August 1, 2022
CLAREMONT, CA—Gone are the days of old-timers spouting wisdom to the young guns. Mentoring today has a key role in the development and retention of top talent, according to The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC). Successful companies are setting up highly flexible mentoring systems to meet specific business objectives and using well-trained mentors to help retain talent.
Top Talent Scarcity is Less in Companies with Mentors
“Our most successful clients are no longer relying on hiring talent. Instead, they are focused on developing talent,” points out Lisa Anderson, president of Claremont, CA-based LMA Consulting Group, Inc. and manufacturing expert known as the Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain.™ “Top talent is scarce. The successful clients focus on what will yield results and engage people. They are willing to dedicate the time and resources to mentoring, backed with focused training programs.
“Throwing money at the topic does not fill the talent gap,” Anderson claims.
“Unfortunately, even high-quality training programs provide little value if not
accompanied with guidance and mentoring. The best clients are engaging internal mentors and hiring consultants who have ‘been there and done that’.
“Successful mentors provide immediate and constructive feedback, offer insights and suggestions, and create the environment for the employee to try new behaviors. When accompanied with targeted training sessions and opportunities to test ideas, success follows,” she adds.
Three Steps to Mentoring Heaven
“Decide what’s best for your company – a mentoring system or a mentoring program,” says Steven Hunt, founder of Steven Hunt & Associates, and expert advisor to top management on how to get workers motivated and focused on growth across global business units. “A system connects mentoring to a company-wide goal, like succession planning or cross-border collaboration. On the other hand, with a mentoring program, the mentor and mentee are free to set their own objectives.”
“Make sure your mentors know how to mentor,” Hunt advises. “Your mentor should know how to use the six key mentoring tools as a minimum.
“Give each mentor a supervisor,” he adds. “Even experienced mentors come up
against entrenched personality and behavioral issues. Like all good advisors, the mentors need a supervisor on hand to work these issues through. Without one, mentors will do more harm than good. One goal of mentoring is always to give high-quality advice to the mentee.”
Mentoring is Going Mobile
“Mentoring programs are failing in the remote and hybrid workplace,” says Sten Vesterli, advisor to business and IT leaders worldwide on how to maximize success with technology and avoid the pitfalls that kill technology projects. “They are failing because they were based on an implicit assumption of people being in the office. When mentor and mentee are in the same building, it is easy for either to initiate a conversation, and they might even meet serendipitously.”
“With increased remote and hybrid work, it takes discipline to ensure that mentoring conversations still happen regularly,” explains Versterli. “Left on their own, many mentors and mentees fail to set up appropriate systems, making it imperative that the company offers a non-intrusive way to encourage and track mentor-mentee interactions.”
Ways to Build Mentoring Relationships that Last for Years
“There was no formal mentoring program when I entered the workforce,” notes Kathleen McEntee of Kathleen McEntee and Associates Ltd, a full-service marketing firm focused on distinguishing businesses with practical marketing strategies and tactics that deliver results. “Mentoring typically took place on the golf course. Today, the good news is that mentoring is more prevalent. Yet many ‘programs’ tend to be formal and rigid.
“While new employees may have technical skills, they can use help in understanding the culture and how to interact with co-workers,” according to McEntee. “Mentors provide perspective and explain informal networks and hierarchies.
“First step, identify good prospects—those interested in sharing knowledge and helping others succeed,” she explains. “Provide a loose structure for meetings and check-ins, open doors and developing networks. Try to pair people from different departments and disciplines. Allow for relationships to develop and switch out if it isn’t working. Once in place, those relationships can last years. Mentoring is as valuable for the mentor as it is for the mentee—and, of course, for the company. It should be a win-win-win for everyone.”
Grow the People You Already Have OnBoard
While many organizations are struggling to find workers, others are wisely offering mentoring support to provide employees with a growth path within the organization, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic firm marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.
“Mentoring should be a two-way street,” she said. “In an ideal situation, both the mentor and the mentee learn and grow, and the organization prospers at the same time.”
“The key is to provide the right environment for the mentoring relationship to
blossom. The best mentors in the world can’t help their partners if they don’t have the opportunity to build relationships and work through issues and concerns in real time.”
Your Mentors are Your Productivity Builders
“Mentors who are outside of the hierarchical chain of command are great productivity builders for the company,” said SAC Founder Alan Weiss, PhD. “Every employee occasionally needs a wise word from a respected source. I’ve been coaching top executives for decades, and even they need it—but they have to run to the outside for honesty and candor.”
The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) is the premier association for independent consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and provide significant consulting results among their clients. Founded by Million Dollar Consulting guru Alan Weiss in 2003, SAC offers a series of in-person and online programs to help consultants share best practices and learn from industry experts and thought leaders in the business world. SAC today has members in 14 countries around the world.