5 Ways Mentoring Can Support Succession Planning

by Mike O'Neill

Succession transitions can cause anxiety no matter who you are. Sometimes, the longer an employee has been with a company, the more distrusting they are of upper management due to experiences with multiple changes over their years of service. Employees might feel disconnected from each other by distance or unsure if their level of investment in the company matters. Regardless of the reason, a lack of buy-in at the employee level can make succession more challenging than it needs to be. Your job as a leader is to set up programs that will support employees as part of succession planning.

Investing in a mentoring program before a succession can help ensure a smooth transition with improved employee buy-in. Consider five different ways a mentoring program can support succession plans within your growing company.

#1. Mentoring Boosts Engagement

Employees aren't separate from the larger company, no matter their job title, and everyday encounters with other employees inform their work culture view. Mentoring can help shape how employees engage by providing a supportive environment for learners to grow. What might otherwise feel like criticism sounds like constructive feedback from a trusted mentor. 

Most employees want to know how far they can go within their profession. Mentoring makes it easier to spot those who want to move up in the company. Experienced leaders can report about who is most engaged and curious within the company before looking to hire outside. When it comes time to promote new leaders, you'll have great candidates ready.

#2. Mentoring Helps Retain Employees

Opportunities for upward mobility are essential for retaining employees. Mentoring is also foundational for employee retention because it communicates a strong investment in long-term employee development. From the beginning, mentoring programs assure employees that your goal is to help them grow within the company rather than anywhere else.

A strong mentorship program is a perk that also grabs the interest of potential employees. As you discuss the ways your company invests in employees, mentoring programs are high on the list of desirable perks. The pathway to growing within a supportive company can be a strong incentive for anyone.

#3. Mentoring Brings Together Strengths 

Whether there is tension in the office or remote work has taken a toll, distance can sometimes be avoidable if leaders make it a point to keep connections strong. To help employees feel like the essential part of your company that they are, mentoring programs are one way to reconnect. Regular check-ins with mentors can help strengthen connections and bring employees closer.

Mentors can also do some of the behind-the-scenes work for succession planning. Since they are often the most friendly and experienced of all employees, they are well aware of the ins and outs of the company. You can count on them going to bat for the company because they know just how important it is for all employees to be on board for succession plans to be the most successful. Often, mentors are solid middle managers, trusted by employees because they have experience in many different positions. 

#4. Mentoring Bridges Generation Gaps

Generation gaps occur in two different forms, and mentoring programs can effectively manage both.

  1. Employees encounter others who are part of the first wave of hires and aren't receptive to new ideas or growth; these long-term employees can drag down morale and create an uncomfortable workplace. Age is not necessarily a factor in this generation gap. 

  2. The other gap that affects employees is measured in years. Age is the determining factor in this kind of gap.

Everyone can be stubborn from time to time, even great leaders. Employees that stick to the policies from past leaders could be hesitant to adopt new practices and embrace change. They might only see more work and no reward. Mentoring programs can help identify the resources and support that resistant employees need to implement new policies and procedures.

Employees from different generations have different expectations. Mentor programs can capitalize on this age gap and bring together the strengths of different employees. While one might be more versed in a specific area of business operations, the other might be better adjusted. Everyone has skills.

#5. Mentoring Models Leadership Roles

Think back to the first time you were in a leadership role. How did you learn the ins and outs of being a leader? Someone who had already been there probably shared their essential knowledge to prepare you for new responsibilities.

Preparing for a leadership role without a mentor is like driving without an instructor. Sure, you've seen it done countless times before, but there's so much insight that can be gained from a mentor. 

With a mentoring program in place, you can better assure the outcome of succession plans. Mentors help support employees who need it most while preparing the highest achievers for new roles. By setting up the program to prepare everyone for changing leadership, mentors will help communicate new policies and procedures while explaining how they fit into your company's purpose and vision.

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