The demographic makeup of the workforce is rapidly changing, with many organisations finding they have as many as four different generations working alongside one another. In addition to this, organisations are also experiencing technological disruption and increased levels of employee turnover. It is, therefore, unsurprising that there is a renewed interest in the use of mentoring to capture organisational knowledge. However, these same changes mean that the type of assistance that mentors provide and the ways in which it is offered will differ from 20 years ago.
Traditionally, mentoring has been seen as an interpersonal relationship, where senior and more experienced organisational members provide support to junior or less experienced colleagues. This support typically falls under two broad categories – career support and psychosocial support. Career support includes providing the mentee with opportunities and links to powerful individuals or acting as their advocate. Psychosocial support includes counselling about anxieties and uncertainty, providing friendship and role modelling. Ultimately, mentoring has been directly linked to increased levels of individual career success and job satisfaction.
More contemporary approaches to mentoring recognise that the benefits need not only accrue to the mentee. Experienced professionals frequently derive increased personal satisfaction and extended career opportunities, as a result of mentoring others. They can also benefit from reverse mentoring where they learn from the expertise of a more junior colleague. More widely, organisations can benefit from a more effective exchange of information among employees, increased levels of productivity and reduced employee turnover.
Despite the proven benefits, high-quality mentoring is on the decrease and is often seen as an administrative burden. Our solution is to move away from formal mentoring programmes and instead focus on ensuring your emerging talent develops the necessary skills to identify and recruit their own mentors. The success of this approach can be seen in organisations such as McKinsey & Co who encourage their associates to ‘make your own McKinsey’.