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How Do We Get Employees to Mentor?

What do we do when experienced employees don't want to mentor fresh blood? Specializing in products for which experienced talent is hard to recruit, my company has to focus a lot on developing new talent and training them on the technical skills to build a critical talent pipeline. Because of the overall economic volatility, the employees feel insecure of losing what they have. We have found out through exit interviews that young talent is leaving us because they receive little help and training from their seniors. We suspect fear of losing their current position is the reason. What do we do?

— No One Cares Here, manufacturing/production, Lahore, India

June 30, 2014
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Related Topics: Onboarding, Pre-employment Assessment and Testing, Retention, The Latest, Dear Workforce, Recruitment, Talent Management
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Dear No One Cares:

First and foremost, if your employees are fearful of losing their positions, there is probably a lack of communication at play. Beyond annual performance reviews, line managers should be offering regular feedback and individualized coaching so employees don’t have to guess where they stand. Veterans should trust their role as knowledgeable, valued employees, and feel confident about their career trajectory.

If downsizing or restructuring is a distinct possibility, that reality should be communicated, too. Unless they’re told otherwise, employees tend to assume the worst. Keep employees in the loop about organizational health as much as possible. Solicit feedback on how well managers and the company overall communicate all of the above.

In terms of promoting mentorship:

Incentivize and equip cooperative teams: Effective mentoring is difficult to measure and therefore difficult to incentivize. Some organizations address the problem with referral bonuses for managers who develop and eventually deliver strong candidates into management positions. Others take a real-time approach, inviting subordinates and peers to evaluate how well individual managers perform as mentors. There are drawbacks and challenges to both of these examples, but highlighting mentorship as a core company value is achieved either way.

It’s also important to give your people the time and tools that mentoring/teamwork require. Depending on your organization, that might mean adopting new collaboration technologies, reorganizing your physical office space or simply scheduling recurring lunch meetings for teams, mentors and mentees. Remember that competitive energy is natural. Help employees refocus with gamification initiatives that might include competing (as a group) against last year’s numbers, or striving to beat personal goals.

Model mentoring from the top down: Demonstrate that mentoring is not just for “new blood.” Everyone in your organization can benefit from mentoring, including senior leaders. Those initiatives should be visible and communicated.

Incorporate mentoring into your onboarding process so multiple departments can play a role. Offer job rotation assignments to help newer employees establish contacts and identify prospective mentors in other units. Your veteran employees are more likely to participate if they know their direct reports will also have opportunities to shine in other departments and potentially make lateral moves.

Rethink your hiring process: Although experienced talent in your sector is difficult to recruit, you can use behavioral interviewing to hire people who are more likely to be proactive in seeking mentors and working cooperatively. Not everyone is truly open to being mentored. Let applicants know upfront that they will be expected to share in one or more mentoring relationships, which requires input and investment on the protégé side, too.

SOURCE: Susan Cullen, president, Quantum Learning Solutions Inc., Yardley, Pennsylvania, June 5, 2014

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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