Mentoring: a tool for organizational agility Premium

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In a hypercompetitive world, where the flexibility and reactivity of teams is constantly being tested, mentoring is an indispensible tool for talent and knowledge management. Mentoring has advanced with the times, as new technologies make it more accommodating, effective, and efficient.

Mentoring enables the quickest, most direct, and most sustainable transmission of experience.

As former General Electric CEO Jack Welch put it, “An organization’s capacity to learn and to rapidly turn learning into action is the ultimate competitive advantage.” While managers often lack time and perspective, mentors listen to, guide, and encourage their protégés and direct them toward more interesting endeavors. The mentor/mentee relationship enables rapid, direct transmission of sensitive knowledge. Through a mentor’s advice and experience, mentoring contributes to greater organizational productivity.

The three keys to a successful mentoring strategy

Map out a clear path to follow
A mentoring program takes careful planning. To be successful, it is necessary to establish a framework and then monitor progress by appointing a person responsible for the entire program. Consider the following basic principles:
• Define the objective of the mentoring initiative in terms of company needs
• Identify target groups and determine criteria for selecting mentors and mentor/mentee pairs
• Define practical operating guidelines (i.e., nature and duration of the relationship)
• Plan for the end of the mentorship by measuring its long-term impact

Do not get locked into a rigid structure
While it helps to provide a framework for mentoring, the relationship itself must remain flexible. Contrary to popular belief,
• Mentoring does not imply exclusiveness and people need several mentors throughout their careers
• The effectiveness of mentoring is not measured in terms of time but in quality; a decisive one hour meeting can have a greater impact than several months of discussion
• Mentoring is not only for new hires; all employees facing a turning point in their careers can benefit from advice and support

Open your mind to new approaches to mentoring
Mentoring techniques have evolved considerably in recent years to incorporate the collaborative tools of the modern business landscape. New mentoring approaches include:
• Group mentoring: Enables companies to maximize the number of people who benefit from the program through workshops and regular meetings (or via an open online platform)
• 360° mentoring: Mentees solicit five or six mentors separately to obtain feedback on performance
• Reverse mentoring: Enables young high potentials to help senior managers acquire the skills they lack (such as Web 2.0 skills)
• Anonymous mentoring: The latest trend, mentees are free to raise any issue when their mentors have no way of interfering with their careers

Read our focus
Mentoring boosts organizational agility

Business Digest no. June 2012.
Based on “Why mentoring matters in a hypercompetitive world” by Thomas J. DeLong, John J. Gabarro, and Robert J. Lees (Harvard Business Review, January 2008), “The difference between mentoring and coaching” by Valerie Pelan (Talent Management, February 2012), “Demystifying mentoring” by Amy Gallo (Harvard Business Review, February 2011), and Critical strategies of modern mentoring programs by Scot Lake (BrandonHall Group, December 2011).