Organisational techniques for institutionalising mentoring

Everyone in the organisation is beginning to understand that behavioural change requires time; continuous reinforcement; peer-to-peer learning; and practising on the job in a non-threatening, safe environment

Bhavna Dalal
Published: 14, May 2018

Bhavna Dalal ( www.bhavnadalal.com) is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners [www.talentpowerpartners.com] a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is a Team Leadership Coach with ICF PCC Certification, IIM Calcutta Executive MBA, and B.E.(Electronics). Also, the author of the book Team Decision Making [https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01MXF5QEM] endorsed by former CEO's of Target, Lowes, LimitedBrands,bank of Baroda, 3M , Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Manoj Pardasani (Associate Dean Fordham University) and many others. Bhavna has been serving on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh in India ) for the past 5 years.

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Organisations are introducing and continuing several leadership development programs in almost every sector, from global multi-nationals to family-owned businesses, consulting companies and the public-sector organisations. It is being incorporated especially at the mid-management and senior levels. All kinds of methodologies like experiential learning, simulations, gaming, theatre and mobile learnings are being used.

The trend has moved from one- to two-day workshops to longer term, almost four- to eight-month long learning journeys. Everyone is beginning to understand that behavioural change requires time, continuous reinforcement, peer-to-peer learning and practising on the job in a non-threatening safe environment. While all these initiatives are a great way of developing leaders, more needs to happen for leadership attitudes and behaviours to be deeply ingrained in the day-to-day interactions and way of thinking of the employees. It must become a seamless practice and part of the cultural motif.

One way to propagate and sustain the learnings in house is through structured formal mentoring programs. There are abundant benefits of a work environment that actively supports mentoring.

The purpose of mentoring is to transfer the lessons of richer experience namely knowledge, skill, processes, etc. in a workforce to improve the capability of other individuals or workgroups. To initiate and sustain a meaningful mentoring process certain steps need to be followed.

1. Build a solid business case for mentoring To institutionalise mentoring, it must be looked as critical strategy to improve employee engagement, accelerate career development, groom leaders and perpetuate a learning culture. It may not apply in every case. The reasons for implementing a mentoring program must be linked to your company’s business goals. The reasons for dedicating effort and resources to a formal mentoring process must be justified.

2. Have a Clear Mentoring Plan
All the stake holders including the executive teams need to be part of planning the vision, defining strategy and objectives for the formal mentoring process. Usually a committee is set up to ensure the execution happens smoothly. The purpose and goals of this exercise should be clear to all. The expected outcome of the program should be made clear to the mentors and mentees too. The criteria for selecting mentors and mentees needs to be chalked out.

3. Selection of the participants
There has to be a mechanism in place to select the right mentors and mentees. And further the matching of each. Mentors should be people truly interested in the development of others. Mentees should be eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity. Good mentee candidates are those who have demonstrated clear evidence of future leadership. For the program to be effective, mentors and mentees must participate voluntarily and willingly.

4. Preparing the participants
A good mentoring program builds in formal orientation for mentors to equip them with the skill set required to establish and sustain a successful learning partnership with a mentee. This training must clarify the difference between mentoring and managing. There is a lot of learning and unlearning that a mentor will have to do to perform this role effectively. Provide the tools and resources that the participants will need in this journey. Mentees will have to learn how to take charge of their own learning, evaluate the areas where they will employ help from their mentors. Mentees will need to understand that having a mentor does not guarantee a promotion.

5. Pairing the mentors and mentees
Several criteria could be used to pair up the mentors and mentees, A formal mentoring agreement may be created to refer to throughout the process. The agreement must include the goals and objectives of both the mentee and the mentor. The timelines, dos and don’ts and the how toss should be spelled out clearly including how and when they will meet, and a confidentiality agreement.

6. Measure the progress
The proof of a successful mentoring program lies in measuring the impact of the program in two ways. The first is the extent to which the process has helped the mentee in achieving their developmental goals that were defined at the beginning of the program. The second is the degree to which the program was successful in achieving the strategic business goals, for example improved engagement or the developing leaders. Such programs usually close the mentoring relationship formally. The mentor and mentees may continue the relationship formally or informally in future if it serves them both well.

Formal mentoring works best in an organisation where people development and organisational learning are supported and nurtured by leadership at all levels.

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