A well-planned mentorship program gives members a chance for continual development and supports a strong future for unions. These programs help newer members learn the ins and outs of union activity from seasoned veterans and allow any member to acquire new skills from their counterparts. Mentoring programs can be formal or informal, in groups or one-on-one, between peers, or between leaders and new members. No matter the format, these mentorship programs can enrich the mentor, the mentee and the union as a whole.
Here are five possible benefits of mentorship to keep in mind as you find opportunities to build or enhance your mentorship program.
Better Union Satisfaction
Newer members may not yet know all the benefits of membership or the various ways to get involved. When they are paired with more experienced members, they can learn about the opportunities available to them and how the union supports its members through actions such as advocacy and collective bargaining. Members who understand how the union works for them are more likely to have higher levels of satisfaction with their membership. They are also more likely to want to become involved and offer their own support to union activities.
Active members who want eventually to join the ranks of leadership benefit from seeing others like them in similar positions. A mentorship program can bring together women, people of color and other minority groups to learn about pathways into leadership roles and highlight the importance of representing the diversity of the union's membership.
As members age, they may leave the union or pare back their activity. Before that happens, consider pairing younger members seeking a more active part in union activities with the most experienced union members to learn the skills they need to support union goals. These veterans can reflect on union history, activities and even pitfalls to avoid when advocating on the union's behalf. Transferring this knowledge before members leave the union helps ensure continuity and ongoing union success.
Union mentorship programs don't have to focus just on teaching younger or newer members about union activities. They can also take the form of two-way training that helps members update their skills. As new technologies come online or job duties shift, members located at the same job site can train their peers or help them find additional training and education outside of work, whether offered by the union or another local organization.
Stronger Union Support
The more members learn from their mentors about the union, the more likely they are to want to support those efforts themselves and reach out to fellow members. Opportunities for development can, in turn, increase support and activism among members who are not part of the mentoring program or who perhaps didn't take part in earlier union activities.
A mentorship program is a great way not only to help your members learn from each other but also to prepare the next generation of union leaders. Done well, these programs can increase engagement with and support for the union, building a stronger, more capable and more unified union.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.