fields, co-host, The People Purpose Podcast

“Take time to be intentional. When mentoring an employee in a remote environment, make sure you have meeting time set aside just for mentorship. What do you chat about in a mentorship call? Go beyond the tasks at hand and explore conversations around upskilling, networking, career feedback, and personal goals.” — Joey V. Price, co-host, While We Were Working podcast

“For direct managers to be effective in how they lead their teams, they have to be very intentional about supporting their employees — whether on the frontlines, in the office, or remote — through mentoring, coaching, and/or sponsoring. In this context, intentionality means that they build in the time on a regular basis to do so and they do it with an agenda in mind that is meant to genuinely help their employees grow and thrive. Direct managers are busy — very busy — and it would be too easy to forget to provide feedback or mentor employees amid the busyness and stress of the work they do. For example, they can become more intentional by building in time on the calendar on a biweekly or monthly basis to mentor and provide feedback. But intentionality also has to reflect a factor of responsibility to provide mentoring and feedback at the right time. This means that, if there’s something an employee can do better right now, why wait two weeks to provide that feedback? To be intentional, but also on-the-spot responsible, managers would benefit from discussing with their employees the ‘how’ — the right setting, timing, and approach to do this.” — Enrique Rubio, founder, Hacking HR

“Managers are mentors, whether they like it or not. Therefore, they should strive to create a culture of self-leadership and individual accountability for their frontline and remote workers. Communication keeps frontline teams safe, aligned with goals, and empowered to see themselves in an aspirational light. So, it’s essential to provide frequent feedback, set clear expectations, encourage autonomy, and discuss growth opportunities regularly. Remote employees want clear communication channels. The manager has to be a mentor who cares and provides regular check-ins, fosters a sense of community, and encourages self-care. These actions will make sure that workers stay energized and ready to shine. By following these strategies, you can empower your employees to take ownership of their work, improve their skills, and feel supported in their roles. Together, you and your workforce can build solid, resilient teams that adapt to any challenge.” — Laurie Ruettimann, host, Punk Rock HR podcast

“The pandemic and general changes in the business atmosphere have created unprecedented challenges for employees, and managers must adapt to these changes to ensure the success of their teams. Frontline employees often work in fast-paced and high-pressure environments, which can be physically and emotionally demanding. To effectively mentor frontline employees, managers should prioritize communication, recognition, and support. Regular communication is essential for frontline workers. Managers should provide clear expectations and feedback, listen to their team members’ concerns, and make themselves available to answer questions and provide guidance. Frontline workers often go unrecognized for their hard work and contributions. Managers should regularly acknowledge and celebrate their team members’ successes and contributions to the organization. This recognition can be a powerful motivator and can help create a positive work environment. Frontline workers often face unique challenges related to workload, stress, and burnout. Managers should provide resources and support to help their team members manage these challenges. This support can take many forms, including training, coaching, and access to mental health resources.

Remote employees face different challenges than their frontline counterparts. Isolation, lack of structure, and difficulty balancing work and home life can make it challenging for remote workers to stay engaged and productive. To effectively mentor remote employees, managers should prioritize communication, structure, and community. Regular communication is even more critical for remote workers than for frontline employees. Managers should regularly check in with their remote team members, provide clear expectations and feedback, and create opportunities for team members to connect with one another. Remote workers need structure and routine to stay productive and focused. Managers should provide clear goals and deadlines, establish regular meeting times, and provide tools and resources to help their team members stay organized and on track. Remote workers can feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues. Managers should create opportunities for remote team members to connect and foster a sense of community. This can include virtual team-building activities, regular social events, and other opportunities for remote workers to collaborate.” — Ivonne Vargas, award-winning journalist and bestselling author, “¡Contrátame!” (Hire Me!)

Mentorship is one way for leaders to make a positive impact at work. To learn how more ways leaders can make a difference in the workplace, regardless of title, register for the UKG Exclusive event on March 21, “
(Untitled): Why Leadership is More Than a Job Title,” featuring Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG, and Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of SHRM.

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