A Mentoring Journey: Interview with Experienced Mentor, Mike Pryke

1 minutes

Mentoring is a personal experience that changes the lives of those involved, the mentee and the mentor, as well as deeply, positively impacting organsiations that support this method of self development. Sometimes, to understand that impact, you have to hear it from the expert. 

That’s why we interviewed mentoring expert Mike Pryke, a mentor and learning enthusiast. Join us as we uncover his journey and experience with mentoring; the purpose, the challenges and the many, many rewards. 

Starting mentoring

How did your journey in mentoring begin?

I started working with early-stage businesses as a mentor, initially in the developing world (primarily the Rift Valley – Kenya and Uganda) and this is really where my mentoring journey started. Working as part of an international team making strategic, structured investment into informal sector businesses. Our investments were coupled with mentorship and support for the entrepreneurs and it was here that I was first hand the impact mentoring can have on an individual. In those circumstances – where often entrepreneurship is the only route to a stable income – it was vitally important for mentoring to be impactful and measurable.

The journey 

How has your mentoring journey evolved over your career?

Over time, I’ve continued to work with startup founders (albeit somewhat closer to home) as well as working with early career professionals working within startups. As I’ve got older (though not necessarily wiser!), I’ve continued to develop and hone the key skills that make mentoring impactful – find my 10 suggested skills of an expert mentor! 

Mentoring for enterprise 

Working with enterprise organisations, how do you integrate mentoring into their larger, more complex environments, and what unique benefits does it bring?

Any initiative that gets implemented within a larger organisation will – inevitably – be more complex than its equivalent in an SME – and mentoring is no different. With multiple departments in the mix and teams spread out, matching the right mentors with mentees can feel like a Herculean task. 

But here’s the secret sauce: software. 

It’s like having a super-efficient assistant who never sleeps, matching learners based on skills and goals, scheduling catch-ups, and keeping track of everyone’s progress. This tech magic means you can focus more on the human side of things and less on the headache of logistics and admin.

It’s also important to focus on building a mentoring culture. It’s all about making everyone feel they’re part of something bigger, where learning and growing together is just what you do. With the right software, embedding this culture becomes a piece of cake, encouraging everyone to jump on the mentoring bandwagon. 

In short, it’s the combination of the human and technological that make mentoring not just possible, but powerful in large, complex settings.

Building impactful programmes, at scale

In your role, you help L&D teams build impactful mentoring programs at scale. Can you give an example of a particularly successful program you’ve been a part of and what made it stand out?

A great illustration of our works and commitment to enabling impactful peer learning is our work with Clyde & Co. By leveraging our platform, we helped scale their global initiative, making mentoring accessible across continents, roles, and seniorities. 

This approach not only democratised access to mentoring but also enriched the firm’s culture with diverse perspectives and continuous learning.

The key to success? Our technology-enabled matchmaking and continuous support, making mentoring engaging and inclusive. Unlike traditional programs where training might be front-loaded at the beginning, our approach ensured that resources and guidance were provided continuously, aligned with the participants’ journey. This not only kept engagement high but also made mentoring training more accessible and self-serve, reducing the administrative burden on program managers.

Clyde & Co’s story is a testament to how we empower L&D teams to create programs that genuinely connect and develop their workforce at scale.

The challenges and rewards  

What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of implementing mentoring programs in diverse sectors?

Every sector, every individual organisation, brings its own challenges and rewards where mentoring is concerned. Reflecting on this, though, here are some things that stand out, particularly from our work in the Professional Services; Legal and Professional Association sectors:

Challenges we’ve faced include:

  • Navigating Hierarchies: Establishing mentorship across different levels in traditionally hierarchical environments can be tough, requiring efforts to foster a culture that values knowledge sharing across all ranks.
  • Specialised Matching: In fields with highly specialised knowledge, aligning mentors and mentees based on their specific expertise and career goals is crucial but challenging. (Guider’s customisable algorithm takes cares of this nicely!)
  • Confidentiality: Ensuring conversations remain private is essential in sectors where sensitive information is the norm, making trust and confidentiality key.

But the rewards are significant:

  • Professional Growth: Seeing mentees develop professionally is incredibly fulfilling, with mentoring providing essential insights and accelerating career paths.
  • Networking: These programmes expand professional networks, connecting younger professionals with seasoned experts, which is invaluable in knowledge-intensive sectors where succession planning is key.
  • Cultural and Innovative Advancements: They foster a more supportive organisational culture, encourage continuous learning, and facilitate the exchange of innovative ideas, benefiting both individuals and the organisation.

Despite the hurdles, the rewards of mentoring, regardless of sector – ranging from enhanced professional development to stronger organisational cultures – highlight its value as a tool for personal and collective growth.

Mentoring and mental health

As a mental health advocate, how do you see mentoring contributing to better mental health in the workplace?

Mentoring helps to create a supportive environment where individuals can share experiences, challenges, and concerns in a safe, confidential space. A big part of workplace psychological safety relies on providing colleagues an opportunity to feel – and be – heard.

The connections fostered by mentoring reduce feelings of isolation, boost confidence, and helps build a sense of belonging. Mentors can often offer guidance on managing stress, navigating workplace dynamics, and balancing professional and personal life, which are crucial for mental wellbeing. 

As well as this impact at organisation-wide level, the personal connection between mentor and mentee encourage open dialogue about mental health and create space for these discussions to be had, outside of the usual formal structures of the business.

