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Annie Qureshi



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Cross-Departmental Mentorship: Does it Really Work


Every employee should be enrolled in a mentorship program as soon as they are welcomed to your team. Matching junior team members to the right mentors is essential for their long-term success.

The best mentors may not be in the employee’s own department. E. Wayne Hart points out that the best mentors are highly inspirational. Employees in some departments may have highly technocratic bosses. Assigning them to a more outgoing or inspirational mentor may give them the necessary motivation to excel at their job.

Some organizations are beginning to explore opportunities with cross-departmental mentoring programs. Employees with different backgrounds may offer a lot of insights that new employees can benefit from. The question is whether these programs actually work.

What Can Cross-Departmental Mentorships Offer Your Organization

Last year, Julie Dietz wrote a great piece for Higher Logic on mentorship strategies. Dietz writes that it is a good idea to include all departments in an organization-wide mentoring program. 

“Getting buy-in from all parts of your organization is not always the easiest part of designing a mentor program, but it is essential. The best employee mentoring programs include staff from all levels and departments. The more options available for mentors and mentees, the more likely it is that participants will be paired with someone they can learn from. For instance, by working with those from another level, employees may gain the skills they need to move up. By working with someone from another department, employees may be able to change their career trajectory in a way that makes them more satisfied professionally,” Dietz writes.

One of the key benefits of mentorship programs is reducing employee turnover. Turnover rates in some workplaces are as high as 65%. These figures can be even higher if workers don’t feel engaged with their boss. Giving them a more inspirational mentor that rekindle their passion for their job may be enough to keep them onboard.

Unfortunately, there are also some unique challenges that you will face when building relationships between employees in different departments. These challenges will include:

  • Dealing with communication barriers between members of different departments. Every profession has its own lingo, work attitudes and styles of communication. Members of different departments must overcome these communication obstacles to coordinate a mentorship program.
  • Communicating the importance of the program. Dietz’s research suggests that it can be difficult to get employees to understand the importance of the program. They must understand that cross-departmental mentoring can help advance the entire organization’s goals.
  • Setting common objectives. Every department has its role within the organization. It can be difficult for managers to view things from a different perspective. This is particularly true with professions that tend to attract employees with a “Sensing” personality type in the Myers Briggs scale. These employees tend to see things from a more microscopic level, so it can be difficult for them to understand the impact their mentoring may have on employees from another division.

How can companies overcome these goals? They can start by following these guidelines:

  • Outline clear objectives for every mentor. Let the employees know what they should be focusing on and how their expertise may come into play.
  • Let the mentor know if the employees are considering making a career change. They can offer more perspective on the nature of their work, so the employee can make a more informed decision.
  • Encourage the mentee to be open to hearing new perspectives. Some may be shut off from colleagues in other departments, because they feel they can’t offer relevant feedback. Let them know what senior colleagues in other departments can offer. They may also be more open if their own supervisor speaks highly of the mentor.
  • Give employees some input on mentoring assignments. Some mentorships simply won’t be a good fit. The mentor or mentee may lack the interpersonal communication skills needed for a mentorship to work. Their personality types may also not be compatible enough to have any synergy. In these cases, it may be best to assign them a new mentor.

Your mentorship program will be more helpful if everyone is on the same page. As with any organizational challenge, the biggest anecdote will be effective communication.

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