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Value of Mentorship

Manager and Employee Relationships: The Importance of Mentorship

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

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Employees: Your Internal Customers

Are Your Supervisors Focused on the Right Customer?

87% of millennials say their development in a job is essential. As a new generation of employees is promoted to their first supervisory or management role, organizations continue to fail to set them up for leadership success. One of the first lessons I learned as a new supervisor at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company was that my customers were no longer my most important priority—it was now my employees (or my internal customers). Unfortunately, many new supervisors or managers do not know what focusing on and taking care of their employees really means. The problem is that we don’t start teaching new supervisors or managers any leadership habits until they have a title, which is a huge mistake. As a result, many supervisors and managers are focused on their operation or the customers’ experience rather than their employees’ experience. This is why companies often have many managers, but few leaders.

Supervisor Leadership is about a person’s ability to work through their team to achieve the desired results by motivating, guiding, and supporting them to want to deliver the desired results. When new supervisors or managers are more focused on their operation or external customers over their internal customers, employees feel neglected, and their performance suffers.

To develop leaders, we have to begin focusing on their development a lot sooner in their career. We need to be preparing future leaders for the possibility of focusing on of their internal customers over their external customers from the time they graduate their onboarding process and start mastering their daily routines. So, how should we be preparing them or what should we be preparing them with? Utilize your Human Resource team to help prepare these new supervisors and managers by providing the knowledge, skills, abilities, and desired behaviors of a leader. Human Resources can support future leaders through trainings, coaching, and mentoring. I suggest the following areas of focus be provided before any supervisor or manager title is given:

  1. Begin with the Administrative Tasks: Even though these tasks may not seem very leadership-oriented, there is one thing I have learned: if your employees are not paid correctly, don’t get the schedule they want, or the breaks they need, they will not perform at their best. Get high-performing staff involved in completing these mundane yet essential tasks early, so they understand how to keep these basics from being an excuse for lack of performance. HR can provide training on policies regarding payroll, vacations, and breaks, so all future leaders are confident on how to handle these critical issues.
  2. Make Safety a Priority: Every supervisor needs to ensure that the safety of their people is a top priority, so teach them safety procedures early on. No one comes to work to get injured and yet nothing weighs more on the mindset of an employee if they think they may be in danger. Employees should be aware of common safety concerns and be trained early on how to correct potential issues. HR can partner with Risk Management to provide relevant trainings on workplace safety.
  3. Teach Them to Train Others Correctly: Your best employees, those who deliver the right results and adhere to the values of the organization, should be the mentors and trainers for all new staff. Teach them adult learning theories, effective communication techniques, and how to give feedback. This will establish a foundation of effective leadership habits. I believe communication and coaching skills are the most important for new supervisors and managers to master. Unfortunately, these are lacking in many businesses today. By teaching high-performing employees these skills and then providing them opportunities to practice in a safe environment, you will quickly know if those employees have the right disposition to be your next generation of leaders. This is an excellent opportunity for HR’s Learning and Development team to train and mentor these employees to prepare them to train others.
  4. Ensure They Are Inclusive: It is critical that future leaders are introduced to diversity training and can identify issues within a group of people before they get a title. When I first became a supervisor and started to consider whether all members of my team really had a sense of belonging, I was surprised at the duress some of my team came under from their peers. Potential leaders need to be taught how to have conversations with staff who need to be made to feel more a part of the team while also having the tough conversations with those (often friends) who made others feel left out. In today’s work environment, it is critical that our next generation of leaders understand the importance of building one team that respects each other, their backgrounds, and their ideas. Too often, companies take respect for granted, yet based on the number of issues on harassment and inappropriate conduct coming to light, this topic is essential for new leaders to understand.
  5. Make Them Responsible for Improvement: Potential leaders need to show ownership for improving the business and achieving goals. To demonstrate their business acumen, future managers must understand the objectives of a company and the measurements by which success or failure is determined. This might begin with an understanding of profit and loss but should also include knowing about the organization’s market share, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and social responsibility. Once an employee understands goals and measurements, they should be given responsibility for achieving a department goal or improving an element of the operation. It is essential to see these employees apply business sense, methodologies, and resources in such a way that improvement is seen.

The challenge for many first-time supervisors or managers is that they have to focus so much on their development once they get a title while also managing some aspect of their operation that they are unable and unprepared to focus on the success of their team. While there are many other priorities that new leaders need to master, the ones I have suggested can be developed before any title is given, ensuring the foundation of leadership is set. Utilize the knowledge and expertise of your Human Resources department to aid in preparing your new leaders.

Supervisor with EmployeesTo conclude my thoughts, I will share with you one of Howard Shultz’s, CEO of Starbucks, best quotes: “Our first priority was to take care of our people because they were responsible for communicating our passion to our customers. If we did that well, we’d accomplish our second priority, taking care of the customer. And only if we achieved both of those goals would we be able to provide long-term value to shareholders.” When your new leaders are focused on their staff, everyone wins, but it requires organizations to prepare them a lot more and a lot better before they get that first title.

Are you still not convinced employee engagement should be a top priority? Learn more by downloading this white paper on the true cost of disengagement.

