Why Mentoring Matters

August 19, 2008

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Recognizing the personal and organizational benefits associated with the knowledge shared between mentors and mentees, more organizations might consider fostering mentoring relationships.

Retaining top talent and promising newcomers is becoming increasingly complicated. Upon leaving, a routine complaint from talented workers is that management failed to invest time in helping them grow and develop.

Moreover, businesses in the coming years will experience an unprecedented exit of experienced workers. Surely, so-called baby boomers likely won't follow the traditional retirement patterns of the past, but this doesn't mean there won't be shortages of people in some areas. Such shortages will likely be in small pockets of the economy rather than across the entire workforce.

With them, they will take the experience and hard-earned practical knowledge that has built and sustained some of the nation's most successful companies.

That is why keeping experienced workers will increasingly become more of a business imperative. Smart businesses will take advantage of good workers — of all ages — to continue to grow and succeed in our hyper-competitive global business environment.

While many businesses have had strategies or processes in place for recruiting, hiring, initial training and reviewing, organizations in larger numbers only recently have been addressing the need for veterans to help mentor the younger generation of employees who may lack the required skills needed upon entering the workforce.

Mentoring is one of the most significant and empowering tools available to face these challenges.

"Informal and formal mentors have been heralded as among the key ingredients in shaping the academic and career development of youth," says Mentoring.org. Newly minted employees in the workforce inherently lack the guidance, preparation and resources to succeed in skilled labor.

In terms of the person being mentored, "mentees" have consistently found that mentoring has achieved the following:

  • Provided critical feedback in key areas, such as communications and leadership skills;
  • Guided them around major procedural obstacles and pitfalls;
  • Enhanced their training and career development;
  • Afforded a friendly ear with which to share frustrations as well as successes;
  • Developed a sharper focus on what is needed to grow professional and personal goals;
  • Influenced their attitudes and professional outlook significantly;
  • Provided not only knowledge and expertise from the mentor, but also networking with a more influential employee; and
  • Improved their results by challenging their assumptions.

(Sources: The Professional Development Partnership and Management Mentors)

On the other hand, the agreement among most in mentoring circles is that a successful mentoring relationship needs to benefit both parties — not only the person being mentored. So, then, what can the mentor get out of the relationship? The possibilities seem limitless, but here are some of the benefits frequently reported by mentors for themselves:

  • Satisfaction from helping others and seeing them progress;
  • Deeper and broader knowledge of their own organizations as well as others;
  • Re-energizing the mentor's own career;
  • Opportunities to practice and develop management skills;
  • Job enrichment and the chance to build wider networks;
  • Gaining an ally to help promote the organization's well-being;
  • Insights from the mentee's background and history that enhance the mentor's own professional and personal development; and
  • Increased self-confidence and higher visibility within the company.

(Sources: The Professional Development Partnership and Management Mentors)

"Recognizing this important role, schools and businesses have launched a growing array of work-based (or workplace-based) mentoring programs," Mentoring.org points out.

Dow Chemical, John Deere and Motorola have all invested in mentoring programs. Rolls-Royce pairs "budding engineers" with "veteran engine designers" who serve as mentors and provide constructive feedback.

At Aerospace Corp., a company where half the employees are over 50, company spokesperson David Jonta recently told Workforce Management that it is important to mentor new workers.

"This company represents the institutional memory of the military space program," Jonta said. "Knowing what has gone before, that has a lot to do with what the future's going to look like."

Mentoring is not necessarily the same as coaching, and formal mentoring differs in many ways from informal mentoring. Work-based mentoring models appear in various formats and styles: traditional, reciprocal, peer-to-peer and group mentoring. It may also be completely Web-based. Mentoring is for entrepreneurs, too.

The purpose of each program, however, is fundamentally the same — to foster the success of both employers and employees.

Among the benefits acknowledged by significant numbers of organizations:

  • Faster, more effective induction;
  • Retention of quality staff;
  • Enhanced transfer of skills;
  • Gains in productivity and the performance of individuals;
  • Increased on-job learning that reduces off-job training costs;
  • Better communication, commitment and motivation;
  • A cost-effective method to enhance staff development; and
  • A stabilizing factor in times of change.

(Source: The Professional Development Partnership)

Indeed, as noted in that last benefit, times are changing. Businesses across markets across industries across the globe are all becoming hyper-competitive — if they aren't already. The message is undeniably clear: companies need to develop their talent in order to compete in a global market.

As Wayne Hart, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership training facility in San Diego, once said to Workforce Management: "It's a return to the wisdom of apprenticing."

Resources

Work Based Mentoring Mentoring.org

Mentoring The Professional Development Partnership

Formal & Informal Mentoring Programs Management Mentors

Mentoring Launched for Members by Beth Mirza HR Magazine (via BNET), January 2008

Engineering the Engineers by Garry Kranz Workforce Management, February 2008

The New Job Sharers by Michelle V. Rafter Workforce Management, May 2008

Coaching & Mentoring Objectives Are Not the Same Management Mentors

How to Be a Better Mentor by Heath Row Fast Company, March 2001

Mentoring Is for Entrepreneurs, Too by Barnett Helzberg, Jr. SCORE.org

Mentoring Matters by Ed Frauenheim Workforce Management, Jan. 16, 2006

Nine Reasons Why Mentoring Matters to You by Kevin Eikenberry Ezinearticles.com

A Business Case for Formal Mentoring by Corinne Wayshak Entrepreneurship.org

How to Mentor Someone Ask A Manager, July 23, 2008

60-Second Guide to Finding a Business Mentor SCORE.org

AdvanceMentoring.com

MentorNet.net

Association of Mentoring Professionals

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