Companies leading the way when it comes to building engaging workplaces typically do three things better than others: they offer employee development, they build a culture of open communication, and they make use of employee data. Encouraging employee development has to do with providing access to training and making employees feel like they have space to grow; open communication relates to the way senior figures interact with their staff; and employee data has to do with the provision of HR software.
There may not be a way to solve all of these engagement issues with a single company initiative, but a mentoring program certainly comes close.
Why Are Mentoring Programs Uncommon?
Corporate mentoring is rare – according to a recent survey, just one in every three employees around the world has been part of a mentoring program, despite 83 percent of those surveyed saying they would benefit.
But whilst the majority may agree mentoring is generally a good thing, in practice, setting up a successful mentoring program is not so easy.
Just take the senior employee’s viewpoint: becoming a mentor can seem like a huge chore, which, if it’s pitched like a corporate scheme, may seem to offer them little personal benefit. What if, instead, it was presented as a voluntary opportunity for personal development? This change in tone makes the case for becoming a mentor much stronger, but few organisations are able to successfully communicate its value in this way.
Here are some tips to ensure your mentoring program is practical, uses the right HR tools, and actually improves employee engagement and performance.
Building an Effective Mentoring Program with HR Software
There are three things that define a good mentoring programme: effective matching, effective goal setting, and ongoing peer feedback.
Matching protégés to managers is the first big hurdle. Protégés will too often want mentors with the most impressive titles, rather than the person who might be best suited to help them in their career path. Whilst intuition plays a part in the matching process, using data for automated matching often proves to be far more successful. Algorithmic approaches to matching range from basic filtering to robust, machine-learning processes, based on people analytics. And beyond matching, good mentoring software can gather information, dynamically survey, track outcomes, and learn to improve future matching.
Protégés may have a few vague ideas about where they see themselves in the future, but they need clear goals and expectations if they want to avoid mentoring sessions becoming nothing more than a talking exercise. HR software and data can come in useful here. For example, talking points could be raised based on common issues people face at similar points in their careers. This clearly will rely on an extensive pool of aggregated learning and development figures (something that vendors like Everwise are able to provide).
During the mentorship program, protégés shouldn’t only be in touch with their assigned mentor, but should seek council from others, like program managers and colleagues. A good way to encourage this is via 360 feedback surveys – a type of anonymised peer feedback that can provide guidance, and also advance their goal definition. It’s good for employees to get feedback on their progress and to feel like the program is leading them in the right direction.
Mentoring programs, when setup with the right people and software, can offer an all-round solution to the three cases of employee disengagement outlined in the introduction. Mentors are the guides that facilitate career developments, they are the senior figures that can break down perceived barriers to communication, and they leverage data to make all of this happen successfully. It’s about time more organisations got on board!