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More Firms Paying Mind to Mentoring

February 22, 2010
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Related Topics: Career Development, Basic Skills Training, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
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It may turn out to be just a New Year’s resolution, but an increasing number of U.S. companies appear ready to adopt mentoring programs in 2010 as a way to develop up-and-coming leaders.

Nearly one in five companies plan this year to initiate some type of mentoring or coaching to help top employees make the transition to leadership, according to a study by Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

Seventy-six percent of companies surveyed said they have used mentoring in an effort to deliver critical leadership skills. Nearly two-thirds said they find mentoring to be effective. Twelve percent found it ineffective.

The report, “Learning & Development: Arming Frontline and Midlevel Managers to Deliver People and Performance Results,” collected responses from about 500 human resources professionals, corporate directors and business managers. Aside from mentoring, participants were asked to rank various learning approaches by effectiveness, including instructional classes, synchronous and asynchronous learning, online tools, mobile learning, on-the-job training and social networking.

It is not likely that every company will follow through on its stated desire to launch mentoring within the next 12 months, says Kevin Martin, a vice president with Aberdeen’s human capital management practice. But Martin says organizations are very serious about the value of mentoring because it helps to address their most pressing concern: figuring out how to capture and share key organizational information as veteran leaders near retirement.

“Companies are expecting a massive brain drain when the economy rebounds. Mentoring and coaching are great ways to teach people and transfer your intellectual capital before it leaves the organization,” Martin says.

A related concern is keeping younger employees from leaving because they see a chance to advance more quickly elsewhere. Pairing them with senior leaders is a proven way for a company to retain its most promising workers, Martin says.

The latter point is borne out by a December survey from Opinion Research Corp. in Princeton, New Jersey. It found that 25 percent of employees plan to leave their present employer when the job market improves. Employees ages 18 to 34 are the most likely to change jobs.

Aberdeen’s research noted that companies that are using mentoring appear to be doing so almost offhandedly. Although roughly two-thirds of companies use it, only 26 percent of them formally assign mentors to newly promoted managers. That may soon change. Martin says 40 percent of survey respondents plan to put formal programs in place this year.

In February, Aberdeen is due to release a report on onboarding that Martin says affirms the crucial role mentors will play in the future. Each employee can give a finite amount of effort, so expecting them to work harder is not a feasible strategy. As employee effort hits a plateau, so too does business performance.

Martin says mentors will be asked to harness employees’ efforts and steer them in the direction of concrete, measurable business goals. He says it will be the overriding business issue for companies in 2010.

“It’s how companies are going to get incremental business results, without adding incrementally to their workforces,” Martin says.

Workforce Management, January 2010, p. 10 -- Subscribe Now!

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