The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Fostering Mentorship Within Your Institution as a Higher Ed HR Pro

The clean slate of each new year ushers in a wave of resolutions for those who want to improve an area of their professional or personal lives. One common resolution is to give back, which often takes the form of monetary contributions. However, another way to meet this resolution on a professional level is to give back in the form of time and sharing experiences to help budding professionals navigate their career paths. As a higher ed HR pro, you’re in the perfect position to identify mentors and mentees at your institution and to foster these relationships. Here’s why:

  • HR professionals are most likely to be aware of the abilities and skills of employees across the organization, their performance strengths and weaknesses, and their career aspirations based upon the jobs for which they apply and the training they pursue.
  • HR is well positioned to stress the fact that mentor relationships benefit both the mentor and mentee. A mentor will gain insight into what less experienced workers are facing and can use that information to become a better supervisor or manager. Mentees will gain insights and knowledge to which they might not otherwise be exposed.
  • HR professionals possess the expertise to develop training programs to prepare mentors and mentees for their respective roles.

January is National Mentoring Month, so there’s no better time to begin thinking of ways to introduce a mentoring program at your institution.

Why Mentorship?

Mentoring is a cost-friendly way to boost retention and build a pipeline of future leaders. Think back to your first job and how you would’ve handled situations differently or decisions you would (or wouldn’t) have made had you received advice from wise counsel who has been in your shoes. Mentors sharing their professional experiences with early-career professionals or manager-level employees could be the catalyst for them to advance to the next level.

As a higher ed HR professional, you may already be knowledgeable about employees’ career goals. Equipped with this information, you can easily begin sketching out the design of your mentoring program. Here are some out-of-the-box ideas to consider when designing your program.

Mentorship doesn’t have to be limited to one-on-one meetings. Case Western Reserve University’s Staff Mentoring Circles program, as highlighted in a CUPA-HR magazine article in 2014, consisted of 28 mentees divided into four groups its first year. Each participant represented a different department or division on campus, which allowed them to be exposed to a wide range of campus units. Mentees remained together as a cohort in their circles throughout the 8-month program while mentors rotated between the four groups.

Mentees don’t have to be early-career professionals. The University of California (UC) Women’s Initiative focuses on the advancement of UC-employed women in their careers and how they can share their value to the organization. The program is offered to mid-career women faculty, academic personnel and staff who demonstrate the potential to advance their careers at UC.

Mentorship is possible within the administrative realm, not just on the academic side. The University of Colorado Boulder’s Infrastructure and Safety Mentor program is available to employees who work for the institution’s facilities management departments — utility and energy services; business services, planning, design and construction, operations; and human resources. The program has helped facilitate the transfer of learning into practice; build employees’ confidence; identify and engage emerging leaders; and build and extend networks both within the specific campus departments and across the university.

Getting Started

Mentorship programs can look very different from one institution to the next, but no matter its design, it’s important to seek feedback from mentors and mentees and evaluate ways it can be improved. Visit CUPA-HR’s Mentoring Toolkit to learn more about how to create a mentoring program at your institution.

Related resources:

Mentoring Toolkit

Early-Career Professionals Toolkit

Succession Planning Toolkit

Making the Most of Being a Mentor Essentials Video

Making the Most of Your Mentorship Essentials Video

Time-Out With Tammi and Tyler: Episode 1 (a chief HR officer’s advice to early-career professionals)

Support the Development of Your Early-Career Employees With Stretch Projects

6 Ways to Keep Your Retirees Engaged