Modern Mentoring Reaches Across an Organization

By Kathy Gurchiek Jul 22, 2013
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Organizations that drag their heels in transitioning to modern mentoring styles jeopardize their chances of finding and retaining employees who can grow with them, according to a 2013 Workplace Trends report from Sodexo.

Mentoring programs have seen an uptick as an employee benefit since 2012, after undergoing a gradual five-year decline, a SHRM 2013 Employee Benefits survey found. Sodexo—which provides solutions to improve life in the workplace and to help people work more efficiently

suggests in its report that to be effective, organizations should broaden mentoring programs beyond the traditional one-to-one relationships between senior leaders and junior employees.

A modern mentoring program “centers around connecting people across an organization,” allowing for virtual relationships and multiparticipant involvement, according to the report.

Among the types of mentoring Sodexo uses:

Topical: One or more expertise leaders, called advisors, guides learners in conversation, knowledge sharing and practical application related to specific topics to help them build deep expertise.

These mentoring groups regularly meet for a mutual learning exchange on a topic of interest, according to Jodi Davidson, Sodexo’s director of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

It’s “much more informal, casual and fluid,” she told SHRM Online. People can find or create learning groups on their own, or organizations can manage the process, according to the report.

“[At Sodexo] we identify topics, based on talent trends of the organization … that we think will be very relevant for the organization. We identify where there are [knowledge] gaps—around financial acumen, strategic leadership, and influencing and negotiating.

“There is an opportunity for asking questions that promote learning, and there’s the opportunity to upload resources,” Davidson said. “A lot of time our advisors will upload YouTube videos that they think will serve the development needs of the learners.”

Situational: “One or more advisors address immediate learning needs, and several people offer solutions and ideas for quick answers on a high-impact issue, problem or opportunity, and mentees apply the solution that fits their need,” she explained.

Peer: This is an informal mentoring initiative that the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) manage. They include groups of black leaders, military veterans, women, Native American and Aboriginal employees, Latino employees, Pan-Asian employees, nonheterosexual employees and those with disabilities.

Reverse: A member of a younger generation mentors an employee of an older generation to share trends in technology, new ideas, innovations and perspectives.

Open: This technique uses technology to promote self-directed relationships and allows employees to collaborate with one or more mentoring partners across the globe to address their learning needs in the manner they prefer.

“It’s absolutely critical to have a hybrid approach to mentoring strategies,” Davidson said. “Having all of those [mentoring programs] in a comprehensive package is what is creating a mentoring culture at Sodexo.”

The report pointed out that technology also allows the company to measure results, such as how quickly someone becomes proficient in a specific competency, and provides it with return-on-investment metrics to understand the impact that its mentoring programs are having on individuals and the organization.

Sodexo’s report suggests that mentoring works best when:

*Five to 15 people are involved in what it calls the knowledge-sharing network.

*Learners and advisors are diverse, coming from different functions, locations and generations.

*People shift in and out of the mentoring network and the roles they are in “as learning needs and knowledge strengths evolve.”

“Different people have different needs,” Davidson said. “We’re loosening the definition of what [mentoring] means. It’s a progressive and creative form of mentoring.”

Related Articles:
Mentoring Program Marks 15 Years of Success, Inside SHRM, June 2013

Mentoring: Make It Pay, SHRM Discipline, Organizational Development, March 2013

Related Resource:
Mentoring Program Toolkit, SHRM

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