Mentoring with a Small Staff
Making a mentorship program that works for smaller insurance agencies.
By Mike McDonough
Mentorship programs are collaborative and valuable tools to help your employees learn new skills. These relationships help with training, retention and make everyone involved feel more in tune with the goals of the company. But for small firms, they can seem like a drain on resources. As the competition for talent increases, a top-notch mentorship program can help differentiate you from other insurance agencies looking for the same candidates. Here’s how to maximize your program to make sure it’s not a strain on your small staff.
Mentor doesn’t mean boss
A common mistake among small firms is that they allow a new hire’s immediate supervisor to be their mentor. This can cause a few problems. First of all, a person’s manager should always act as a mentor, whether you have a formal program or not. By not partnering fresh talents with another mentor, you’re limiting their exposure to other leaders and insights in your company. Secondly, this will only give a mentee one perspective of how to do things. By pairing a new employee with someone different than their supervisor, they’ll learn how different leaders in different areas approach different challenges. Finally, a mentor outside of their direct supervisor will give employees an outlet to talk about their supervisor’s management style and tactics that are working for them, and where they might be falling short. They’re much more likely to share these critiques with a true mentor that isn’t responsible for their advancement, instead of their supervisor themselves. In a small agency, that person’s mentor should have enough of a relationship with their supervisor where they can pass on advice in a constructive way.
Utilize a group strategy
Speaking of giving new employees different perspectives, think of establishing a group-mentoring program to make sure they’re hearing insights from every angle. This will let you incorporate employees of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets to give new employees a depth of knowledge about your agency. It will also allow you to have a few employees focused on mentoring, instead of tying up your entire staff. Consider bringing in an executive, a middle manager and another new hire to cover a range of questions for mentees. Then, when people join your agency, add them to the group. You could also use an anonymous IM chat or message board where mentees can post questions without the pressure of revealing their identity. This will help them avoid feeling like their question isn’t worth asking.
Let them lead
Some younger hires will crave a mentorship program, while others may want to figure things out on their own when they’re new to the agency. It’s best to let them take the initiative on how often they meet with their mentor to help them avoid feeling either neglected or smothered. Offer options, like weekly meetings or monthly check-ins, but also let them know that they can simply choose to meet with their mentor when a question or issue arises. If you want to make sure they’re taking advantage of the program, assign them a task to teach their mentor as well. Whether it’s social media etiquette, SEO best practices, or even emerging industry trends, these assignments will help them feel like they’re brining fresh perspective to the table, and not just being monitored.
Mentorship programs are a great way to attract, keep and utilize talented young professionals in the insurance industry. Make sure that yours is up to par with your competitors so that it’s an asset for your agency when you’re recruiting. The most important thing you can do in a mentorship program is to listen as much as you teach. If something isn’t working for your new hires, change it. If something is missing, add it. By being flexible and understanding your young professionals’ needs, your mentoring program will become much less of a hassle, and much more of a true company asset.