Time and experience are valuable commodities which exponentially increase in value when combined and shared. Countless studies have shown that mentoring programs in the workplace lead to far greater employee retention, satisfaction, and a closer-knit corporate culture. Companies encouraging inhouse mentoring generally benefit from more equal and diverse teams who enjoy greater promotion opportunities from within, and where specialized knowledge is transferred to incoming generations. Ultimately, these positive factors benefit the customer, which in turn secures a company’s ongoing success. So, when scrolling through LinkedIn last week and coming across a pair of mugs bearing the Sovereign logo and the words Mentor and Mentee, CargoForwarder Global (CFG) was intrigued and asked Sovereign Speed GmbH’s People & Culture Senior Manager, Stephanie Ostrowski (SO), to explain the company’s newly established inhouse mentoring program.
CFG: What led to the launch of Sovereign Speed’s mentoring program?
SO: The goal of the program was and is to provide professional development opportunities for our mentees and their mentors, while also fostering a sense of community and support within the organization. We like to provide our talents with a lot of opportunities early on, and these of course come with great responsibility. Therefore, we found it to be important to provide our mentees with an additional knowledge source, who can provide guidance, share experiences and his/her expertise.
CFG: What does the mentoring program entail?
SO: The program basically consists of 4 elements: (1) The Kick-off Event, in which we create an environment for the mentees and mentors to get to know each other, align expectations, and to set up rules and boundaries. (2) The Mentor-Mentee meetings, which are regularly planned and organized by the mentees and mentors themselves. (3) Three voluntary and competence enhancing trainings, regarding leadership skills, business mindset, and change management. (4) Networking events that foster the sharing of experiences between the mentees and mentors, and where external speakers may provide additional inspiration and input.
CFG: How many people are involved in the mentoring program?
SO: In this first edition of our mentoring program, we matched 10 mentors with 18 mentees.
CFG: What has been the feedback so far?
SO: The feedback so far is very positive. Mentors benefited from the program, with many saying that they enjoyed the openness between their mentees and themselves, as well as the opportunity to connect and understand the challenges of the different areas at Sovereign. Several mentees reported to have gained new ideas for their roles, feeling more connected to colleagues and to the Sovereign world in general. Of course, the program is not perfect, but that is not what we were aiming for. Working with a lot of people with different needs, there is nothing like a perfect program.
CFG: What learnings will go into the second round?
SO: I think at this point, the hardest part for everyone is to find and make the time for the mentee-mentor sessions. Our work is very time sensitive, and it is easy to get lost in the daily workload and routines. I think, however, that we all want to prioritize personal development more and it takes a lot of dedication to do so.
CFG: Are the mentors/mentees all from within the company?
SO: Yes, everyone is from within the company.
CFG: Is the program voluntary?
SO: Yes, we nominated and matched the mentors and mentees, but the final decision to take up this opportunity is with the mentees.
CFG: Who came up with the mug idea - and when are these handed over?
SO: The mug idea originated from a creative brainstorming session with my colleague, Louisa Wittenbecher, from Corporate Communication and Marketing. The aim was to create a nice little daily reminder for our mentees and mentors. Every mentor and mentee received the cup at our kick-off event. Now they will be reminded of their role with every morning coffee. The mug was only one of many ideas, and we already have a very nice idea for the next mentoring give-away, so stay tuned.
CFG: Is it top-down mentoring, or also reverse mentoring (young people teaching older colleagues)?
SO: Naturally, the focus is on providing guidance to the mentees and supporting them in setting goals and exploring their career opportunities. Nevertheless, the idea is to create a learning-relationship, which is not a one-way-street. We encourage our mentors to make use of the opportunities the program offers to them, such as reflecting on their own careers, receiving new impulses and feedback, as well as to simply pass on their knowledge.
CFG: What advice would you give other companies thinking of starting a mentoring program?
SO: Just do it! I don’t think you need to develop the greatest program to see great results and to be successful. Everyone can benefit from a mentoring relationship, not only the mentees, who get guidance, new insights and extend their network, but also the mentors, who benefit from sharing their experiences, receive feedback and strengthen their interpersonal and leadership skills. In my opinion, we all need to create way more moments to connect between departments and different levels in an organization. We can learn so much from each other and our experiences. Sharing our expertise and experiences allows us to contribute to the growth of knowledge and to the development of new ideas and innovations. It allows us to develop more meaningful connections with our peers and to build trust, which can ultimately lead to more productive collaborations and a stronger and more informed community.
Thank you, Stephanie Ostrowski, for your detailed and inspiring input!
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