Mentoring makes its mark

We’ve long been aware of the benefits to people who receive mentoring, but two recent surveys by Sheffield University look at the relationship between being a mentor and career success.

The research, which covered the private and public sectors, found that those leaders who had been mentors achieved more promotions, more salary increases and more career satisfaction than those who had not been.

It’s good news for learning and development directors trying to make the case for mentoring, and it’s just the kind of evidence needed to encourage more time-precious senior managers to give their energy to less-experienced colleagues.

Senior lecturer (associate professor), Sheffield University
Organisations are in constant change. There is uncertainty and people tend to think: ‘I’m under pressure, and I don’t have the time to be a mentor’. But what we’re saying is there’s something in it for mentors themselves.

First of all, the mentor gets satisfaction. And we tend to build a good network with others who may be subordinates now, but later may become colleagues.

We find that people who are more committed to the organisation become mentors.
People must feel safe in their jobs. There must be an open communication channel, and innovation and learning must be rewarded, otherwise people won’t be motivated to help others.

Head of human resources and training, Skipton Building Society
We’ve had a mentoring scheme for six years. We selected middle managers and a group of executives to act as pilot mentors. So we had buy-in right from the top, and now we have more than 100 pairings.

One very obvious benefit was the cross-functional exposure. For our executives, being highly driven people, mentoring brought out the competitiveness in them. If they found another executive had held more mentoring sessions, it prompted them to make more progress, the net result being more benefits to the individuals taking part and also to the business.

The mentors had previously supported mentoring through the corporate plan, but suddenly they were hands-on. The peer group pressure was very powerful, and helped get it off the ground.

National graduate development programme consultant, Employers’ Organisation for Local Government
The success of mentoring isn’t one-sided. Organisations gain by retaining and making better use of their talent.

And mentors typically find that they learn as much, if not more, than their mentees – so much so, in fact, that leaders who are not also mentors are increasingly seen as having plateaued in their own development.

Head of personnel, Mid-Sussex District Council
Being an external mentor has enabled me to reflect on how things are done in other organisations and authorities. The discussions with my mentee have helped me to approach ideas in a more focused and meaningful way.

The mentor experience has forced me to take time out of the ‘day job’ to re-evaluate why I do things the way I do and whether I could do them differently. The personal commitment element of the mentoring relationship has at times been challenging in view of my workload, but not wanting to disappoint the mentee or let them down has become an important personal driver for me.

Leadership development director, BAE Systems
We use mentoring mostly for our graduate population and our senior leaders. Graduates are mentored by executives or senior leaders, and the senior leaders by our board members.

There’s definitely something in it for mentors. It gives people more visibility internally, which might have a spin-off for their careers. It’s a great development opportunity for the softer skills, such as listening and questioning.

In the case of graduates, you might think: ‘What are you going to learn from someone a year out of university?’ But they have a freshness and enthusiasm for being at work, and they bring new ways of thinking.

Director, people development. R Polk Europe
I operate at a senior level as a consultant to companies in the motor industry, and informal mentoring is very common. People pull us aside on a programme we’re working on and say: “Can I have a word?”

They may feel they don’t have a position in the organisation anymore and want help, or they may have issues with key members of staff or even their boss. We’re using our experience and knowledge of the organisation to offer objective guidance.

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