Attracting, developing, and retaining top talent is likely to remain a challenge. What companies need is a proactive and viable solution to this challenge. Luckily, that solution exists: mentoring programs.
Mentoring programs involve matching talented, experienced people (mentors) with promising, less experienced people (mentees). Over time, working one-on-one, the mentor and mentee—and the organization—reap real rewards.
A successful mentoring program benefits your organization by:
- Enhancing strategic business initiatives
- Encouraging retention
- Reducing turnover costs
- Improving productivity
- Breaking down the "silo" mentality that hinders cooperation among company departments or divisions
- Elevating knowledge transfer from just getting information to retaining the practical experience and wisdom gained from long-term employees
- Enhancing professional development
- Linking employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
- Using your own employees, instead of outside consultants, as internal experts for professional development
- Supporting the creation of a multicultural workforce by creating cross-cultural mentoring programs with diverse employees and allowing equal access to mentoring
- Creating a mentoring “culture”—one that continuously promotes individual employee growth and development
How can mentoring help your company do the following: attract the best and brightest talent, develop current employees, retain top talent, lead the way in diversity, and succeed in succession planning.
Attract the Best & Brightest
Consider how your company currently attracts the best and brightest talent. Certainly, your organization’s reputation is a huge incentive for these eager and skilled men and women. However, can your company expect to survive strictly on its laurels?
Think of it like this: if a prospective employee is deciding between a company with an outstanding reputation but a notoriously brutal work environment and an organization with an outstanding reputation and a proven mentoring program that grows and nurtures its top talent, which company will the person likely choose?
A planned approach to a person’s career development, such as a mentoring program, has become a “must-have” for organizations that want to attract top talent. When marketing to prospective employees, advertising that your company has a professional and effective mentoring program can be a significant differentiator between you and your competitors.
Develop Your Employees into Tomorrow’s Leaders
While it may be easy for companies to adopt the “workhorse” mentality—i.e. you just need bodies to churn out work—the reality is that as human beings, people would like more from their employers. After all, it’s human nature to want to feel appreciated and respected for quality work, and when a person feels appreciated and respected, he/she will produce higher quality work.
Still, developing your company’s junior employees can be a daunting challenge.
Where does a new employee go if he or she wishes to gain from the experience and wisdom of a more seasoned manager? Yes, new employees can always turn to their immediate supervisors and HR directors, but there is an inherent hesitation to do this because the new employee doesn’t want to appear “incompetent” or “weak.” Mentoring is a strategic initiative that will pair newer and junior employees with those senior employees and managers who can provide not only the experiential wisdom they have, but also a supportive environment whereby the newer employee can share the real issues affecting success.
It might not be obvious at first glance, but these pairings will have positive effects on your company as well. During the mentoring relationship, mentees and mentors will discuss important issues, such as how to interact and work effectively with your top clients; how to get along and communicate with peers and upper management; how to understand and fit in better with your organization’s “corporate culture”; and how to deal with increased scrutiny; plus so much more.
While baptism by fire often remains a popular strategy for getting new employees up to speed, it still makes sense to provide a safe haven—the mentoring relationship—where the associate can relax and let down his or her guard.
Why will this investment in mentoring help your company in the long run? Studies show that organizations that make a commitment to mentoring produce appreciative employees who show their gratitude through hard work, loyalty, and longevity. Make the investment in your best and brightest now, and reap the awards immediately as well as years down the road when they become senior managers (and then “pay it forward” by mentoring the next crop of new and junior employees). You’ll find more on this concept in the next section.
Retain Top Talent & See High ROI
According to a Deloitte Research study, “Research suggests that a company’s ‘stars’ are the first to be poached by competitors and are less likely to stay. Moreover, a study of investment banks found that when imported from elsewhere, stars rarely sustain their performance in the new organization.”
The last thing you want to see is your top people walk across the street to one of your competitors. Talent retention affects the bottom line not only by reducing costs, but also by building an effective workforce. Companies often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting talent but then stop there and miss the opportunity to get the best return on their hiring investment.
Some organizations invest in a “buddy” system, which is a good investment, but it’s a short-term (2-3 months) solution and addresses only the issues of adjustment. Mentoring, however, is more strategic and aims to do the following:
- Demonstrate to new employees the company’s investment in their future with the organization
- Create a more effective contributor to the company’s overall goals
- Engender a sense of loyalty in employees
Think of it this way: loyalty breeds longevity. If you invest in nurturing your top talent early on, the less likely you’ll be dealing with the scenario of him or her walking across the street to another company.
Lead the Way in Diversity
There is a strong business case for workforce diversity and diversity initiatives, such as cross-cultural mentoring programs. Baby boomers are aging and remaining in the workforce longer, companies are conducting more business globally, women are playing a stronger role in executive teams, and a growing number of minorities are entering the U.S. workforce. Today’s workforce is evolving, and the best companies are responding to it by offering and fostering diversity initiatives to expand understanding and encourage collaboration across different demographics. That’s good news, but there’s still a big problem: most diversity initiatives don’t go far enough. And companies that offer insufficient programs are wasting time and money. For example, a white male senior attorney attends a training class in diversity. He completes the course feeling more sensitive to the issues facing minorities in the workplace. But then he never interacts with junior associates who are different from him, so he loses the opportunity to change his behavior in a meaningful way.
