I am interviewing Garrett Mintz, the founder of Ambition In Motion, to discuss mentor programs for small and medium-sized businesses. Garrett and his team have done extensive research into mentorship and what works and doesn’t work for implementing mentor programs. Garrett’s big focus is on leveraging the research of Work Orientation and its impact on successful mentor relationships which he shares about in this interview.

What is a common assumption that small to medium sized business owners have about their team?

That everybody already knows everybody or that they don’t have time for mentorship.

So often, I will hear from small to medium sized business owners that they don’t see a need for an employee mentor program because everybody has already worked at the company for 5+ years and that everyone knows everyone pretty well. Or that the issues between employees can’t be resolved so they are fine with leaving them unresolved and continuing on with business as normal. Or that they don’t have time for mentorship.

What most business owners are blind to is the fact that most conversations at work are superficial: “How are your kids?” “What did you do over the weekend?” “Did you complete that project?”

You have enough of these conversations over and over and over and you feel like you “know” somebody…but you really don’t.

Do you have a story you can share to elaborate on this point?

Of course!

One of our clients does tax accounting in Indianapolis. They are a 14 person firm and we started the mentor program in January.

It would be an understatement to say that the participants in our mentor program were busy and skeptical about this program. We are entering the heat of tax season and they are embarking on a mentor program…in a 14 person company where everyone knows everyone.

Needless to say, they were skeptical.

Brad and John are employees of this firm and they were matched together. Brad is a manager at the company and has been there for over 15 years. John started within the past year but has been friends with Brad for the past 3 years. In fact, Brad helped him land this job. Since they both had been friends for the past 3 years, they thought they already knew everything about each other.

They scheduled a 60 minute meeting for their first mentor meeting but were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough to talk about because they already knew each other so well.

The result…the meeting lasted for 90 minutes…they only got through 1 question on the meeting agenda we provided them…they had to schedule a second meeting in the same month complete the meeting agenda.

They learned so much about each other that they didn’t already know. They opened up about their background, their work history, their work goals, and how their personalities meshed well with each other. 

Brad and John have never had conversations like this at work before. They are now getting their work done more efficiently because they have a better understanding of what each person does and what they need as opposed to working in their own silos. Because of this increased efficiency, they are now starting on projects that were pushed out way down the line in the company’s strategic road map.

This was all accomplished within the first month of implementing the mentor program!

These types of stories happen all of the time.

What is your secret sauce? 

The key thing that we are doing that is different from most mentor programs is we are using the research behind Work Orientation to facilitate our mentor program.

Traditional methods for matching people together for mentorship don’t work.

My team and I have learned that when you match based on status within the company, years of experience, or learning a specific skill, that the mentor relationship becomes a transaction where the mentor gets nothing and only the mentee has something to gain. The issue with matching people together based on transactional metrics is that it lacks staying power and depth. Once a mentee achieves what he/she is after – or loses patience with achieving the goal, the relationship ends because the mentee has no need for the mentor anymore (e.g. after a promotion or learning a certain skill). 

This is a problem because the staying power of mentorship is what increases its impact to a business’s bottom line significantly over time.

If you can create webs of mentor relationships across your company, significantly more collaboration can occur, your team can innovate more easily, and your culture can thrive. People will show up more engaged for work every day and the ability to attract new talent to the company will happen more naturally because your employees will become ambassadors for your company, encouraging their friends and strangers to take advantage of joining the team if they get the opportunity.

My team and I have tested multiple personality tests and areas of research. We have garnered varying degrees of success with different personality assessments, but by far the most effective research area is Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work. Some people view their work as a career, while others view their work as a calling, while others view their work as a job. Work Orientation is fluid and there isn’t a right or wrong Work Orientation. When Work Orientation is aligned for a mentoring relationship, the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality is 400% greater than traditional mentor matching methods. Regardless of the department a person is in, years of experience, or status in the company, if Work Orientation is aligned for a mentor relationship, they are 400% more likely to last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality than matching on transactional metrics like the ones previously stated.

How much time does participating in a mentor program like yours normally take?

The time investment from employees in our mentor program is between 1 and 4 hours per month. If we are assuming 166 hours worked per month that is less than 2.4% of their time.

How does this translate to the bottom line?

There has been extensive research on the correlation between mentorship and work engagement and between work engagement and productivity. Essentially, if you can measure engagement changes in employee mentor program participants over time, you can measure how much more productive they are at work. This manifests itself in more sales, better customer service, greater collaboration between teams, and overall happier employees. If you can increase the likelihood of successful mentorship by 400% and continue implementing successful mentorship over time (e.g. building webs of connection), you can create a significantly positive impact on the bottom line.