“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
This phrase by John Crosby, often found in human resources bibliographies, is an excellent reflection of the importance of mentoring in supporting human resource recruitment.
Recruitment and the professional development of an organisation’s personnel are critical to any human resources department. So much so that the success of these processes is what dictates a company’s advantage over competitors. Mentoring has, therefore, become central to business management strategy in recent decades.
Nowadays, organisations face many challenges: competing for talent, ageing and mobile workforces, and unmotivated employees, to name just a few. Mentoring, however, is a tool that can be used to tackle most of these problems.
So what is mentoring, and how can it benefit both companies and employees?
Let’s start with a little history. Mentoring did not spring up in the 20th century, nor is it a new trend. The first mention of the practice dates back to ancient Greece, when Odysseus, king of Ithaca, entrusted his son Telemachus to the care and guidance of a friend named Mentor before leaving to fight in the Trojan War. Considering him to be an experienced scholar, Odysseus believed that Mentor would prepare his son to face his future responsibilities in ruling over the lands.
It was, therefore, from this time on that the name “mentor” would be used to refer to an advisor, counsellor, friend, tutor, teacher and thinker.
In the business world, mentoring programmes can be defined as structured guidance, a “one-to-one” supportive relationship between a mentor, someone with more experience and knowledge, and a less experienced mentee. The process aims to transfer knowledge and provide insight to the less experienced of the two, seeking to optimise their work performance.
The benefits of mentoring have long been the target of studies. For a few decades now, authors Burke, McKeen and McKenna (1994) have stated that mentoring can be linked to career advancement, increased wages and higher levels of job satisfaction. For a human resources department, this process is of capital importance; a motivating strategy, it acts to reinforce a company’s ability to retain talent.
Although mentoring can be used at various levels and across all areas of an organisation, it tends to focus mainly on the most notable employees, making it one of a mentor’s roles to find the employees with the highest potential.
Another important angle of the process, which has gained prominence throughout the pandemic, is employee well-being and improving psychosocial health. A study carried out in the Netherlands in 2020 revealed that 70% of the employees surveyed had felt stress and tension due to measures taken by their companies. About 50% said they had had negative thoughts, and 10% suffered from severe anxiety. Therefore, assuming that these numbers have not decreased in 2021, employee mental health has become an even higher priority for companies.
The connection built between a more experienced colleague and an apprentice is built on trust; a bond can often lead to a personal relationship fostering that allows for feelings to be shared that would otherwise never be revealed. In difficult times like those faced today, a mentor could be the difference between a functioning employee and one who is off sick.
It is also essential to address the differences between coaching and mentoring. While there is some overlap between the two, their core goals are certainly not the same. Coaching aims to reflect on current practices, helping people solve organisational problems and reach their goals. Mentoring is both professional and personal guidance, where the mentor – who has more experience contributing to the theoretical and practical advice provided – helps a less experienced team member. It is a confidential process whereby two - or more - colleagues work together, and where the more experienced one acts as a guide or advisor to their less experienced counterpart.
In short, coaching tends to be more performance-oriented, while mentoring is more development-oriented.
Mentoring programmes are a strategic business initiative focused on the most important aspect of organisational success: employees. Without them, success cannot be achieved. These programmes allow for improvement opportunities to be converted into catalysts of team development, consequently generating even better results for companies.
grupoGBI’s human resources department strengthens its advantageous position in an increasingly global and competitive market by investing in developing new leaders through mentoring programmes.