Mentoring in organizations

The case for mentoring in organizations is now more compelling than ever. It is clear that mentoring supports the retention development and engagement of today’s workforces. It is a direct link to an organization’s productivity and ultimately, profitability. Mentoring has the potential to elevate corporate dialogue from the mundane to the truly transformational. But the key concern has always been this: How do managers learn the skills, find the time and build the relationships necessary to make it successful? How much responsibility should an employee take for his own career and learning and how much should he look to his employer for? And what does an employee has to do to get the most of any developmental relationship?

In the modern world, organizations and people survive by continuously learning and application of knowledge. Organizations have to create learning alliances and nurture them to develop people.

Mentoring is one of the most powerful developmental approaches available to individuals and organizations. The traditional concept of mentoring has been that, one person who is older, wiser and more powerful and expects loyalty in return for advice, guidance and a helping hand. However, mentoring is not coaching and it is useful to understand the difference between the two roles in learning alliances.

While coaching is concerned with the task and focuses on skills and performance and emphasizes on feedback to the learner, it typically addresses a short term need. Mentoring is concerned with implications beyond the task, focuses on capability and potential and agenda is set by the learner. The emphasis is on reflection by the learner and typically it’s a long term relationship. The feedback mechanism is primarily about implicit, intuitive issues and behavior. The mentors in any organization have to play the role of coaches counselors, guardians and facilitators.

The first step in a mentoring program is to have clear objectives and outcome. Its success depends on the role of the mentors and the attitude of the mentees. Hence, the training of mentors in development in developing the right developmental mentoring behaviors is crucial. Ideally mentors take on roles of collaborating, involving doing things with the mentee, goal setting, helping the mentee set viable yet stretchable personal goals, challenging pushing mentees to think deeply about issues, particularly about how they perceive themselves and their relationships. They must also act as a sounding board who can give correct feedback to the mentee.

Another important role of the mentor is in guiding explaining how the organization works, its politics and helping the mentee develop worldly wise attitudes. The mentor must also be a role model. Building, sustaining this relationship and developing rapport is important for the success o the program. Mentees have to develop a positive attitude and be open to new ideas an display commitment. One of the most important traits needed in a mentee is that he must demonstrate rust in opening issues or discussion and must be willing to explore own feelings.

Identifying mentors and mentees is an important part of a mentorship program. Mentees are selected on the basis of their innate talent and leadership potential. Mentors should be identified not be just on the basis of their knowledge and skills but whether people within the organization look up to them for guidance.

Despite good planning mentoring programs might fall due to various reasons: poor preparation, failure to involve the line manager and so on. Mentoring relationships could also not work out because of failure to establish rapport, poor goal setting, breach of confidence and inability to cope with time pressures. Developmental mentoring is very effective when difference in power and influence between the mentor and mentee is set aside and stress is laid more on learning.

More importantly at the organizational level, measurement of outcomes of the mentoring programs must be closely linked with the objectives. Some of the measurable purposes could be retention of key talents improved succession planning changes in the employee attitude and behavior. When organizations have properly managed developmental alliances it leads to practical, pragmatic and timely help for people at all levels. To derive maximum benefit an organization must both equip people to manage the relationship and provide adequate resources to manage and support them. The approach must not be piecemeal and should take a long term view of the program. Organizations that value people and are prepared to invest in learning relationships as a means to improve performance will be the future leaders of the 21st century.