The business world is ever evolving. The newer generations have different requirements than the old ones and employee satisfaction seems a lot more difficult to achieve. HR professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to retain talent in the organizations and formal programs are not as efficient as it would be desired.
In such circumstances it is only logical for organizations to search for solutions on a more personal level. Pairing up mentors with high-potential employees can be one of the greatest resources both for them and the business. It does not only improve the leadership pipeline but also help pass on knowledge and create a sense of belonging to the organization.
Read more: How many types of mentoring are there?
There are, however, some differences between a general mentoring program and one aimed at developing the leaders of tomorrow. The focus of the latter is getting the mentee ready to assume increasingly important roles in the company.
Here are some ideas about how to set it up for success.
Identify top talent and top leaders
The start of any quality mentoring for leadership program is figuring out who the beneficiaries will be. You need to know your audience before you design something specifically for them.
Read more: Why leadership development matters
This will have to be a cross-team effort as various departments need to get involved. You have to find both what the human potential is within the company and what future roles will need to be filled.
Managers and team leaders can help you identify the talented individuals and HR specialists can interview and even test them to see what their strong points and aspirations are.
A similar process ought to happen for identifying mentors. They need to be people who are already in leadership roles and have a genuine desire to help groom the future generation.
They also have to feel generous about their time as mentoring could require some extra hours in the office (or online for remote global workers).
Make a list of leadership skills
There seems to be so much said and written about leadership these days that one might think leadership is solely meant for some sort of meta-humans with incredible powers. In reality, however, they only need to have a little talent and the desire to learn what they need in their field.
Before launching your leadership development strategy you’ll need to know precisely what set of skills your organization will need in the future. These will have to become the main focus of the program and it is very important to define them in accurately specific terms.
Read more: The top 4 skills of successful leaders
Both mentors and mentees need to know what the end goal is and what the means for measuring it will be. It’s crucial to include this set of skills in any matching process – whether it is done by HR specialists or by specialized software.
The success of the program relies greatly on how well these skills are defined.
Establish surveys and long-term reporting
A leadership development program requires a certain duration – the instant leader is a myth and ought to be regarded as such. The path to becoming a true leader is long and can prove to wind a bit so it’s compulsory to be able to keep track of where your top talent is at a certain point.
Survey questions should be tailored so that they show if the mentor is indeed helpful (and how much so) and how far along the mentee is on their career path. Since the desired vertical development of employees takes some time, reports on both progress and success should be run every couple of months with a more comprehensive report maybe two and half years after the initiation of the mentoring for leadership program.
In order to document both what went well and what failed, it’s good to send surveys to employees who ‘dropped out’ as well. They will surely have relevant insights.
Abide by the principles of adult learning
Even if most of the top talented people starting the leadership development program are rather young, they are surely of an adult age and should be treated as such, especially when it comes to their own growth within the company.
Read more: On leadership development for Millennials
Here are a few aspects that need be considered:
- The role of a mentor is to share information and facilitate the learning in a supportive environment;
- Adults learn best when they are involved with the entire process – from the learning needs identification to the planning, implementation and evaluation of the learning path;
- Adult learners need to see the applicability of any information or skill in their work;
- Experience is the best way for employees to learn and develop their skills;
Using mentoring as a leadership accelerator
When looking at the tools your organization has for accelerating leadership development, don’t overlook the impact mentoring can have. It is a very valuable means of moving forward career development for both mentors and mentees thus boosting employee satisfaction and engagement.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.