Although not its only function, by providing emotional support mentorship can alleviate anxiety and improve job satisfaction, contributing to a healthier, more supportive work environment. 

For me, mentoring  is not solely about professional development but also plays a significant role in promoting mental health resilience – it’s a key part of our responsibility to our employees. In this way, mentoring can play a really important role in wider workplace wellbeing initiatives.

The future of mentoring 

Based on your experience, how do you foresee the future of mentoring in the corporate world, especially in the context of post-pandemic changes?

Like all things in the workplace post-COVID, mentoring and its role will continue to evolve. Moreover, increasingly senior leadership is looking to L&D to leverage technological advances (like generative AI) to support remote and hybrid workforces to connect, collaborate and learn together. 

One of the significant changes we’ve seen is that, since the pandemic, we’re all so accustomed to working remotely that cross-geographical mentorship is much more common. This has driven much more inclusive mentorship and learning cultures, in my experience, as knowledge has become less centralised at “head office” level.

95% of mentoring on Guider’s platform takes place over video call, rather than in person (up from 65% pre-pandemic) which really shows the scope of this change.

We’ve also seen a huge move towards informal, peer-led learning since the pandemic, with the traditional Learning Management System delivery model being disrupted by highly-contextual learning provided by mentorship.

Finally, while we’re bullish about the power of AI here at Guider, we firmly believe that the future of learning is human. Ai has a big role to play, though, in how we match mentors and mentees, as well as how we guide them on their mentorship journey. We’re not too worried (yet!) about human mentoring being replaced by a GPT-powered chatbot, though!

Overall, I’d say that mentoring has a very bright future ahead in corporate contexts. It is set to become more accessible, technology-driven, and holistic, aligning with evolving workplace dynamics and employee needs.

Advice for L&D teams 

What key piece of advice would you give to L&D teams looking to initiate or scale their mentoring programs?

One of the biggest mistakes we see L&D leaders make in starting mentoring initiatives is that they fail to differentiate different communities or programmes within their organisation. Instead, often organisations rely on a “one size fits all” mentoring approach which, in our experience, leads to low engagement and learner confusion.

Instead, my advice will always be to provide the structure and frameworks (however loosely applied) for learners to feel that their mentorship is purposeful and specific. For example, run multiple concurrent programmes for different cohorts of learners. If you’re a law firm, for example, you might run a programme specifically for trainees; one for Associates and one for Senior Associates. Not only will this allow you to monitor and evaluate the success of each initiative against its individual goals and objectives, it will help learners understand the purpose of mentorship and, in turn, drive engagement and usage.

This isn’t to say that ‘general mentorship’ can’t work. A lot of this depends on the context of your organisation and what you’re looking to achieve. Our Customer Success team works closely with every customer to identify these needs and build highly customised, differentiated programmes for them.

Closing remarks

Finally, could you share a personal story where mentoring significantly impacted your professional growth or outlook?

About 15 years or so ago, a mentor was forced on me. I didn’t know I needed one (and didn’t particularly want one!). I was a cocksure 20-something who thought he knew everything and this old guy was brought in by the organisation I was working for at the time. 

I remember feeling pretty insulted – what do you mean I need a mentor? Suffice it to say that I hadn’t fully embraced lifelong learning or the growth mindset at this stage in my career!

Mike (confusingly also this mentor’s name) was a very experienced marketer who had come up through multiple big-name advertising agencies in the 1970s and 1980s. He’d worked on some amazing campaigns and had set up his own communications agency in the 1990s, which he then sold. So a pretty successful guy, and really – looking back – I was privileged to have him as a mentor.

We got on really well and, once my youthful ego had subsided, I learned so much from him. We spoke, in fact, less about my role and my performance leading the Commercial and Marketing teams that I was in charge of; and more about ethics, values and principles. Mike helped me to orient myself and figure out what sort of leader I was and wanted to be. 

I guess, reflecting on this story, it really hammers home the power of mentoring – even for people who, like me at the time, aren’t seeking it!

The ROI of Mentoring

The ROI of Mentoring

How to measure and prove the impact of mentoring

What's next?

Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways Guider can help you supercharge your L&D with mentoring:

See how much mentoring can save your business with our ROI calculator

We've crunched the numbers from all of our customers to work out the financial value of mentorship to businesses. It might be just what you need to get executive buy-in... Click here to calculate.

Build your own mentoring programme

If you're looking to build and launch a mentoring programme in your organisation, then our guide is the best place to start. Read now.

Get a no-obligation quote for Guider's mentoring software

We get it, you want to know the price. Book a 20-minute call with our team and get a custom pricing proposal for your organisation. If it doesn't work for you, there's zero obligation to buy. Book now.

You might enjoy…

What is Peer Learning? Definition, Purpose and Benefits

More and more organisations are turning to peer learning over traditional learning and development. It offers a cost-effective solution for continuous, collaborative learning that gets results. Best of all, your people may already be doing it.

The Hot Topic: AI at Learning Technologies 2024

Your Step-by-Step Guide for Learning Technologies 2024

What is a mentor?

What is a Mentor? Definition, Purpose & More

What is a mentor? People often talk about the importance of mentoring in personal development and career contexts. In the search to find a mentor, you may find yourself looking for the definition, the purpose and discover even more.

Coaching and Mentoring: What’s the Difference?

Understand the unique contributions of coaching and mentoring to employee development. Read our blog on the Guider AI website here.

10 Benefits of Being a Mentor: Understanding Your Role and Its Importance

Guider AI