Stand Out From Other Organizations By Taking Advantage of Mentoring Opportunities
The cool kids are already doing it.
Seeking mentors and leveraging interpersonal opportunities is where the rubber meets the road for today’s emerging talent. Moreover, as the marketplace becomes ever more competitive and the students become more marketplace savvy, the brightest minds are recognizing practical experience as the differentiating factor when “picking” where to work.
What those “kids” have accepted is that it’s not enough to be the student with the best grades in school anymore; the most successful talent has figured out that the real world requires experiential application as well. Traditional education methods and teaching can only go so far because they are often in an insulated bubble—disconnected from modern realities of time, focus and application.
Fortunately, this desire or need for experiential application is neither new, nor lacking in models to attract, grow and retain top talent. From the recognition of the allure of co-op and internship programs, to the historically-anchored apprenticeships in the trade, to very real value of meaningful mentorships, “old school” solutions are finding fresh purchase in present day futures.
And while the cry for such meaningful workplace experiences has been attributed to the youngest generations, it is a call-to-action for all—and a tremendous opportunity for HR to connect, engage and motivate.
Finding The 3 Ms: Meaning, Motivation & Mentorship
Consider two truths that apply across the human spectrum and have the capacity to bring business to life (and vice versa). First, finding meaning and making the connection to our personal or professional lives influences our trajectory. Secondly, we are motivated by what we value, and what matters to us is what will likely drive our greatest efforts.
In short, as human beings, we grow and develop by following our hearts and learning through experience. That aspect of “being” is as critical to defining the human experience as is our ability to think critically. This puts a much-needed fresh onus on the calibre of connection and communication in the workplace, as well as meaningful opportunities to learn and develop.
It is also the quickest path to finding and keeping the talent that matters most to your organizational future — building a bridge between individual hearts, organizational goals and a thriving learning culture.
This puts a fresh mandate on mentorship.
Mentorship can activate an upward-spiraling loop of reciprocity that serves not only the parties involved, but the larger organizational whole. Why? Because when we truly connect, on a personal and professional level, with one another, good things can happen and we usually want more.
The positive feelings and the endorphins generated by calibre relationships and the shared experience cultivates the stronger bonds that bolster results and build cultures.
This interpersonal experience factor, whether we are looking at the training advantage or the trust and career building journey, can help solidify the interest of those looking for meaningful work and gain their trust from day one. By simply bringing the lessons if not the formal structure of mentorship to bear within your organization, you are internalizing the greatest resources needed to solve the talent challenges of recruitment, retention, engagement and succession alike.
Mentorship has been around since the beginning of recorded history, and thrives within the HR professional community itself, so while it may sound too overwhelming for some, it need not be. It’s really just a much needed move into the HR mindset of people-first thinking.
Think Empathy in Action
In an era where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and agile thinking are increasingly familiar terms, consider that mentorship is nothing less than empathy (and effective talent development) in action. You are creating a professional development framework of trust and support which is undeniable in its impact. Building stronger interpersonal relationships from the start is a key step in growing talent from within and the business throughout.
Organizational culture is everything in today’s talent market—particularly with the candidate pool as thin as it is. More than ever, companies are looking to rebrand themselves and demonstrate what a great place they are to work. The natural and economical way to doing this is to grow and develop your talent from within. A big component of this is hinged on changing the employee experience from the quintessential “WIIFM?” mindset to answering and fulfilling a deeper set of questions—among them, “Where do I fit the big picture?” and, ultimately, “What’s in it for us?”
An ROI Opportunity
After all, when outbidding the competition’s exponentially higher salaries is not possible and long term sustainability is the challenge, HR and the people leaders they support need to answer those questions from within—before the competition does. Naturally, this does not fall to those camps alone when mentorship is internalized.
Individual career pathways are intertwined with the organization’s success and enduring survival. In this light, mentoring is simply oldest form of career pathing and one of the most reliable means for sustainability. In the show-and-tell process of, “Where I’ve been before is where you may want to go,” the relationship is solidified through camaraderie.
Additionally, just as traditional apprenticeships thrived on loyalty and endurance, so too did they provide a greater motivation for results—other than simply the privilege of staying on.
It’s more than just putting a buddy system together. While formal partnering may change over time, a mentorship mentality must be established and engrained into the organizational philosophy.
From the first day, the expectations need to be set for the manager and employee that their success is mutually connected. The manager must understand that the employee’s success is directly associated with their subsequent level of involvement with their training. In turn, the employee must accept that in order to have a meaningful career, s/he must actively participate in the working relationship with their manager. This sounds simple, but it takes commitment, a conscious effort from both sides and strong HR leadership to build acceptance on all levels.
Importantly, the value of the mentorship experience goes beyond the paycheque and into the realm of shared passion and purpose. When HR is aligned with people and the business, extraordinary things can happen. This synergy is the extra boost in the business equation, allowing for innovative leaps where one plus one equals more than two. Then there are the added benefits of fostering leadership skills in mentors and encouraging the aspirations of a junior-level employee to become a leader in their own right.
Trust is the Must
What is fundamentally missing in organizations today is trust. Without trust, most initiatives will be frustrated and will inevitably fail. You cannot garner this trust without emotional investment because it is the people who will make things happen. Nurturing an HR mindset alongside a mentorship structure within an organization conveys to people that management is willing to invest in its employees. It also shows—instead of tells—the talent pool that the organization values its employees.
As human beings, we never stop learning. We tend to stagnate when we do. This makes establishing a learning culture, buoyed by mentoring relations, the foundation of both enduring curiosity and the future of successful business.
While it takes commitment and time, the point is to start somewhere, the journey shared is always more fulfilling.
Amelia Chan, CHRP, RCIC is founder and principal consultant of Higher Options Consulting Services, providing a wide range of HR and immigration services for small to mid-sized businesses.