One of the many wonderful game techniques I found out about in Yu-Kai Chou’s Actionable Gamification is about Mentorship (Game Technique #61).

Yu-Kai came up with a more elaborate “motivation framework” which has its roots in his research and other people’s research in why some games are so addictive. The Octalysis framework consists of 8 core drives that could be used to explain or design different experiences or products and how much they motivate people in one way or the other. Mentorship technique corresponds to the Social Drive (#5).

I've met very few companies where having a mentor is common practice. This is not something you can enforce, maybe not everyone is good to be a mentor and they shouldn't, but I think mentorship should be encouraged as a practice. Here are a couple of reasons why:

It makes the employee on-boarding easier and faster

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Put yourself in the skin of a new employee who just joined your company. There's a lot of information about the company to discover and many times this is done on the fly. And maybe not through only nice experiences.

A mentor that has similar interests as you, could show you the ropes of the company and a few basic tips and tricks related to your craft. (S)he can teach you a few things about the culture of the company and how things work in certain situations. Going along with your mentor in some meetings can help you make connections faster and feel part of the group. All this is to make you, the new kid on the block, feel welcomed and make sure you adapt fast and in a more pleasant way to the rigours of the company.

Many times there are new employees who never really get along with the company culture and dogma, but nobody really notices. Some don't feel at home but don't have anybody they could safely talk about their problems fitting in. How many of them would feel safe to bring it up with their manager, who approves their salary and gets to decide if they stay or leave at the end of the probation period?

A mentor could try to address some of the issues and also encourage him/her to discuss these with someone who can help. (S)he has no other interest than to offer support to his/her mentee.

On the long run, this will make the new employee stay longer in the company and feel more satisfied with his/her work.

It also gives more purpose to the veterans

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After you worked on a certain domain for many many years and you've reached whatever levels are there to reach, what is it left out there for you? More money? Maybe, for a while. You might be perfectly fine with staying where you are and just count the years towards retirement. But then I would bet you're not the most engaged person to work in the company.

Changing jobs could help for a while. But isn't that a pity for the company to loose all that experience in your field and more importantly in how the company works? I still remember when in one of my previous jobs they had to request the help of a person who left a few months before, because they simply couldn't figure out some very important things he used to handle. He accumulated so much information and responsibilities over the years, that it was impossible to hand over everything in the notice period.

One way to keep some of the most experienced ones around is to encourage them to mentor less experienced people, who are maybe just getting started in their career. The mentees will feel grateful for the chance of learning from an expert and for the support they receive and the mentors will be given a different purpose to come to work every day and be a integral part of your company.

It is said there are few greater joys in life than the moment when the mentee exceeds his/her mentor.