Guiding the Future: Mentorship’s Transformative Role in Ukrainian Public Institutions

By Jurgita Domeikiene, EU4PFM Team Leader, International Key Expert on HR/PAR, and Kristina Jakubaityte-Revutiene, EU4PFM International Expert on HR

Ukraine has progressed a lot in introducing changes in various spheres and now, being considered a candidate for EU membership, strives to implement even more, even under current wartime circumstances which inspires respect and admiration in European colleagues. Public Finance Management institutions of Ukraine are shifting from ‘old school’ personnel administration to modernised Human Resources Management and in this regard have made a lot, first of all developing HR Strategies, introducing KPIs in performance management, implementing adaptation systems, etc. And now it is time for introducing mentorship programs into institutions, though in a number the process has already started.

This article delves into the multi-faceted dimensions of mentorship, highlighting its role as a catalyst for growth, motivation, knowledge preservation, and intergenerational collaboration.

Mentorship is an individualised employee training and development tool that can benefit an organisation. It involves a partnership between an experienced and knowledgeable employee (the mentor) and a less-experienced employee (the mentee) to facilitate learning, growth, and professional development. But even though one tends to give and the other receives knowledge and support, both parties will grow and benefit from the mentorship.

Mentorship has become recognised worldwide as a highly effective learning and development process. It is a genuinely global process. Examples can be found worldwide in many diverse organisations, from the public to the private sector, from service to manufacturing industries. Mentorship serves as a conduit through which expertise is shared, motivation is instilled, organisational memory is preserved, and best practices are perpetuated. Beyond its transactional nature, mentorship holds a transformative power that transcends boundaries and empowers individuals to unlock their true potential.

The pertinence of mentorship programmes in Ukrainian Public Finance Management Institutions

Within the current landscape of Ukrainian public institutions, the introduction of mentorship programs carries unparalleled significance. As Ukraine prepares for EU integration, the necessity for effective governance, informed decision-making and adept leadership has never been more pronounced. Mentorship programs stand as a pivotal tool in fortifying these pillars, seamlessly transferring knowledge, institutional memory, and expertise from experienced managers to the emerging generation of leaders.

The incorporation of mentorship programs into Ukrainian public institutions addresses a multitude of pressing needs. Amid rapid administrative transitions, mentorship functions as a stabilizing force, safeguarding critical knowledge from being lost amidst these shifts. It becomes extremely important in this turbulent war-related environment – people leaving institutions together with critical knowledge and best practices. These programs underscore the nation’s commitment to cultivating a skilled and knowledgeable workforce capable of propelling Ukraine toward a future marked by effective governance, innovation, and sustained growth. These initiatives also foster a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose, effectively dismantling hierarchical barriers and nurturing a culture of collaboration. By facilitating the transmission of expertise, motivation, and best practices, mentorship programs position Ukrainian public institutions as epicentres of transformation and progress.

Key aspects and benefits of mentorship in an organisational setting

  • Knowledge transfer

Mentorship allows for the transfer of knowledge and expertise from experienced employees to less-experienced ones. Mentors can share their insights, skills, and experiences, providing mentees with valuable guidance and learning opportunities. As mentees absorb the wisdom of their mentors, they become equipped to navigate complexities with greater confidence and agility. This transfer of knowledge bridges the generational gap, offering a shortcut to success that transcends trial and error.

  • Skill development

Mentorship focuses on the mentee’s specific needs, helping them develop the skills required to succeed in their current role or prepare for future responsibilities. The mentor can identify areas for improvement, offer constructive feedback, and provide resources to enhance the mentee’s capabilities.

  • Career development

A mentor can guide career development, helping the mentee set goals, identify potential career paths, and create strategies for advancement. Mentors can share their career experiences, advise navigating challenges, and offer networking opportunities.

  • Increased engagement and retention

When employees have access to mentors who invest time and effort in their professional growth, they often feel more engaged and valued within the organisation. This can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and improved retention rates.

  • Enhanced networking

Mentors can introduce mentees to their professional networks, expanding their connections and opportunities. These networking opportunities can be instrumental in career development, accessing new resources, and gaining different perspectives.

  • Personal and professional support

Mentorship relationships often extend beyond work-related matters. Mentors can provide emotional support, guidance and advice on navigating organisational culture. Through encouragement and a listening ear, mentors empower mentees to set goals and embrace challenges. This motivational partnership instils a sense of purpose and self-assurance, transforming uncertainties into opportunities and setbacks into stepping stones.