The changes that diversity initiatives aim to achieve cannot occur without real-life interactions in the workplace. So how can your company ensure that the money it spends on diversity initiatives yields desired results? By executing a mentoring program to supplement its diversity-training initiatives.
How Mentoring Promotes Real Diversity
It’s critical to create a safe environment where both individuals feel comfortable enough to honestly address the tough topics related to diversity—the obstacles, fears, prejudices, challenges, misconceptions, etc. When both individuals become engaged and feel safe in the mentoring process, they can confront their own blind spots and prejudices openly and see what they need to change. It’s common for a white male, for example, to mentor a woman and gain a greater understanding of how his wife feels, and why she feels a certain way. It’s also common for individuals who are paired with someone of a similar race or gender to make an incorrect assumption about the person based on their shared demographic. The person quickly learns the importance of not projecting his or her feelings onto someone else, just because he or she assumes the person shares these feelings.
Mentoring allows people to take the theories learned in diversity trainings into the workplace. They practice what they learn because they’re being challenged regularly within their mentoring relationships and they know that any prejudices they have will show up.
Succeed in Succession Planning
Mentoring is an ideal strategy for enriching your succession-planning program. In succession planning, you're targeting individual talent to take on increasingly more responsible positions and eventually assume a major position within your organization. This requires solid experience and solid advice from seasoned employees. Adding mentoring as a method of pairing such individuals with your talent pool ensures that the right expertise will complement your succession-planning goals. Mentoring also ensures that your senior managers’ expertise will not be lost once they retire or leave the company. Rather, the expertise will be retained by having been shared with those who are poised to take their place.
Spotlight on - an example of mentoring:
The City of London Police.
Challenge: Bringing Everyone Together in One Formal Mentoring Program
In the last several years, diversity has been an especially hot topic in the UK. John Awasoga, a project manager with The City of London Police and Vice Chair of the Black Police Association in The City of London, echoes this sentiment and notes that "it's expected that every single member of staff undertakes a diversity course and you're expected to update this course as well" every two or three years.
Back in 2005, The City of London Police found that there was quasi-mentoring going on in its organization in the form of advice and coaching. None of this was part of a structured program and most of this "ad hoc mentoring" was happening among white male staff members--not female staff or ethnic staff. The City of London Police decided it wanted to develop and implement a formal mentoring program that would engage everyone on the staff--the majority as well as the minorities.
Solution: Understanding Everyone's Needs & Achieving "Buy-In"
Part of the solution involved discussing the needs of everyone who was likely to be affected by a mentoring program. After these discussions, it was decided that a smaller pilot mentoring program with a focus on diversity would be the best approach, since success with the pilot program would help achieve "buy-in" from the whole organization.
Management Mentors sat down and developed a strategy and a document of what people in The City of London Police wanted from mentoring. Management Mentors brought in a focus group of high-ranking officers, including women and people of color. Recognizing that diversity awareness was a key issue, Management Mentors developed a mentoring program with a focus on diversity, conducted a blanket advertising campaign to let the whole force know about the pilot program, and recruited volunteers. In this campaign, eight mentees and nine mentors were selected (there was an extra mentor as a backup, in case a pairing didn't work out).
Results: Involved Program Managers, Happy Mentors & Mentees
The program launched in early 2006, with a specific focus on diversity. Management Mentors trained the Mentors and Mentees and paired them up. In addition, Management Mentors trained the Program Managers. The City of London Police's mentoring program enjoyed great success, in part due to the involvement of its Program Managers, like John Awasoga.
John says that one of his main goals was to make sure the pairs actually met and adhered to the contracts they put together. He says, "When you put something together that's new, if you leave it alone, you can easily revert to 'well, I won't bother doing that today, I won't bother attending' and it can just drift apart. So what we felt we had to do was just to encourage people to make sure that they did meet and also try and support them by saying if you have any issues then you can call on us as managers to resolve them."
The mentoring program was a success as mentors and mentees shared experiences, learned about diverse backgrounds, and found a safe forum to discuss pertinent issues. As one mentee said, "This is very good. I'm very happy to have someone to go to and talk about things I cannot talk to my line manager about."
Mentoring Success: Next Steps
As you can see, mentoring programs can achieve many positive results. They’re one of the best ways to attract the best and brightest talent, develop your new and junior associates, retain top talent and turn them into tomorrow’s leaders, improve your existing diversity initiatives, and shore up your company’s succession plans. Give your organization the edge by investing in and developing a quality mentoring program. Or if you feel mentoring would be of value to me or my organisation but you aren’t large enough to have your own scheme, why not register with the BPCC who are working with Management Mentors to provide a mentoring platform for members.
For more information and to register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org