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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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Female Employee Must-Haves

What Female Employees Really Want in the Workplace

This is not the 1960s, but it’s difficult to convince many female employees who function within outdated corporate Human Resources policies. The policies read like a military manifesto by describing rigid schedules and failing to mention recognition and reward systems or establishing promotion policies favoring men. The HR policies form the unforgiving backbone of an organizational culture that disengages the modern woman, even as the organization struggles to understand why it cannot meet gender diversity workforce goals, has difficulty with recruiting and hiring talented and skilled women and is challenged with low female employee retention rates.

Tale of Two Worlds

Gallup data found that 48 percent of female employees say they are actively looking for a different job or watching for new opportunities. Though 73.5 million women over the age of 16 are working, they’re often caught between two opposing worlds. In one, she’s viewed as capable of career success and managing work and family. In the other, she’s criticized for denying her children a full-time mother to pursue a career. For the majority of women, it’s children who have the most influence, so the ability to achieve work-life balance is a major determinant of happiness.

A Matter of Importance

As a business leader, you are challenged with finding ways to make the workplace engaging to female employees by developing an inclusive culture, implementing HR best practices and recognizing and addressing issues of importance. Following is a list of what female employees desire in the workplace to find happiness.

Supportive Culture

The workplace culture influences gender diversity because it impacts talent management practices, interactions with co-workers and managers and career opportunities. A positive culture encourages employees to assist each other and to treat each other with integrity. It emphasizes the meaningfulness of work. For female employees, all the characteristics of a positive workplace culture inspire what they want – respect, compassion and positive relationships.

Mentoring

Talented women need a voice in the workplace because they’re still overcoming biases holding them back from advancing. Traditionally, men worked their way up the corporate ladder to assume senior leadership positions. Historically, women were not hired for higher-paying jobs and are still not fully included in succession planning and career planning, keeping them out of the loop for promotions into leadership positions.

Mentoring experienced and newly hired women gives them organizational visibility and access to decision-makers. A Global Strategy Group study sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation found that only 34 percent of the women surveyed believed their workplace put a high priority on having women in leadership positions. A lack of support from mentors for career advancement and lack of access to career-building personal connections keep women from advancing.

Recognition and Reward 

Properly structured work benefits and perks are important to engaging all employees. Raising the profile of talented women in your organization through a strong recognition and reward system is a success strategy. Implementing a rewards and recognition program enables your co-workers and managers to recognize exceptional effort, innovative ideas, team contributions and leadership.

Family-Friendly Work-Life Balance Policies

A Fairygodboss survey of women attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland found a correlation between the number of weeks of maternity leave allowed and job satisfaction. Employer policies supporting work-life balance are important to women. Your policies can embrace supportive maternity leave and a flexible hours work schedule or a home-office work schedule, for example.

Since children have the most influence on whether women work, the ability to balance work and family responsibilities is extremely important. When a child has a doctor’s appointment or is on school break, savvy employers allow women scheduling flexibility. Flexible work schedules take many forms, from a set number of hours worked from home to the full ability to determine when and where hours are worked.

Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias, embedded in workplace cultural norms, expresses itself in many ways. It limits women’s access to important projects, thus harming their advancement opportunities. It’s expressed during recruitment or performance reviews when men are consistently rated higher than women. It’s found when men are primarily chosen for prime training and development opportunities or promotions. Women want unconscious bias addressed in all its subtlety.

Equal Opportunities and Equal Pay

Statistics say the pay gap persists, with women earning approximately 77 percent of what men earn (figures vary depending on the source). There are a lot of reasons for the gap. In a study reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology, men who act altruistically, such as staying late to work with colleagues, were viewed more favorably than women who did the same thing. Women desire fair treatment, equal opportunities and equal pay.

Opportunities for Meaningful Work

In an ICEDR study, millennial women cited a lack of interesting and meaningful work as the third main reason for leaving organizations. Female employees want the work they do to make an important difference in some way, such as contributing to the improvement of people’s lives.

Paying Attention to Happiness

Paying attention to employee happiness reaps big rewards for organizations. Multiple studies have proven that a gender-balanced workplace enhances employee engagement, increases productivity and profits and improves organizational and brand reputation. Achieving gender balance requires a mix of policies and programs that engage, motivate, recognize and reward, as well as offer equitable pay and career opportunities to women.

Engage Your Employees

Employee engagement is mentioned first because an engaged workforce is inclusive, motivated, productive, recognized and rewarded. Giving employees the recognition they deserve is key to employee engagement. For more information on how to engage your employees, watch this webinar recording on Using Recognition to Drive Engagement.

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To 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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