OK, so you’ve decided to invest in youth, you’ve decided to train people and build up a talent pipeline. You’ve made a long-term plan.
But that’s what most football clubs do, and they seem to fail all the time. Our record (in the UK) of bringing through young footballers is pretty awful — and a number of managers have pointed out that the mentoring system in Germany and Spain is more effective.
Are we guilty of the same thing in the workplace? Quite possibly … so if you’re going to get into mentoring, how can you make the most of it? How can you ensure that your talent gets what they need out of the system, and develops to the point you need?
1. Opposites Attract
Pairing up talent with mentor is not like a dating system. If your employee is shy, try to pair them up with someone who is outgoing. If your employee is detailed, try to hook them up with someone who is big picture.
Think about the gaps — the skills that they are lacking — and find someone who can help them plug those gaps and become a more rounded employee.
2. Save the Time
One of the reasons mentoring schemes tend to fail is that the mentor lacks the time, and often ends up cancelling meetings because of something more urgent.
That’s why it’s a good idea to schedule those one-to-one sessions for after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., so that there are fewer potential disruptions. But equally, it’s hugely important that your mentors buy into the ethos, and don’t see it as “one more thing to do.”
3. It’s All in the Preparation
…for the mentee, at least. Those within your scheme who have been appointed a mentor have to know how to get the most out of the relationship. This means planning the meeting — knowing what they’re going to ask, knowing what they want from the meeting. It won’t be up to the mentor to ask the probing questions — it’s up to the mentee.
4. It’s Not Teaching, it’s Learning
A mentor is not a teacher — as Ian Williams points out, a mentor is there to help the mentee learn. And that’s different … mentoring is about direction, and helping someone learn for himself or herself. It’s about giving your talent the mindset to become more effective.
Otherwise, you’d be sending them for training courses.
5. Make it Aspirational
Underpinning the whole scheme is how you promote it, and how you maintain it. Make it aspirational – give it a name, if you want – and make it interesting. Create events around it, let mentors meet up, let mentees meet up and share their experiences, and constantly seek to improve it.
And when someone does come through the system and is promoted, then it’s thanks to your mentoring scheme, and you have the living proof that it’s been worth it.
About the Author: Gareth Cartman is marketer with a background in HR who is fascinated by talent development & management.