Developing Leaders at Every Level

Being a Recruitment Specialist, I spend my days sourcing candidates and speaking with applicants. The number one thing that candidates seem to be looking for in a company is career development and an organization that is going to take a vested interest in their professional growth. Some companies have very extensive training and development programs within their HR departments, but most do not, assumingly because of the cost and effort involved in developing and operating a sophisticated and elaborate training program. Employees are also seeking a manager or an organization who is going to challenge them with growth opportunities and continually find ways that they believe the employees can add value to the organization. Because development is so strongly desired, organizations that provide those opportunities are likely going to see better retention, lower turnover and higher employee engagement rates than their competitors without these opportunities.

One question that organizations are constantly asking at all levels is “how can we increase our employer value proposition without having to spend a lot of capital?” We are finding this especially true because of the economic conditions that are affecting Alberta today. Companies have been forced to find ways to make their dollars stretch further and leverage low cost initiatives as part of their employment brands.

Mentorship is a perfect example of a training and development initiative that is relatively inexpensive. With all of the resources contained in-house, provided that there is willingness and buy in from your staff, mentorship opportunity is a fun and rewarding way to build knowledge, leadership skills and employee engagement within your organization. When we typically talk about mentorship programs, we talk about the incredible opportunity that is offered to the mentee. Mentees are newer to the job market, less experienced and very keen to develop their leadership skills and propel themselves forward within their career trajectory. A mentor can help their mentees navigate their career and advise on the best ways to achieve career growth and make recommendations on development opportunities. Mentees absorb the knowledge transmitted from their mentors and generally have a stronger vision about their career direction. Following the completion of a positive mentor relationship, mentees are also very likely to seek participation within a mentorship program as a mentor further on in their career to pass on the same benefits to up and coming professionals that they once received from their own mentors.

The advantages for mentees are obvious and straightforward. On the flip side however, the advantages in mentorship programs for mentors is not often talked about and a little less obvious. Upon deeper analysis though, there are just as many benefits for mentors as there is for the mentees. Mentors are usually mid-career to very mature, anywhere from seven to thirty years of experience. At this experience level, career development is usually still very important to these individuals. By signing up and volunteering to be a mentor, employees are essentially expressing their interest in developing their personal leadership skills. Generally, senior level staff members find it highly rewarding to be able to share the knowledge and experience that they have worked hard to accumulate over the last decade(s). On top of feeling useful and increased job satisfaction, offering senior staff an opportunity to mentor and build a relationship with their mentee can increase their confidence, coaching, leadership and supervisory skills.

While all participants within the mentorship program will see personal benefits and career advantages, organizations who are offering the mentor/mentee opportunity will also see benefits. Generally, staff participating within a mentorship program report higher job satisfaction and productivity. If being tracked and recorded, Human Resources metrics in these areas will increase. Additionally, when employees are happier and more engaged, this will help build a strong and participatory workplace culture. With an active workforce and a strong culture, organizations are able to build their employment brand both internally and externally, and in turn, are in theory able to increase the organization’s value proposition.

While it is always a careful balance, with effective program management and engaged and willing participants, a mentorship opportunity provides many benefits for mentors, mentees and the organizations. Mentorship relationships provide organizations with an inexpensive way to capture and capitalize on the knowledge contained within their employees, and ensure that leadership skills are developed at all employee levels.

This article was originally featured in the HRIA Essentials November E-Newsletter. Check it out for more great articles on Leadership Development.

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