A mentor is someone who has been there and done it. They are someone whose strengths lie in the knowledge, experience and advice they can share. And when committed to the cause, a good mentor is, to their mentee, a sounding board, an advocate, an advisor and a trusted contact for the rest of their career.
When an organisation provides mentoring opportunities between senior and more junior staff, this can go a long way to developing careers.
Having a mentor can help new employees embed into a company culture quickly, learn their role within the organisation, and feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
Charmaine Tan, marketing sourcing manager (Global & Asia Pacific region) global sourcing & procurement services at AIG and winner of the Future Leader Award Winner at the 2015 World Procurement Awards, said how being mentored by Jan Piskadlo, AIG’s regional head Asia Pacific, global sourcing & procurement services, had been a key enabler to her career.
“The mentoring was crucial… He was my mentor in terms of showing me the ropes and telling me what procurement was all about. He also tailored the programme to what I really wanted to achieve as a career goal,” she said.
“Having a mentor is very different to having a coach. For me, having a mentor is very much relationship-orientated. It allows you to share what you want from your life, your career and what you enjoy doing. Then they try to help you work out how that can be achieved. Having a mentor, particularly at a very early stage in your career, is absolutely crucial.”
And the figures back this up.
Junior to mid-level employees who have been on some form of mentoring scheme advance quicker, earn higher salaries and have increased job satisfaction compared with those who don’t, according to recent findings in The Harvard Business Review. The research found that 71% of CEOs were “certain that company performance had improved as a result [of mentoring]”
All in all, it is clear that having a mentor can be a huge contributor to career progression and performance.
However, it isn’t just the mentee that benefits from the relationship.
Experience and knowledge is needed in a successful function, however, in some instances it can be detrimental when trying to move the function forward. Reverse mentoring can open up more senior members of your team to new ways of thinking and working.
A number of major global businesses players have adopted this approach from Facebook to Procter & Gamble.
At Bank of New York Mellon, reverse mentoring has been at the heart of the business for some time, and this runs to the board with CEO Gerald Hassell being mentored by a graduate. The success of the programme has been put down to the fact that senior staff members look to the younger generation as representatives of the new workforce.
“By 2020 millennials will be half of the workforce,” BridgeWork consulting expert Lisa Walden recently told Fortune. “Millennials are a generation that have grown up with a lot of technology. They’re very tech savvy.”
While the act of mentoring has clear benefits for the mentor and the mentee, there are also benefits on offer to the business as a whole.
First, the transferal of knowledge and learning can build a more competent workforce at a more rapid rate.
"My mentor has encouraged me to have the belief to lead the business with a progressive and intuitive leadership style: they have shown me that there is no task too large and how to take the hard decisions for the future success of the business," a CPO at a consumer goods company said.
There are a number of steps that need to be taken if a mentoring programme is adopted to ensure that it is a success, which Procurement Leaders calls the Five E’s.
Engage – Create an environment where people can comfortably listen to one another without any outside distractions.
Explore – Allow a mentee to walk in the mentor’s shoes. This will help them to see things through the eyes of another, to define and communicate what the person or organisation stands for, and wants to stand for in the future.
Explain – The primary driver for most mentoring programmes is to train future leaders of the organisation. To do this well, you need a system and a curriculum that challenges people to work hard and, in turn, challenge each other. Therefore, a clear communication strategy is needed to explain what each party is going to get out of the process and what the stages of development are.
Elaborate – Go deep and provide experiences that stick. Elaborate on personal or corporate values through your curriculum.
Evaluate – Know what you want the outcome of the programme to be, and then evaluate these metrics when appropriate.
Importantly too is that whoever the mentor may be, they have a vested interest in the progression of the business and a strong buy-in for the programme.
People are a company’s biggest asset, yet the strength of the business cannot rest solely on the shoulders of a few experienced people. If they leave the company, they take their knowledge and experience with them so there has to be a process to share that knowledge in order to protect, but also improve the business.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team
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