Today there are many ways how you can develop yourself – you can attend a workshop, schedule a session with a coach, or find yourself a mentor. Traditional mentoring usually involves a senior professional who guides you, as a junior professional, along your career journey and shares their best practices and knowledge with you. But what happens when many individuals want to develop in their careers, and there's no senior professional available?
That's where peer mentoring comes in. Peer-to-peer mentoring is less known and widespread than traditional mentoring, however, it can bring many benefits to both involved in the relationship and organization where the mentoring is happening. What is the meaning of peer mentoring, what are some examples, and, most importantly, what are the benefits? Read on to learn more.
What is peer mentoring
We all know what traditional mentoring is – it's when a senior professional helps a more junior colleague to grow and develop within their role. Usually, a mentor holds a higher position than a mentee and shares their best practices and tips to reach the desired career stage quicker and more effectively.
But what is then the definition of peer mentoring? In contrast to traditional mentoring, peer-to-peer mentoring connects two professionals that sit on the same level, within the same age, or have the same background knowledge, to encourage and empower each other and bring together up the career ladder.
Peer mentoring may be helpful when the organization has limited availability of senior professionals that would mentor its junior colleagues, but juniors are still keen to develop themselves. In such cases, colleagues can connect with each other and contribute to their development.
For some, this type of mentoring can be more fun than traditional mentoring. It acts as a glue between colleagues, making the relationship easy and friendly without pressure to show achievements in front of senior mentors.
The purpose of peer mentoring
The primary purpose of peer mentoring is to connect colleagues or professionals that represent the same level to grow together by pushing and encouraging each other. As mentioned before, it might work better in organizations where senior professionals cannot support traditional mentoring programs or where there's a high demand from professionals keen to work on their careers.
Some might prefer peer mentoring because it helps connect with colleagues on the same level, share challenges, and be understood. Usually, peer mentoring is a popular choice as the shared experience of another peer is not far away from each other.
When it comes to a company or an organization, peer mentoring connects employees and builds strong teams, strengthening the company's culture. Peer mentoring helps introduce employees that didn't know about each other yet or were not aware of the struggles each experience – connection results in a community of empowering peers that make the organization even stronger and more successful.
What are the benefits of peer mentoring
There are many benefits of peer mentoring that help all parties involved, from peers participating in the relationship to organization(s) where peer mentoring is organized.
The first and foremost benefit of peer mentoring is the encouragement of professional development. Whoever participates in mentoring has a chance to develop and grow within their career and gain new skills and knowledge. By helping each other within peer mentoring, peers pull each other up, doubling the benefits for each party involved.
Peer mentoring involves peers representing different teams or departments but having similar views on growth and development. It fosters a sense of community within a company. Peers feel they are part of the company as a whole, and as they trust and can rely on a fellow peer, they feel more engaged and productive.
Peer mentoring encourages open communication and creates an environment for colleagues to come together, share their knowledge and experience in a safe space, and support each other. Peers feel comfortable asking for advice and giving feedback without being judged. Successful peer mentoring can decrease company conflicts and strengthen colleague trust.
In companies where many newbies or internal transfers are happening throughout the year, peer mentoring can be a supporting pillar during changes. In this case, a peer will support another peer who just changed position or joined the company and make them feel welcome and safe, leaving all stress from a change behind.
To sum up all benefits above, peer mentoring generally helps with retention within a company. It's known that employees leave the company when they don't have a chance to develop and grow. However, thanks to peer mentoring, participants will have the opportunity to work on their skills, will feel valued, and will create a positive work environment – all leading to decreasing retention rates.
What are the examples of peer mentoring
Many peer mentoring examples can sometimes be defined as different peer mentoring programs.
Firstly, peer mentoring can be facilitated internally or externally within the organization. Internal peer mentoring is most common, connecting colleagues at a similar stage in their careers and similar levels of seniority across different teams or departments. External peer mentoring is usually organized by an external organization, for example, Femme Palette, where a peer mentee first defines what they are looking for and then is matched with a peer fit for their needs.
The most common example of peer mentoring is based on collaborative learning. During this relationship, peers help each other, learn from each other, and share their knowledge. They brainstorm together, challenge each other, and generate new ideas that they haven't thought of before.
Another peer mentoring example is introduced when onboarding a fresh colleague – a common practice in many companies. A peer, or an onboarding buddy, is a first contact of a new colleague, showing around the company, sharing important contacts and links, and replying to any questions.
If a company follows a remote-first policy, peer mentoring can be useful when connecting employees who otherwise might feel isolated. In this case, peer mentoring helps employees feel included and better connected to a company and its teams.
Peer mentoring can also be introduced while working on the project and requiring accountability. Peers that work on the same projects act as fellows that regularly check on the progress of each other and offer advice and help if an issue occurs.
Building a network can be another way how peer mentoring is formed. Those involved in peer mentoring can help each other grow their professional networks by introducing peers to other professionals from their connections, finding networking opportunities together, and helping each other develop networking skills.
Peer mentoring in the workplace
Now we know all about the benefits of peer mentoring and its examples. But how can you become a peer mentor in the workplace, and what do peer mentors usually do?
Everyone can indeed be involved in peer mentoring. However, extra motivation is needed to keep the initiative going and make it work in the workplace. As peer mentoring involves two peers, both of them should be team players, be able to communicate clearly and provide relevant feedback (and be ready to accept feedback from others). They should have organizational and project management skills that will allow them to stay on track and be accountable. Also, they should be leaders, encouraging peers, challenging others to act differently, and providing support on the way.
While setting up peer mentoring in the workplace, some employees might benefit more from it than others. For example, peer mentoring will be helpful to employees forming a new team that didn't exist before to get closer to teammates and foster a better working environment. Same for new employees who become part of peer mentoring and learn more about the company, its culture, and expectations.
As mentioned before, remote workers will benefit greatly from peer mentoring, as they will get that much-needed connection with the company and support that they wouldn't get otherwise. Workpaces might also introduce peer mentoring for high-performing employees who can learn even more from peers and share their top skills and expertise with others, boosting their leadership skills and reaching their potential.
Would you like to introduce peer mentoring in your company, or would you like to source peer mentors externally? Reach out to Femme Palette to learn more.