Research shows that mentoring in the workplace benefits both the mentor and mentee. A study by Garner showed that 25% of mentored employees had a salary increase compared with just 5% of their non-mentored co-workers. The same study also showed that 72% of mentees were retained in the company, compared with 49% of employees who were not mentored.
The same study discovered that those mentored were promoted five times more often than those not part of the mentoring programs. At the same time, mentors were promoted six times more often than non-mentors. This data shows that mentoring is valuable for both mentors and mentees.
Whether in a personal, educational, or professional setting, the benefits of mentoring are numerous. Many successful professionals point to their mentors when talking about who helped them to achieve their goals or helped guide them during their careers.
One type of mentoring is peer-to-peer mentoring or peer mentoring. It is defined as “an intentional one-on-one relationship between employees at the same or a similar lateral level in the firm that involves a more experienced worker teaching new knowledge and skills and providing encouragement to a less experienced worker” (Eby, 1997).
While the definition points out that a more experienced worker teaches a less experienced worker, both colleagues or employees are on the same or similar level. This means they both have valuable knowledge to share with each other. Being on similar levels also means the information they share is useful and valuable to each other.
Unlike traditional mentoring, which is more similar to a teacher-student relationship, peer mentoring encourages employees and professionals to mentor fellow colleagues on the same or similar career level as them, give advice to one another, and assist each other’s professional development.
There are several benefits of peer-to-peer mentoring:
1. Colleagues can learn from each other
Employees possess extensive knowledge from their experience working in the company and their interactions with each other. This knowledge is not learnt from a work manual, database, or training. This kind of knowledge is not found in standard procedures or written down formally. Colleagues can share their knowledge with each other during peer-to-peer mentoring and help each other grow professionally.
For those who own their own businesses or who are professionals without co-workers, peer mentoring with people in their network is also valuable. You don’t have to work in the same company to benefit from another person’s experience and insights. Tap into your network for a mentor and you’ll also soon discover the advantages of peer-to-peer mentoring.
2. No need for coaching
Coaching entails one person teaching another person and the other person acting like a student. Coaching also focuses on solving problems that arise in the workplace and towards improving professional performance. The topics discussed during a coaching session are typically decided by the coach based on the needs of the person who is undergoing coaching.
In contrast, the scope of peer-to-peer mentoring is wider, covering professional and personal development. Topics are decided by both parties and both mentor and mentee can benefit from the relationship. With peer mentoring, there’s no more need for coaching because both parties learn from each other. It can do the job of coaching and more.
3. Prevent mistakes
Peer-to-peer mentoring can also help prevent mistakes. Because colleagues and co-workers share knowledge and insights with each other, they are not just learning what to do, they are learning what NOT to do.
As an example, during a peer mentoring session, one of the parties talks about a work issue they are currently struggling with and tells their colleague how they plan to fix the issue. Fortunately, the colleague they were talking to had already encountered the same problem and knows that the suggested solution will not work. They can share what did work and, by doing so, prevent unnecessary mistakes from happening.
4. Your network becomes your advisory board
Because peer-to-peer mentoring is done with people usually on the same level, you can have mentoring sessions with anyone in your network. This way, your network becomes like your advisory board. You can ask for their opinions, advice, and insights on any topic. At the same time, you should also be open and willing to share your knowledge on the topic or issue you are discussing together.
When you employ peer-to-peer mentoring, you can access your entire network for mentoring sessions, which allows you to maximize your contacts and learn from their unique insights and knowledge.
5. Promotes employee well-being
Peer-to-peer mentoring helps promote employee well-being in the workplace. While mentoring is a valuable way of transferring job-relevant knowledge, peer mentoring also provides invaluable psychosocial support to professionals. Because peer mentoring is not strictly restricted to speaking about professional performance or workplace matters, both parties can also talk about personal issues, which can help mental well-being. This is especially true for remote workers who may not have physical co-workers to rely on for psychological support.
6. Fast track growth
Peer mentoring also allows people participating to fast track their growth. There’s no better way to grow than learning from those going through the same or similar professional journey as you. If you don’t participate in peer-to-peer mentoring, you end up relying on your own limited experience and whatever you learn, maybe through books or formal training. While these are valuable, peer mentoring widens your perspective and can help you and your business grow even faster.
7. Learn from different perspectives and industries via your network
Peer-to-peer mentoring gives you access to a wide variety of different perspectives and insights. Your network is composed of people with varying backgrounds, experiences, and industries. Through peer mentoring, you can learn many things from many different people. For example, if a manager of a digital marketing company and the sales director of an interior design firm are both in your network, you can learn vastly different things from them that you can apply to your own work or business.
Each unique perspective and industry has its own take on a single topic. Peer mentoring allows you to access these different perspectives and choose to apply what you think will work best for you.
How to go about peer-to-peer mentoring
Successful peer-to-peer mentoring sessions don’t happen on their own. They take time and effort to set up and sustain.
First, you must identify who you want to pair with for these peer mentoring sessions. Consider a person who has similar work experiences as you, maybe someone who started working at the same time or someone a little older but also has a unique perspective or faces different challenges than you.
When you’ve found the person, or people, you want to conduct peer-to-peer mentoring sessions with, you both must have a mutually agreed upon vision for your sessions. What is your goal for peer mentorship? What do you want to learn? Why do you want a peer mentor? Write these down and ensure you keep your objectives in mind when having these sessions.
Think of what you want to accomplish in the long run and determine how these peer mentoring sessions can help you achieve your goals. Review your work history and your career, and see if there are any gaps you think peer mentoring can help you to fill. You should also set boundaries with your peer mentors. What can you talk about? How often do you want to meet? Are there specific topics you want to discuss per session, or do you prefer more of a go-with-the-flow kind of setup?
Of course, you and your peers must learn from each other, so it’s crucial you find someone with a different perspective from you. Peer-to-peer mentoring is meant to help you grow and develop, so you should find someone who has something new to contribute and doesn’t know exactly what you already know.
If you have a mentoring session with someone who has the same background and experience as you, you can expect that you won’t learn something you don’t already know.
Lastly, there must also be trust and honesty between you and your peer mentor. You should feel comfortable enough with them to give your own candid opinions and perspectives. At the same time, you should be open to receiving feedback as well. Peer-to-peer mentoring should be a win-win situation for both parties involved.
Again, the benefits of peer-to-peer mentoring are endless. If you haven’t yet, start contacting your network today and set up some peer mentoring sessions. We guarantee you’ll soon realise that mentoring is a vital part of growing both professionally and personally, and you’ll wish you’d started sooner.