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Advice for Businesses
Have You Heard of Mentoring Circles? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Every business will know the importance of training and learning for their employees. Did you know that almost 59% of employees feel that their experience was self-taught?
It’s important to be on the lookout for new ways to encourage your expert team to collaborate and share their knowledge on a peer-to-peer level.
Given that your people are already looking for learning opportunities – it’s important to provide formal channels for people to reach out to their peers and learn.
Enter mentoring circles. A great way to scale mentoring and peer learning in your organisation.
In this article, we run through everything you need to know about the basics of mentoring circles, a new way of encouraging your team to learn, while keeping the process relatively informal, for their absorption of expertise.
What is a mentoring circle?
That is undoubtedly your first question! A mentoring circle is a peer-to-peer mentoring environment where a group of professionals meet regularly to share their experience and work on their professional development.
There are a number of ways that you can implement this. You can have one mentor teaching the rest, group the team into twos or threes with people who they can learn the most from, or even organise the occasional special meeting where a guest expert comes in to speak to you.
How is it different from group mentoring?
That sounds pretty similar to group mentoring, right? Well, it is very similar. The key difference is that mentor circles generally have a “facilitator”, whose job is to run the whole process. In a word, it’s a little more formal, but carries many of the same benefits. The key factor is that you create training opportunities for your team.
We know the benefits of mentoring already, but what about mentoring circles? Let’s take a look:
1. Build personal relationships
The mentees in the group will have common ground from the start, and the mentoring circle gives them the chance to bond personally and professionally. There is also much opportunity for one-on-one mentoring to develop between the people introduced at a mentoring circle.
2. Develop your skills
While mentoring involves mostly discussion, the application in the daily working lives of your employees means that they will get to develop these skills that very day. Also, the mentoring environment has much more potential to make the process fun and engaging, as groups often do!
3. Advance your career
The skills learned and applied have the potential to advance your employees’ careers from daily application, and of course, transferring them to higher roles within your organisation, or other companies when they move on. Plus, having learned all of these skills at your company, your organisation looks pretty good, too!
4. Increase employee retention
When your employees feel that they have an upward mobility in your company they tend to feel more positive about remaining in their role, leading to a higher employee retention rate. This will please your higher ups, and longevity is an attractive benefit for many newcomers entering your industry.
5. Improve staff morale
The general staff morale will also improve. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the bond between your workers will improve. Secondly, the upward progress that they are learning week by week will instil in the team a sense of purpose. A happy office is a productive office!
Who should lead the mentoring circle?
As stated before, the facilitator is the person who takes charge of the administrative duties such as pairing, deciding who is a mentor and who a mentee, and monitoring the general trajectory and logistics of the sessions. In other mentoring programmes, a programme lead may take on this role or mentors and mentees may have to organise themselves in lieu of a formal program.
Having a formal circle leader/facilitator takes the pressure off of your mentors so that they can spend their energy training and imparting advice. In short, a facilitator is who will ideally ‘lead’ the circle.
The top qualities of a mentoring circle facilitator include:
- Experience/ training in group facilitation
- Experienced team member
- Strong communication skills
Their role is to organise the group, make sure everyone is able to participate effectively and follow-up in between sessions to keep everyone on track. As a people focussed role, it’s ideal to have someone comfortable building relationships and handling disagreements.
How do I start a mentoring circle in my organisation?
This depends on whether you already have a mentoring programme in place and how engaged your people are in mentoring.
It’s important to think about why you want to start a mentoring circle – is it that you have a group of mentors and mentees with shared goals, or that a business goal is to break-down siloes?
Once you understand why you’re starting a mentoring circle and who it’s for, you can start planning the logistics.
- How often will everyone meet?
- Is it an open or closed programme? Ie. can anyone join?
- How long will the programme run for?
- Where will we meet?
Once you’ve decided on the logistics, it’s time to start promoting your mentoring circle and inviting people to join. If this is a new initiative, it’s a good idea to factor in time to raise awareness of what mentoring circles are and what the benefits are.
📖 To find out more about starting a mentoring programme, with applicable tips to starting a mentoring circle, check out our guide: How to Start a Mentoring Programme
Mentoring circles are hugely beneficial to organisations, not only because they present your team with the opportunities to learn, but also to bond, collaborate and find allies. Done right, a mentoring circle can be something that staff look forward to during the week, and an invaluable part of your L&D toolkit.
If you want more information, advice and expert tips on starting your mentoring program, check out our related guides: