Mentoring is emerging as an important tool that employers are increasingly using for employee development. As the business environments increasingly become competitive, employers are recognizing that the best way to remain competitive is to have employees with the right skills and expertise to drive a company into success. For this reason, most companies are making mentoring part of their employee and leadership development strategy. Tewari and Sharma (2014, p. 80) define mentoring as a process of building a formal or informal relationship between an experienced and inexperienced employee. Matuszek et al. (2008, p. 18) defines a mentor as an experienced employee or a consultant hired to mentor or help new or inexperienced employees grow in their current position and to get them ready for new positions and career opportunities. Mentoring provides a mentor with the opportunity to pass on skills, business practices, business culture knowledge and the business history. This paper discusses the importance of developing a mentoring culture in an organization and the common challenges to running a successful mentoring program.
Importance of Developing a Mentoring Culture
Mentoring has become an invaluable employee development strategy. In the past, when the term mentoring was mentioned, the majority linked mentoring to colleges and learning institutions as people associated mentoring to students. However, in the modern business environment, human resource managers have recognized mentoring as a critical tool for employee development. Today, employees are viewed as an important resource that companies use as a source of competitive advantage (Harris-Worthington 2009, p. 44). However, this is only possible when a company has the right employees with the right skills and experience needed to enable a company achieves its objectives. Mentoring happens to be one of the strategies that employers use to develop the skills of their workforce to ensure success. For this reason, many companies are making mentoring part of organizational culture for developing employees.
Developing mentoring culture has been shown in many literatures to bring many benefits to an organization (Connor & Pakora 2007, p. 9). First, a large body of literatures indicates that mentoring culture is beneficial to a company as it ensures that a company has the right employees with the right skills needed to drive a business into success. Flynn (1995, p. 23) argues that mentoring provides the mentee with the necessary knowledge and skills that bridges the gap between the theories learned in class and the real business practices. Employees are considered the greatest assets that any can company have. However, when the employees lack the necessary skills, there is the danger of underperformance by employees that can lead to lack of productivity and business failure. At the same time, when employees lack the skills needed to perform tasks assigned this result in danger of employees making errors or mistakes that can prove very costly to an organization. Tewari and Sharma (2014, p. 81) research found that workers who do not understand their work well are more likely to make errors and mistakes that can turn out to be very costly to an organization. For instance, Darwin (2000, p. 199) observed that employees that do not understand their work well are more prone to mistakes that results in accidents. It is here that mentoring is important considering that, when a mentor is a round to guide inexperienced or new employee, no mistake or errors would be made by the employee since the experienced mentor will guide the employee on how to perform the task, thus minimizing accidents and wastages that would otherwise occur if an inexperienced employee is left to do the work alone.
Mentoring program is also important for business success as it promotes leadership development. Effective leadership is key to long-term growth and success of a company. Flynn (1995, p. 25) shows that successful companies are successful are led by good leaders, with the right skills and the experiences. It is for this reason that many companies currently implement mentoring programs since such programs help developing leaders with the right skills as noted by Matuszek et al. (2008, p. 20). Accordingly, this ensures that, whenever a leader retires of leaves a company, there are others already within a company with the right skills to take up their positions without necessarily having to source for new leaders from outside who may not be familiar with the business culture. This is supported by a study that has shown that 66% of companies have used mentoring programs to create new leaders and promote career development (Tewari & Sharma 2014, 83). Besides, mentoring employees help prepare a company for any issue that might arise in the future such as skills shortage or workers to take up leadership position.
Building a mentoring culture is also beneficial to a business as it helps boost employees’ morale, which is important for business success. Having a highly motivated workforce that is committed to business goals and objective is critical to the success of any company. Motivational theorists, such as Abraham Maslow and Herzberg’s two-factor or motivation-hygiene theory highlights the importance of building a highly motivated workforce (Eraut 2007, p. 407). Although there are many strategies that the theories identify as appropriate for motivating organizational workforce, all the theories of motivation recognizes mentoring as a tool for enhancing the workforce morale. Matuszek et al. (2008, p. 20) noted that, when a company mentors its workforce and develop their careers, this makes them feel valued by the employer, which in turn increases their motivational level, which is important for organizational success. When employees are motivated, these result in increased commitment and engagement level of employees to the company ideals and objectives. Having a highly motivated workforce is also important for organizational success as it reduces turnover and results in increased productivity (Darwin 2000, p. 197). When a company experiences high turnover, this can be very costly considering that a company is forced to keep hiring new employees every now and again, which also requires training. It is for this reason that employers are increasingly using mentoring programs to increase employees’ morale and engagement so as to minimize turnover and enhance the productivity of workers. Harris-Worthington (2009, p. 65) reports that up to 77% of companies have successfully used mentoring programs to increase the retention of their valued workers
Mentoring is also important for a company as it can be used as a tool for building positive workplace relationships that in turn results in increased job satisfaction. Building positive workforce relationships is important for organizational success. Employees usually feel comfortable and satisfied working for a company where there is a positive working relationship between the employees and the employer and between the employees themselves (Eraut 2007, p. 404). Fortunately, mentorship is one of the strategic tools that a significant number of companies use today to promote positive workforce relationships. Whenever there is a positive mentoring and workforce relationship, this results in increased satisfaction level among employees, which consequently increases the commitment level of employees and lowers turnover rate.
