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Mentoring for talent development

Posted on June 10, 2015

With population and unemployment figures on the increase, attracting and retaining talent would be should be getting easier. However, some startling statistics suggest otherwise.

The global competition for talent is growing. Although companies want to expand, a PWC Annual Global CEO survey indicates that access to talent is becoming more competitive; only 30% of CEOs believe they have the talent they need. In a Deloitte survey of over 700 human resource professionals, 98% said that competition for talent is increasing in their industry. This situation is likely to get worse rather than better, with expected shortages of between 32 million and 39 million “knowledge” workers by 2020 according to BusinessWeek.

While competition for talent is increasing, retention rates are falling. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that, "More than 25% [of 880 high-potential employees] said they planned to change jobs within the next 12 months. That's potential attrition 2.5 times greater than just five years ago. Among the dissatisfied, 64% said their current employment experiences are having little impact on their development."

Given these statistics, attracting, developing and retaining top talent is likely to be more of a challenge in the future than it’s ever been and companies are currently going to great lengths to find a workable solution. An under-utilised but tremendously effective solution is mentoring.

Mentoring is a voluntary professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentee) with consistent support and practical help to enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth. It is an opportunity for a mentee to gain access to impartial, non-judgmental guidance and to achieve predetermined goals and objectives.

More and more companies now have internal coaching programmes, but few seem to set clear and specific organisational goals for them. Also, the terms coaching and mentoring are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A mentor may coach, but a coach is not a mentor. Some of the main differences are that coaching is short term whereas mentoring tends to be over a longer time frame; also, coaching is aimed more at performance and mentoring more at development; and coaching is more likely to be driven by the line manager and mentoring is "owned" more by the mentee.

A strategically designed mentoring programme is a great way to improve induction, employee engagement and workplace diversity. Mentoring develops leaders, careers and skills and encourages knowledge sharing. A good mentoring programme also reduces turnover costs, improves productivity and breaks down the silo mentality among departments or divisions. The beauty of it is that you use your own employees as internal experts for professional development, instead of external consultants.

Not all organisations are ready for a formal mentoring programme; a successful programme needs the right conditions and internal structures to exist. But a specialist consultant can help them to evaluate their readiness and advise on the right conditions for setting up a programme.

Designing a formal mentoring programme is not as difficult as it might appear. Once senior buy-in has been obtained and a framework has been put in place, implementation can start. Internal mentors and mentees will need to be identified and they will need to be shown the value of the programme to them.

Training of mentors and mentees can be done relatively quickly and easily. A good course will describe the role and required competencies of both parties, manage expectations and provide a list of do's and don'ts.

Essential to the success of a formal programme is the matching of a mentee with the right mentor. As the relationship is likely to last for some time, it is vital that a mentee has access to a mentor that they feel they can trust, open up to and work with successfully.

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