At Everwise we work with a diverse set of companies and organizations on mentoring programs for their employees. Sometimes the mentors are fellow employees, but usually they’re from external pools, which we generally advise. In one instance, when protégés were presented a choice, two-thirds chose to to get paired externally.
This preference by protégés and recommendation from Everwise to work with external mentors is because diverse matching is powerful in these relationships. It’s part of the rise of the “porous enterprise” which benefits from more access to ideas, outweighing risks from more employee exposure. Overwhelmingly, people act appropriately and increase loyalty when their employers trust and empower them.
Mentoring programs are opportunities to overcome the fact that companies tend to be insular environments. Daily work largely consists of employees interacting with fellow employees. Ideas rise internally, with echo chamber amplification, and other perspectives tend to get drowned out.
Insular thinking gets challenged by outside perspectives, like those provided by an external mentor, particularly one who works in a far-afield industry. This can drive true innovation, which generally arises by applying proven approaches in an entirely new context. Context is certainly switched when advice on an important consideration comes from an accomplished professional who works in a different field.
Accessing mentors from outside organizations and alternative industries is not always the right choice for everyone. There are circumstances in which internal mentor-protégé pairing can be best like particular sensitivity about security tightness or very context-specific protégé development needs before more innovative considerations become appropriate.
For most cases we recommend a commitment to diversity in accesssing a cross-company and cross-industry mentor pool. It is usually the best course for each stakeholder: protégé, mentor and sponsoring organization. We have surveyed all of these communities to validate.
Why protégés prefer external mentors
- A particular protégé’s needs and interests from mentorship are highly personal and the bigger the pool of mentors for pairing, the more likelihood of a great match for the circumstances
- There is more openness about issues to work on, including weaknesses to overcome, when there’s no consequence of these being exposed within the organization or industry
- More on what protégés want
Why mentors prefer working with external protégés
- Mentorship is an opportunity for personal growth by the mentor as well, and engaging with new people in different settings provides a safe environment to develop ideas and skills
- Senior people can be most insulated in their perspectives, especially those who have worked somewhere for a long time, and exposure to external issues can freshen internal approaches
- More on what mentors want
Why sponsoring employers prefer external programs:
- The effectiveness of a mentorship program is ultimately based on qualities of participating individuals’ experiences, so mentor and protégé preferences for external programs should be accommodated
- Risk of employee disruption, like through recruiting efforts, can be contained through appropriate controls and vetting, leveraging a programmatic approach to mentoring
- More on what employers want