Challenges in Running Effective Mentoring Programs
Mentoring is an important tool that high achievers use today to develop the skills of their employees and future leaders. As indicated, mentoring affects the ability of an employee to succeed in his/her job assignment. The same applies to leaders whose success is affected directly by mentoring. Despite the increased implementation of mentoring programs across industries, Harris-Worthington (2009, p. 36) notes that most organizations face certain challenges in running an effective mentoring program. The identification of the challenges is important as it enables a company to identify them and strategize effectively on how to overcome them.
Lack of mentor motivation ranks among the top challenges that most employers face when running a mentoring program (Illeris 2003, p. 165). Having a highly motivated mentor to guide an inexperienced or new employee is important to the success of a mentoring program as it helps build a positive mentoring relationship. Unfortunately, studies show that a large number of firms struggle getting mentors with the right motivation to fulfill the needs from high potential workers. In fact, Ismail and Arokiasamy (2007, p. 135) claim that some mentors only join mentoring programs not because they have volunteered to do so, but because they have been coerced by the management to do so. As a result, this results in lack of enthusiasm on the part of the mentor, which in effect affects that effectiveness the mentoring program as noted by Darwin (2000, p. 198).
Poor goal definition is the other top challenge that employers face when creating a mentoring program. In order for a mentoring program to be successful, protégés must ensure that the goals that the mentoring program is supposed to achieve in the short and long-run are clearly defined in order for the mentor and the mentee to know what is expected of them. Unfortunately, (Ragins and Kram (2007, p. 26) study shows that protégés are in most cases not capable of articulating the goals that they want to achieve with the mentoring program. This affects the effectiveness of running an effective mentoring program considering that whenever clear goals are lacking, this results in a situation where mentoring relationship ends up lacking direction. In the end, the mentoring program becomes a mere talking exercise without any meaningfulness. Besides, it become challenging to measure the relationship effectiveness in the absence of benchmarks for success. Illeris (2003, p. 166) reveals that in most cases, protégés are not even aware of what they should work on, a factor that affect the successful implementation of mentoring programs.
Mismatch of the mentor and the mentee is another challenge that affect the running an effective mentoring program. Ismail and Arokiasamy (2007, p. 137) suggests that for a mentoring program to be effective and successful, employers must ensure that there is proper matching of the mentor and the mentee. This requires identifying the skills that employees require and assigning an employee with those skills and experiences to provide the mentorship. However, matching a mentor and a mentee usually presents a serious challenge to most employers, which sometime result in a situation, where there is a mismatch of the mentor and the mentee, thus affecting the success of the mentoring program (Connor & Pakora 2007, p. 19). Other challenges in implementing mentoring program include limited ongoing support; little outcome tracking and protégé openness issues (Ragins & Kram 2007, p. 31).
The literature has indicated that mentoring is an important tool for career growth and development. Therefore, as a person aspiring to become a future leader, I intend to use mentoring programs as a tool to foster my career development and enhance my leadership skills. To ensure that I achieve my career goal of becoming an effective future leader, I hope to identify an experienced mentor/consultant to guide me and impart the knowledge and skills that I might need to become an effective leader. This way, I believe I would be able to acquire the right skills that would enable me success as a leader both in personal life and as a manager of an organization that I would be working for.
Mentoring has become an important leadership and career development tool. Today, employers are increasingly adopting this tool to enhance the skills and the experiences of the employees so as to ensure that they become productive and capable of helping a company achieve its short and long term goals. As indicated, mentoring helps impart employees with the right skills and experiences, which increase their productivity and engagement. Besides, mentoring increases employees satisfaction level and morale, and this minimizes turnover rates. Nevertheless, as indicated in the literature, creating an effective mentoring program is never easy as there are many challenges that employers face when implementing a mentoring program. The challenges include insufficient mentor motivation, poor goal definition, mentor-mentee mismatch, limited ongoing support, little outcome tracking and lack of openness by protégés. As such, to ensure successful implementation of mentoring programs, HR managers should ensure that all these challenges are addressed; otherwise the mentoring program might end up not achieving its objectives.
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