Podcast: 'Mentoring as a key to growth' - written version

24 May 2023
Lesley Arens Founder #ZigZagHR Connect on Linkedin
Key Messages
  • What is mentoring? 
  • Why formalize it, and what processes are needed?
  • Key tips to implement mentoring

In this ZigZagHR podcast, TriHD and Artsen Zonder Grenzen elaborate on mentoring as a key to people's growth. Listen to the podcast or read the written version here below:

Growth, it's a matter of wanting, daring, being allowed, and being able to grow. An organization grows when its people grow alongside it. In a series of three podcasts, #ZigZagHR talks with TriHD about sustainable growth. 

In this episode, Lesley Arens talks with Sara Wouters, Care Manager at TriHD, and Wiet Vandormael, Mentoring & Program Manager at Artsen Zonder Grenzen, to discuss the importance of mentoring for people's growth, and how it takes shape in their own organizations. 

They also share some tips to get started in your own organization. 

1. What is 'mentoring'? What is the difference between coaching or even a career advisor?

Sara: There are many definitions of mentoring, but a common thread that emerges in both of our organizations is the focus on the growth and development of another individual. Officially, at TriHD, we refer to it as furthering people for better performance by instructing and guiding on the job.

Mentoring takes place in various ways within our organization. When it comes to technical issues, a technical mentor can provide assistance. However, we also take a broader view of our consultants' careers, which is more in line with what a Career Advisor does.

Both a mentor and a coach support an individual's growth, but in different ways. A coach tends to ask questions, ask about the solution, while a mentor is more inclined to provide advice and guidance, tell about the solution.

Wiet: A mentor has experience in your role or field, whereas this may not necessarily be the case with a coach.

2. What are the criteria of a good mentor?

Wiet: At Artsen Zonder Grenzen the emphasis primarily revolves around experience within a specific role within the organization. In addition, there are several necessary soft skills, such as active listening, maintaining objectivity, empathy, and so on.

Sara: That's the same within our organization. In addition, a mentor also needs the ability to inspire and to be able to give and capture feedback.

A good mentor has experience within a specific domain in combination with necessary soft skills.

Wiet Vandormael, Artsen Zonder Grenzen

3. At Artsen Zonder Grenzen, you have been structurally investing in mentoring for over 12 years. How does this take shape in your organization?

Wiet: There are two categories of mentees in our organization: those who are taking on new responsibilities and those who are new to the organization.

In any case, the initiative lies with the mentee. When a mentee feels the need for a mentor, they have to take a self-assessment. We assess the developmental needs within the current role and then look for a suitable mentor accordingly. We have a wide range of profiles within our organization who are trained to be mentors.

Before employees become a mentor, they go through a selection process. Employees must have at least 2 years of experience in their current position, and at least 3 years of experience within the organization. They have to demonstrate soft skills through three references: one from someone they have managed, one from a peer, and one from someone who has managed them. Based on these criteria and the specific mentoring profile needs, the selection committee decides whether the individual becomes a mentor or is placed on the reserve list.

After these employees complete an intensive training program, they receive accreditation as mentors. This accreditation signifies both a guarantee of quality and an opportunity for further personal growth. Afterward, they become part of the mentor pool.

Currently, Artsen Zonder Grenzen Belgium has 180 internal mentors.

4. At TriHD, mentoring has been more recently formalized with the goal of 'furthering people.' In the meantime, you also have 100 mentors. How does one become a mentor at TriHD?

Sara: That's correct, we recently formalized the mentoring process to ensure quality.

Before someone can become a mentor, they are required to have 3 years of work experience and be employed at TriHD for at least 6 months. Many of these individuals have been mentees themselves and enjoy developing their people skills.

In terms of the process, the first step involves a motivational interview. There are various training components, including e-learning and classroom training sessions. Shadowing is also part of the process, where individuals shadow and are shadowed by experienced mentors to provide and receive feedback. Additionally, we organize peer-group discussions (intervisions) involving all mentors, allowing them to learn from each other's experiences.

We formalized the mentoring process to ensure quality.

Sara Wouters, TriHD

5. Is a mentorship infinite?

Wiet: We assess the mentorship after 12 months: What are the objectives at that point? Is the mentorship still valuable?

Sara: In our case, technical mentoring always ends with the completion of the project. However, the Career Advisor continues to provide support for several years, but we constantly evaluate who is best suited for this role. It's possible that this role may be passed on to someone else.

6. How do you make the added value of a mentor tangible?

Wiet: This is quite challenging, because you're dealing with non-quantifiable aspects. On the other hand, we have conducted impact studies that have shown a positive impact on the well-being, productivity, and retention of mentees.

Sara: We make an effort to closely monitor mentorship, for example, the number of contact moments, but also through shadowing and feedback forms from both mentees and mentors.

Additionally, the personal growth of the mentor is a focal point. Many of our mentors aspire to take on people management roles. Serving as a mentor allows them to practice and develop these soft skills, which they can then apply to new projects. This, in itself, is also an added value.

Many mentors aspire people management roles. Serving as a mentor allows them to develop the necessary soft skills.

Sara Wouters, TriHD

7. Some tips to get started with mentoring?

Wiet: Mentoring already exists informally within an organization. Why do you want to formalize it? What is the strategy behind this decision? What is the growth model? How strictly do you want to monitor it? Ensure buy-in from the executive committee.

Sara: Don't forget to communicate sufficiently about the mentoring program and highlight success stories to alleviate potential resistance. Practice what you preach. Begin at the top: even our leadership has a mentor and serves as a mentor for others.

Want to know more?

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