Mentorship in Ireland


The power of stepping up

By Maeve MacEnri, Director of HR, KBC Bank Ireland

My personal experience with mentorship started in my early career. It was not a straight forward path to mentorship—more of an unconscious one. For years I found myself going back to the same person I worked with in a previous role to seek advice and share opinions. At the time, I did not see this relationship as a mentorship as it wasn’t formalised however as the years passed, I came to realise that it very much was. And quite often for many people this is how mentorships begin. But this is not the only way a mentorship can happen. In today fast paced, digitally driven work environment, going out and seeking a well-matched mentorship has many benefits.

I’ve always seen mentorship as a very powerful and valuable way of growing in your career. It’s also something that benefits, I believe, both the mentor and the mentee once the right relationship is formed.

In today’s digital age, communication is easier than ever but the same age-old principles to mentorship apply. We are used to working in a remote, virtual world and mentoring has evolved to reflect that. While there may be less face-to-face interaction, the premise of providing learning and development through a relationship of mutual trust is still critical. Yet now-a-days the need to seek out mentorships and the importance of such relationships is often a side thought by many employees. I was interested by findings of a recent survey conducted by Lincoln Recruitment on mentorship and how in fact mentorship in the Irish marketplace is very much alive and active.

Their research entitled ‘Do Irish professionals have mentors?’ shows that 71% of Irish professionals surveyed said they had a mentor. Of the participants, 57% worked in mid-level management positions and 29% are at executive / director level. In addition, of those who work with mentors, 62% of respondents revealed they had two mentors, with the remaining 38% having one.

The research showed the primary method we source our mentors is through current and previous employers. Sixty-two per cent of those surveyed stated that they were partnered with a mentor through a mentoring partnership with 26% utilising previous managers and employers for this role.

Finding the right Mentorship
For me the key elements in finding the right mentor are clearly determining your goals as well as defining what it is you want to achieve from this relationship. It is also about finding the right fit - building trust and a solid relationship with your mentor is crucial. The same can be said for a mentor when finding a mentee. Finding a mentee, you connect with, want to nurture and add value to is essential in having a successful outcome.
Quite often people seek out mentors within their organisation which can be very successful. However it is not the only way to get mentorship. I truly believe that having an external mentor is also very powerful and offers a different perspective on things. Having both an internal and external mix when it comes to mentorship is a strong combination and one I have seen excel in many circumstances.

The power of having a mentor that has different skills, experiences and perspectives to you is something that everyone can benefit greatly from. Quite often people get caught up in their everyday jobs and don’t take the time to seek or provide mentorship. I believe that this is something that should be nurtured in organisations. At KBC, we have a strong learning and development programme and coaching and mentorship is something that forms part of that. Mentorship doesn’t have to be face-to-face; it can also be done virtually which many people prefer these days. It can be a monthly facetime call, a series of online chats or equally finding the time to physically meet and schedule meetings a few times a year. The learnings are valuable and stepping up to push a culture of mentorship across your organisation is something I feel strongly about.

What should you look for?
Figuring out what you want is the best starting point. Once you have done this make a list of the people who you aspire to build that relationship with and seek them out. You can ask people you know to make introductions or a simple LinkedIn connection could even turn out to be successful for you. Whatever the medium, the ingredient needs to be the same—target people who you can learn from and hopefully in doing that they will also learn a thing or two from you.  
It is crucial to remember to give value in return to your mentors. A mentor-mentee relationship should not be a one-way street but rather a relationship where it’s mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Reverse mentoring is when younger or less experienced staff share their knowledge with senior mentors. This helps mentors find out things such as what makes the younger generation tick, and what technologies should be used to tap into its thinking and behaviour. It can bridge the generation gap in many organisations, and lead to significant insights. It’s also a great opportunity for younger workers to network within the company and become more engaged.

At KBC we offer a ‘Young Leaders’ programme that allows younger employees to meet with management on a regular basis and provide them with insights and feedback. The aim is to harness the energy and inspiration of young people at KBC to drive change for the benefit of society and for the business and this is something that has worked very well for both young employees as well as management.

While the mentorship numbers in Ireland look strong, it is something that is still not happening widely, it is less formalised across many organisations and this is something I would like to see change. The importance of a culture of coaching and mentorship is one that many organisations can benefit from and one in which employees will grow and prosper in. It is something that I encourage employers to step up and push for and one that I promise will bring benefits right across the organisation.

Tops tips for mentors and mentees

  • Establish what your goals are and find the right mentor who can help you achieve this.
  • A successful mentor will find a mentee they connect with, aims to nurture their talents and sees an opportunity to add value to their career.
  • Having an internal and external mentor can be a strong combination for your development.
  • Make a list of people who you aspire to build that relationship with and seek them out.
  • A mentor-mentee relationship should not be a one-way street but rather a relationship where it’s mutually beneficial for all parties involved.