The benefits of a workplace mentorship program are plentiful and well documented. In a productive mentorship relationship, both mentors and mentees gain new perspectives, enhance communication skills, expand their networks, and grow skill sets. Mentoring benefits can also spread to the organizations that employ those individuals. For example, according to a case study at Randstad, employees who participated in mentoring programs were 49% less likely to leave.
In 2023 Two Rivers launched its official, completely voluntary mentorship program. Interested associates from across the agency completed a brief survey to indicate whether they wanted to be a mentor or mentee (or both!) and what they were looking for in a mentoring relationship. From there, individuals were paired up — some within the same department and some from very different disciplines.
We caught up with one of our mentor-mentee pairings — Managing Director, Strategy Patrick McGill and Strategic Communications Director Alyssa Young — to learn more about the program.
Why did you sign up for the program?
Patrick: I have acquired a lot of experience and wisdom during my career while working at a variety of agencies, and have progressively advanced in my career through hard work and dedication. I felt that I could offer some good perspective to someone newer to the agency world or to our agency. Plus, I’ve worked in a strategy role for more than 20 years, so I can provide guidance on how to think more strategically about marketing problems.
Alyssa: I’ve been really fortunate to have some great managers and leaders during my career — many of whom I would call mentors. But I recognized a need to have a more objective perspective as I continue to look for growth opportunities. I realized there were two key areas where I needed help: coaching and developing my team, and thinking more strategically. I’m very much a “get it done” person, so it doesn’t come as naturally to me to take a beat and think about the bigger picture.
How often do you meet and what do you talk about?
Patrick: We meet every other week for a half hour at a time. We check in on work events over the past two weeks or things that are upcoming. Then, we spend time discussing articles about strategy, leadership development, or other related topics.
What elements make a mentor-mentee relationship work?
Patrick: I think the sincere desire to learn from each other and share different experiences and perspectives. I like to think that I’m a good listener and can offer a different take on a challenging situation. I tend to be a little more objective. I try to focus on the issue with as few distractions as possible to bring some clarity to complicated situations.
Alyssa: For me, it comes down to mutual respect, openness, and intentionality. It’s very easy, especially when you’re just starting a mentor-mentee relationship, to hold your cards close or to let it slip down your list of to-dos. To really make it work, you need to be willing to be open about your experiences — both as a mentor and mentee — and you need to make it a priority. It doesn’t have to be a 24/7 availability thing, but setting aside time each month that you both commit to is important.
What makes Patrick a great mentor?
Alyssa: He tells it like it is. He keeps me honest. He makes me think about things I don’t think about on a regular basis.
What makes Alyssa a great mentee?
Patrick: She’s very open, honest, and easy to talk to. We’ve had some good discussions. It’s interesting when a topic makes Alyssa’s wheels turn and I can see she’s considering something new. To me, that is at the heart of a mentor-mentee relationship: being open to something new.
What have you gained from the program and your relationship?
Patrick: While I’ve worked with Alyssa on some projects over the years and have been a friendly coworker, building a different kind of relationship has been valuable to me. It’s also given me the opportunity to revisit strategic resources that I’ve used in the past and refresh my memory as I share them with Alyssa.
Alyssa: He makes me question my assumptions, which sometimes makes me uncomfortable. But you can’t grow without a bit of discomfort and without pushing yourself outside of that comfort zone.
What advice would you give other mentors and mentees?
Patrick: Be open. Learn from each other. Give the meeting times your full attention and make it a priority.
Alyssa: Give it time. I mean this in two senses. First, give the relationship time to evolve and grow. It can be hard at first to be open, but with time it becomes easier. And that’s when the relationship will pay off. Second, make it a priority and set aside time to dedicate to it each month or week — whatever works for you and your mentor.
From career growth to increased employee engagement, there’s no denying the widespread benefits of the mentoring process. But workplace mentoring isn’t the only way to boost job satisfaction and increase retention. Prioritizing professional development and leaning into employee strengths can also help. Read how Two Rivers focuses on associate strengths to find success.