Whether you’ve spent the last 30 years honing your craft as a broker, or you’re still wet behind the ears having just entered the industry, taking part in a mentorship program can have professional benefits for all involved.
For those on the receiving end of guidance, the benefits are abundant – from greater industry awareness and a wider professional network to an improved confidence and an expanded skill set.
However, it’s not just mentees who walk away with greater career prospects – mentors also stand to gain from such a partnership with many reporting improved leadership skills, increased confidence and exposure to new ideas. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour found that workplace mentors reported greater job satisfaction, higher quality relationships and greater commitment to the organisation, compared to individuals who had not served as a mentor.
Clearly, organisations that facilitate mentorships are also likely to benefit with several studies pointing to mentorship as an effective means of developing future leaders, embedding company culture, and creating inter-hierarchical links.
As with any relationship, mentorships are unique to the individuals involved and can vary across a range of factors including whether they’re formal or informal, short-term or long-term, developed within the workplace or wider community and industry-focussed or generic.
Whether you’d like to enter into a mentorship as a mentee or mentor, finding the right partner can be difficult as both parties must be on the same page in terms of commitment level and desired outcome – it’s for this reason that some individuals will find formal programs incredibly rewarding while others will find them overbearing and ineffective.
Most often initiated by an organisation, formal mentorships see workplaces or associations match professionals in a partnership which has set aims and guidelines. These mentorships are often short-term and operate for a specific length of time – it’s also common for formal mentorships to lay down specific expectations around regular meetings or tasks.
One study published in the Journal of Leadership Education found that formal mentorship programs do not yield the same results as informal programs but do make it easier for many people to find a suitable mentor or mentee partner.
Most formal mentorships can be entered into by applying to a program – either within an individual’s own organisation or an external association, such as NIBA or ANZIIF.
NIBA mentoring program
The National Insurance Brokers Association operates a formal mentoring program in which young brokers, insurers, and associated professionals gain experience and insight from more established industry figures.
The 12-week program, which runs twice a year in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, was established with the aim of giving young professionals a greater understanding of industry issues as well as offering a supporting environment in which they can develop themselves both personally and professionally.
Each pairing works on specific goals set by the mentee with the overall aim to help them progress professionally and overcome any challenges they face in the role – participants are also required to attend three workshops throughout the program and commit to a weekly meeting or phone call to retain contact and assess progress. Participation carries a CPD rating of six points for both mentors and mentees, as long as they can provide evidence of their learning and development via a presentation at the concluding workshop.
According to NIBA, participants are statistically five times more likely to earn promotions than those who do not take part in the program and many former participants have commented on how rewarding the initiative has been for them.
Maria Parry, CEO of Austcover, is among the professionals to have entered the NIBA program as a mentor – speaking to Insurance Business, she said the “fantastic” experience had even inspired her to implement a formal mentorship program within her own brokerage.
“I loved the opportunity to help somebody become a better person, not only personally but professionally as well,” she said. “Now, we have our own mentor program internally which works really well so younger brokers can learn and get a bit of guidance from the more senior brokers.”
ANZIIF mentoring program
The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) also offers its CIP members the opportunity to participate in a formal mentorship program.
Over a three-month period, mentees receive career guidance from an experienced and impartial professional who will help them identify goals, consider different career pathways, build invaluable networking skills and gain professional confidence.
For mentors, they’ll be opening themselves up to the new generation of insurance professionals while also making their professional community stronger, more vibrant and more resilient.
“As an ANZIIF mentor, you’re not just giving back to the insurance community, you’re also honing your leadership, listening and advising skills each time you meet with your mentee,” says ANZIIF.
Participants of the ANZIIF mentoring program are also eligible for five CIP points per program.
Often arising organically over time, informal mentorships regularly see one professional benefit from the guidance of a more senior figure, or even a peer, without any set guidelines or goals.
The relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be labelled a mentorship to bring with it all the benefits of one – it could simply be one insurance professional picking up tips and advice from another.
While these mentorships happen naturally in the workplace, they can also begin when one party – either the mentee or the mentor – initiates the relationship.
While informal mentorships can be hard to come by, a study published in the Journal of Leadership found that once an individual has found an informal mentorship, they gain more than those who are in a formal arrangement.
“One result of informal mentoring is that protégés were much more satisfied with their mentors than protégés were with formal mentors,” reads the report, which also notes that this may be due to underlying differences in the structure of the relationship.
“Informal mentoring relationships develop because protégés and mentors readily identify with each other,” it goes on to explain. “The mentor may see one’s self in the protégé and the protégé may wish to emulate the mentor’s qualities.”
However, while informal mentorship can be more beneficial, it can also inadvertently exclude people – as individuals are often drawn to those who are similar to themselves, it can perpetuate gender, race or cultural disparity within an organisation.
Particularly pertinent in today’s rapidly evolving environment, reverse mentoring sees younger, less experienced employees paired with older, veteran execs in order to share their insight on topics such as technology, social media, and current trends.
AXA is among the major insurers to have implemented its own reverse mentoring program – launched in 2014, the initiative was developed in order to facilitate the firm’s digital transformation and better equip its senior leaders for ongoing change.
The program operates over six one-hour sessions, in which a digital native meets with a senior executive to exchange ideas about various digital topics with a recurring theme of practicing in an atmosphere of goodwill.
Among the mentors and mentees interviewed at the end of the six sessions, 97% said they would recommend the program.