  • Organisational learning

Mentorship contributes to a culture of learning within the organisation. Organisations can foster a continuous learning environment by encouraging sharing of knowledge and experiences and promoting innovation and growth.

  • Preserving Organisational Memory

As institutions evolve, there exists a pressing need to preserve their collective memory and the best practices that have propelled them to success. Mentorship emerges as a solution to this challenge, bridging the past to the present and safeguarding institutional knowledge. By fostering relationships between experienced mentors and eager mentees, organisations can ensure the continuity of successful strategies, innovative approaches, and the unwritten nuances that contribute to effective decision-making.

To effectively implement mentorship programs within an organisation, it is crucial to establish clear program objectives, match mentors and mentees based on relevant skills and goals, provide training for mentors, and regularly evaluate the program’s effectiveness. A supportive organisational culture that values learning, collaboration, and personal development is essential for successful mentorship initiatives.

Aren’t managers already performing mentors’ roles?

There is a qualitative difference between a manager-employee relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship. Fundamentally, a manager-employee relationship focuses on achieving the objectives of the department and the organisation. A manager assigns tasks, evaluates outcomes, conducts performance reviews, and recommends possible salary increases. Because managers hold significant power over employees’ work lives, most employees will demonstrate only their strengths and hide their weaknesses in the work environment.

A mentor-mentee relationship is focused on developing the mentee professionally and personally. As such, a mentor does not evaluate the mentee concerning their current job, conduct performance reviews of the mentee and does not provide input about salary increases, etc. This creates a ‘safe learning environment’ where the mentee feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly without worrying about negative consequences on the job.

How mentorship “works” for the civil service

Mentorship plays a significant role in the civil service by fostering professional development at all career levels. Practise to which extent the mentorship is implemented in Civil service organisations in EU countries varies. Many civil service organisations in the EU have formal mentorship programs in place. These programs typically pair experienced civil servants (mentors) with less-experienced employees (mentees) based on their career interests, goals, and areas of expertise. The mentors provide guidance, support, and advice to help mentees navigate their careers within the civil service.

Mentors in the civil service share their expertise, insights, and institutional knowledge with mentees. They guide through the adaptation process of new hires, navigating bureaucratic processes, understanding policies and regulations, and developing specific skills necessary for success in the civil service. Additionally, mentorship is part of succession planning initiatives, where experienced civil servants groom potential successors for leadership roles.

It’s worth noting that mentorship in the civil service takes various forms, including one-on-one mentoring relationships, group mentoring, or even reverse mentoring, where younger or less-experienced employees mentor more senior employees on topics like technology or new approaches. The specific structure and implementation of mentorship programs vary across civil service organisations of EU member states. Still, the underlying goal remains to facilitate civil servants’ professional growth and success.

Following an example of Lithuanian civil service, mentorship in civil service regulations was introduced with the new version of the Law on Civil Service in 2018. According to the procedure described, when assessing the need to contract with a civil servant for mentorship, the head of the institution considers whether the civil servant can help another civil servant in the same institution to acquire or improve the knowledge, or competencies, to create and develop a communication network, to contribute to the continuation of long-term work started, etc.

Mentorship in the civil service of Ukraine

The National Agency for Civil Service (NACS) 2013 approved Methodological Recommendations regarding implementing the Mentorship System for Civil Servants. The Order outlines approaches to developing and implementing the mentorship system, its goals and objectives, etc. Noteworthy, the Methodological Recommendations regulate mentorship only during the Adaptation process of new hires.

Despite the individual characteristics of the partner institutions of the EU4PFM Project – the Ministry of Finance, The State Tax Service or the State Customs Service, threads regarding the needs and challenges related to the mentorship process are common. All institutions use mentorship during the adaptation period of new hires. However, the practical implementation of mentorship faces some challenges.

The international experts of the EU4PFM Project have developed the methodology with practical guidelines and recommendations on the mentorship process and further improvement of the mentorship practice in Partner Institutions based on best practices of EU member states. The methodology explores a conceptual framework, methodological guidelines, practical tools for implementing mentorship, and proposals for elaborating internal acts and regulations. The methodology empowers Partner institutions to meet, develop and implement a mentorship framework, taking into account the characteristics and needs of each partner institution.

In conclusion, mentorship emerges as a powerful force that transcends professional boundaries, offering a platform for sharing knowledge, fostering motivation, preserving institutional memory, and empowering the youth. The implementation of mentorship programs in Ukrainian public institutions not only aligns with the nation’s aspirations for European integration but also nurtures a culture of continuous learning and growth.