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About the Author
Shane GreenA world-renowned keynote speaker, author of Culture Hacker, and television personality, Shane Green is a business magnate who consults global Fortune 500 leaders on customer experience and organizational culture. Shane draws upon his foundation at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and work in multiple industries to transform employee mindsets, habits, and skills to improve customer experiences and interactions. As the President & Founder of SGEi, Shane leads a team of professionals who inspire brands like the NBA, Westfield, Foot Locker, NetJets, Cisco Systems, and BMW to reprogram their employee experiences to create loyal customers and raving fans. Visit www.ShaneGreen.com to learn more.

About SGEi
At SGEi, we help executive teams develop a cultural transformation strategy and plan. We enable and coach your management team to own the continuous development of your company and people. And we design and deliver the training and communications necessary to shift mindsets and habits to meet the objectives of the company. Please connect@sgeinternational.com to learn more about how we can assist you with your transformation needs.

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Strengthen Management

12 Traits That Make a Great Manager

Great management is essential to your company’s bottom line, but leadership skills are often considered to be inborn. The fact is, though, that these attributes can all be identified and strengthened. Moreover, a skill set that accounts for over 70 percent of the variations in employee engagement scores should not be left to each manager’s instinctive talents. While you probably rely on your own familiar set of great management skills, it never hurts to itemize what you’re already doing. If you’re still on a learning curve, these 12 traits can supply a roadmap to professional excellence.

1. They Build a Work Culture of Mutual Trust

Harvard Business Review analyzed what goes into leadership excellence, and trust is a major element. If your employees are going to feel safe coming up with possibly risky experiments, they have to be confident that you’ll be receptive to their ideas. Productive teams know that mistakes are just milestones on the road to the next great innovation.

2. They Focus on Employee Strengths

A strengths-based workplace culture offers measurable advantages: Gallup’s 2015 Strengths Meta-Analysis presents the “powerful connections between employee strengths development and business performance.” Their report shows that a strengths-based workplace increases employee retention by up to 72 percent in high-turnover industries, increases profits by 14 to 29 percent and decreases safety incidents by up to 59 percent.

3. They Do Not Micromanage

Recognizing that “Teams with great managers were happier and more productive,” Google notes that successful leaders don’t try to rule over every detail. If you’re invested in your team’s success, you might fall into the trap of feeling that you have to guard every detail. In fact, micromanaging can erode worker initiative and damage employee motivation.

4. They Are Assertive

Naturally, assertiveness must be paired with empathy and diplomacy — but marketing guru Michelle Smith points out that fearlessness is essential in a manager. A leader must be able to overcome resistance, weather social adversity and get out in front to drive employee success.

5. They Help Develop Employees’ Careers

Have you been concerned that supporting your employees’ training and development may only prepare them to move on? HR best practices suggest otherwise: Google’s manager research shows that identifying opportunities for employees to master new skills actually builds your team’s depth and strength. Furthermore, you convey a powerful message that you care about your people’s personal well-being.

6. They Handle Pressure Well

As a manager, you’re held accountable for the performance of others, and there will be days where you feel you’ve got a target pinned to your shirt. A study at the Norwegian School of Economics placed emotional stability at the very top of a list of essential management traits. Your ability to take good care of yourself and withstand work-related pressure will keep you thinking clearly during periods of stress.

7. They Communicate Honestly

Like assertiveness, candidness has to be balanced out by a sensitivity to your workers’ perspectives. However, Harvard Business Review research notes that a great manager gives direct feedback and doesn’t hide truths behind a shield of politeness. The report found that “Subordinates felt they could always count on straight answers from their leader.” Your employees will have trouble improving if they don’t understand exactly which behaviors are problematic.

8. They Are Open to New Ideas

As a manager, you need to keep an agile and open mind so you will notice when an operation can be improved. Yasmina Yousfi, Chief Business Officer at Cloudwave, comments that “Great managers let their team members share new ideas, and leave them room for creativity.”

9. They Have Strong Analytical Abilities

You may be a super-persuasive, charismatic people-person, and be skilled at communicating with your team — but those talents are still only part of the package. You’ll also want to leave yourself enough mental energy to maintain a good overview of your department’s workforce analytics. The Management Study Guide names a strong cognitive and analytic approach as one of their vital leadership traits, because it leads to good decision-making.

10. They Recognize and Reward Good Work

Only one in three U.S. workers “strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days,” according to research published by Gallup. The report points out that offering employee rewards and recognition is a golden opportunity for managers that is often overlooked. Employee recognition “not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention,” the study states.

11. They Are a Role Model

As a leader, you set an example and express the diligence, enthusiasm and other skills that you expect from the people whom you manage. In a recent report by global research firm Universum, the ability to be a role model was one of the top two qualities that executives look for when they’re choosing new managers.

12. They Communicate Employee Appreciation

Using employee rewards to let your team members know their efforts are appreciated has significant benefits throughout your organization. PR coach Kim Harrison points out that “Recognizing people for their good work sends an extremely powerful message to the recipient, their work team and other employees through the grapevine.” When you reward great work, you transform the entire climate of your company.

Each manager brings different strengths to the table, and you can use this checklist to identify those areas where you can up your game. Your organization will benefit: Gallup research shows employee engagement can double when management talent improves, and this results in an average earnings rise of 147 percent per share.

Learn more about what makes employees happy by checking out this infographic highlighting results from Achievers’ “New Year, New Job?” survey.

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