The title of “manager” makes it sound like your entire responsibility is simply keeping track of your employees and maximizing their performance. Of course you want to elicit high-level productivity from your team, but your fastest route to success is to offer something back to the people who work for you. The most successful managers enter into a mentoring, or “coaching,” relationship with their direct reports. Here’s a look at why mentoring is so important, together with some best practice tips for putting together a mentorship program that really works.
Mentoring Builds Employee Alignment
Your employees have ambitions for where they want their careers to go, and it’s to your company’s benefit if the person doesn’t need to job-hop in order to realize those ambitions. Daimler Trucks has instituted a proactive mentoring plan throughout its entire 4,000 employee U.S. workforce as part of its leadership succession planning. Suz Hahn, Daimler’s Architect of Learning and Development, states that: “Daimler realizes mentoring is key to the health of our organization.” The company finds that employees who gain new skills become more engaged, and are also eager to spread their knowledge and best practices throughout the entire company.
Millennials Expect and Appreciate Mentoring
Today, more than one in three of your workers are millennials (people between the ages of 18 and 34), and this generation makes up the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce. These are the employees with the freshest skills and the keenest awareness of marketplace trends, and it’s clearly in your best interest to meet their needs. There are real differences in what this age group expects from their workplace, however, and 53 percent of managers say that it’s difficult to find and retain millennial employees. Providing mentorship is your most effective tool for attracting and retaining this demographic: A 2016 Deloitte millennial survey notes that of those respondents who plan to stay with their current company for the next five years, 68 percent say they have a mentor. To get down to exact nitty-gritty of these expectations, the millennials surveyed state that in an ideal week, 3.6 hours would be spent receiving coaching and mentoring.
Focus on Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge Transfer (sometimes shortened to KT) mentoring is described by Willis Towers Watson in their cover story for Workspan. The authors of this overview note that KT mentoring arose as a solution to the fact that fewer than half of the nation’s workers feel their employers are doing a good job of retaining a quality workforce. Clearly a new approach to employee retention is needed, and KT mentoring fills that need by introducing new standards of clarity and structure into the transfer of knowledge within a company.
Put Structure in Your Mentoring
Classic workplace mentoring is an informal relationship that’s very open-ended. Even the choice of which two people are paired together is usually made on a casual basis of who likes whom, and sometimes the very best mentee candidates can be overlooked. The mentor provides ad hoc guidance, slipping it in haphazardly when schedules allow. The informal nature of the exchange means that the mentee probably isn’t giving feedback to their mentor on how helpful he or she is, and mentoring techniques are rarely examined. Mentoring is considered to be a personal favor, and is delivered with that tone. While this informality can be appealing, giving the mentee a sense of being taken into the mentor’s confidence, the lack of structure has some obvious downsides. Here’s how KT mentoring is different:
KT mentoring approaches the process from a structured point of view. The topics to be covered are identified ahead of time, with emphasis being placed on those subjects that will be most beneficial to the organization. Selection of mentors and mentees are made on the basis of learning preferences, generational diversity and personality profiles. The number of candidates for mentorship is made as large as it can be throughout the organization. The mentor and mentee agree on time frames and knowledge goals, so that it’s clear what information will be shared and when this sharing will happen. Formal tools for giving feedback are included in the process, enabling the mentorship interaction to be continually fine-tuned. Towers Watson’s overview of their KT mentorship process emphasizes that its purpose is to sustain high levels of employee engagement.
Make Mentoring Part of Your Company Culture
For any mentorship program to be successful, your organization’s leadership has to believe in the idea. High-quality mentorship requires an investment of time and resources, but forward-thinking leaders recognize that it yields a worthwhile return in productivity and employee happiness. A Corporate Executive Board survey shows the growing recognition that structured mentorship programs are worth the effort: 25 percent of U.S. companies now host some type of formal mentorship program, as compared with only 4 or 5 percent a decade ago.
Mentorship Is About Building Relationships
Leadership coach, Luis Velasquez, notes that, “Mentoring is one method that can tip the scales on employee engagement by fostering lasting relationships among employees, promoting career development, and facilitating the transfer of knowledge within a company.” Using mentorship effectively as a tool to strengthen the organization is one of today’s key management skills. Plus, sharing what you’ve learned with an eager young protege can be a highly gratifying process.
For more insights on tools for great team-building in your organization, download our employee recognition eBook covering 3 Ways to Make Recognition an Everyday Event.