5 Reasons Why Your Company Needs an Effective Mentoring Programme

Nick Ross

While attending Learning Technologies 2019, Europe’s leading workplace learning exhibition & conference, I sat down with L&D and HR leaders from 21 different global organisations, from the likes of HSBC through to Amazon and GSK to discuss their challenges and goals for 2019. Below are 5 challenges raised that an effective mentoring programme can help solve:

1. Retaining Skills From an Ageing Workforce

Our company’s value lies with our people's knowledge and experience" - a phrase used more than once from L&D leaders when quizzed about their company’s competitive advantage. However some companies (especially STEM-related where the baby boomer generation can amount to over 50% of the workforce), have a worryingly high % nearing retirement. There will be over half a million STEM-related employees retiring in the next 5 years in the UK alone, and with a clear under supply of graduates in this space coming through, companies may suffer from an under-skilled workforce. Fiona Jackson from EDF Energy, who is the Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Employer Branding, stresses this point, by quoting, “The UK needs to be ready for a wave of baby boomer retirees".

Internal mentoring is a solution to solving ‘knowledge transfer’, which is why 5 different L&D officers from STEM businesses like EDF are running mentoring programmes or plan to implement in 2019.

2. Investing in 'High Potential' Millennials

The majority of the HR and L&D leaders I sat down with believed that they were 'successful' in identifying High Potentials within their orgs. However of that list, the majority of those admitted that they were ‘less successful’ in optimising the value and impact of 'High-Po’s’. The underlying goal HR and L&D teams face here are the retention of this employee segment. The Deloitte Millennial Survey states that those who stay longer than 5 years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%).

3. Women in Leadership Positions

It was both interesting and encouraging to learn that the % of women in leadership positions is improving year-on-year. The team at Microsoft fired off some interesting facts: In the last 10 years in the UK alone, the market share of women in board positions in FTSE 100 companies has improved by 17% and predicted to keep growing. This is largely due to leading corporate organisations setting goals to make the ratio more balanced, and rightly so. 

Despite this growth however, percentages on the whole doesn't make for the best reading, with only 22% of women in senior leadership and just over a third in senior or manager positions. 

Several HR and L&D managers challenged the effectiveness of traditional forms of company learning, such as content-driven learning programmes, in relation to improving the % of women in leadership positions. I learned that arguably the best solution would be to pair those women who strive for leadership with a mentor who currently holds a leadership position.

4. Integrating Employees Back Into the Workforce.

Maternity, paternity, sabbatical, career break. Coming back to work after a long leave of absence can be daunting and is sometimes seen to be venturing into the unknown. We sat down with the L&D Director at a world-leading publisher with offices across Europe who told us that solving this challenge was a leading goal for their business in 2019. 

They are now currently exploring using Guider, a Mentoring technology platform, to help achieve this goal, through technology to match them with an appropriate mentor to ensure that they settle back in smoothly and effectively.

5. Graduate and Onboarding Cohorts

Over the past few years, there has been an increased focus on improving the experience for new starters and grads. I learned that companies are generally improving their frameworks on this, and we are seeing more HR platforms that include content and exercises for onboarding employees and grads. A mentoring programme could be the perfect cost-effective solution to enable people to learn fast of other people's experience and to hit the ground running. There is no other way to truly learn about how a company operates - you either learn through your own experience or someone fast-tracks you with theirs.