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HR Best Practices
HR Best Practices

Best Practices in Mentoring

Through our daily work with over 1300 organisations, we see many examples of innovative thinking in HR. In this series of 14 best practices we define true “best practices” in HR nowadays. In this tenth case study of this series we will focus on Best Practices in Mentoring with three examples of Top Employers within the Telecoms-, Electronics- and Technology industry.

Top Employers are starting to take a more formalised approach to mentoring. Formal mentoring programmes allow organisations to create and nurture relationships by matching experienced managers with promising talents to meet specific individual development objectives.

Best Practices in Mentoring in the Telecoms Industry

Many companies see mentoring as an informal method of career development, but this Top Employer (Global, 140,000 employees) in the telecoms industry has created a more structured approach. This company has created a range of communications materials that give guidance to its employees on how they can develop their career plans in a professional way through mentoring. The guide includes a definition of mentoring, the overall objectives, how the programme works, roles and responsibilities and benefits for the mentee. It also includes a guide to having a good mentoring conversation, including setting SMART goals for the mentoring relationship and information on how mentees can monitor and apply what they learn from their mentoring dialogues.

Through these actions, this approach means that this mentoring programme receives the focus it needs to broaden its reach and action more successful outcomes for all involved. This style of approach is well suited to a large organisation where the company can manage positive communication and understanding between all parties involved.

Best Practices in Mentoring in the Electronics Industry

This Top Employer (EMEA region, 12,000 employees) sees mentoring as a critical enabler for building a broader, deeper and more prepared talent pool. Through mentoring, this organisation wants to transfer the experience and perspectives their talent needs to excel in their current roles or to prepare for greater levels of leadership responsibility. This is done through a dedicated one-year mentoring programme in the EMEA region focused on talented employees who are in a pipeline of the “Next Generation Leaders.” 

What makes this programme interesting is that it includes an international aspect; the mentor is always from a different country than the mentee. This boosts cultural awareness, helps to eliminate silos and gives a new sense of perspective to the mentee.

The programme is formalised through HR-led training sessions for participants, including quarterly follow-ups on progress. All senior leaders and managers are requested to make themselves available for mentoring, meaning that talented employees have access to some of the best and most experienced minds within the company. Participants can also record their feedback in the HRIS system to aid drive continuous improvement. 

Since the programme was launched, staff turnover has been lower in the group of employees who deem eligible for mentoring. Anecdotally, mentees say they value the networking, the coaching and the human contact they gain from their mentor relationships. This practice is extremely valuable for multinational companies with operations in numerous countries within a regional area. It also helps develop strong local leaders and grow talent outside of regional headquarter settings. It therefore allows the talent pipeline to be fed by leaders with a better range of experience.

Best Practices in Mentoring in the Technology Industry

This Top Employer (Global, 200,000 employees) leverages its global HR Information System to provide a platform for employees to connect with mentors. All mid-to-senior level employees can sign up to be a mentor, while all employees can sign up to be a mentee by filling out some personal details via an online form. They can select their (desired) areas of expertise and connect with each other this way. Everything is managed electronically and the mentor can choose to approve or reject the requests they receive.

Assuming the mentor accepts the request, the mentee receives an introductory email with helpful tips regarding their first real-life interaction with their new mentor. The mentor is also invited to an E-learning session to learn more about their role as a mentor. Next, it’s up the mentee and mentor to take the relationship further however they choose. The limitations of this practice are cost (if new software and hardware need to be purchased), which may be prohibitive for small to medium sized companies, and the fact that each party depends on the company’s HR IT systems to provide a channel of communication. Establishing a rapport in this context may be difficult, particularly if both sides have not met before. If carrying out the relationship virtually, it is more challenging to establish trust without all the non-verbal cues that can be vital in face-to-face meetings. To be successful, all participants must be extra conscious of their communication style. Formal mentoring programmes allow organisations to create and nurture relationships by matching experienced managers with promising talent to meet specific individual development objectives.

Our Conclusion

When deployed successfully, mentoring can complement a company’s broader leadership/career development framework, in addition to other, more formal learning channels. In some cases, such as smaller sized companies and firms that do not wish to spend a lot of money on formal mentoring programmes, the informal way - while still being sensitive to diversity - can be a suitable approach. 

When cementing mentor relationships, companies must manage thorough communication and understanding on both sides of the mentoring connection. For example, in some cases, the mentee will have received a sufficient amount of guidance from his mentor, meaning that they will look to ‘fly the nest’ early, but the mentor may not be ready to let go! This is where communication is key.

Top Employers driving best practices in this area tend to have a strong HR leader responsible for ensuring that their company’s programme is successful, making sure the benefits of the programme are well communicated and all parties are working towards having mentoring relationships created where they have greatest impact (e.g. for next- generation leaders, women or employees from minority groups).

For some employees, mentoring can be a huge accelerator in career and development. But note that this is a long-term investment. The quality of the mentoring relationship is key, and having senior leaders who are willing to make the time investment is needed. It is important to find the right mentor for each individual by letting the relationship grow with someone who the employee naturally looks up to.

Curious about the previous topic we've discussed in this series of case studies? Gain more insights on Leadership Development