Leadership and mentorship go together
– “What if we mentor them and they leave?”
– “What if we don’t and they stay?”
Hiring and choosing to retain talent always come with a calculated risk. But the issue is not about hiring the best talent for your company — it’s about developing and retaining that talent further for your benefit.
While your company’s senior leadership plays a pivotal role in mentoring the employees, it is the thoughtful reforming of HR policies that ensures effective execution and sustainability of this solution.
The first and the most important point to appreciate is that leadership is not a particular designation in a corporate hierarchy — it is a quality that anyone, from intern to the senior executive, may possess.
The second important point is that you can coach people to become great leaders even if they did not previously demonstrate some extraordinary leadership skills.
In simple terms, anyone who motivates others to strive for a common goal and helps them throughout the path is a leader. However, what truly sets leadership apart from authority is the succession planning.
That is where mentorship comes in. In a corporate setting, a true leader — regardless of designation — will inspire the people around to assume leadership roles and unleash their true potential to achieve a shared vision. That’s why better employees always follow good leaders.
Reforming HR policies towards trustworthy leadership
Competency alone is not always the right ingredient for success in business; it must be combined with loyalty. Here are the four key traits that make a leader trustworthy:
- Ability to fulfill the role demands and job requirements
- Integrity to practice honesty and avoid hypocrisy regardless of the circumstances
- Predictability regarding the consistency of the leadership behavior
- Benevolence to show concern and compassion for others
While ability and predictability can be easily measured, quantitative analysis for integrity and benevolence is far more difficult.
Nevertheless, the good news is that HR can instill these four traits in the company’s leadership by working on the right policies. Some good and bad policy examples are mentioned below.
Policies that encourage trustworthy leadership
- Emphasise action learning to increase self-awareness among leaders to help them overcome weaknesses and appreciate the human element of real leadership.
- Encourage self-development courses and master-classes to enhance consciousness for the needs of others.
- Develop platforms for open dialogue about the company or otherwise.
- Practice cross-team exchange for added-mentorship, networking, and insights into the needs of other departments
- Comprehensive assessment policies to highlight any lag in abilities and predictability
Policies that do not encourage trustworthy leadership
- Imposing too much check-and-balance — this can make people feel less empowered and make them lose trust in the system
- Being binary in recruitment criteria — relying on technology is fine if it does not limit the use of personal and “human” judgment
Inspiring mentorship: Get your leaders to welcome the younger generation
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is that young people are not always the ones who make the serious blunders in businesses. If your company’s culture can empower them, you are more likely to end up having the best talent in the industry that dedicates years or even decades of their career to your business.
Otherwise, the learning and leadership culture at your workplace may disappear because there is no one competent enough to succeed and carry the core values.
One of the most effective ways of welcoming young people to your company is to assign them a mentor even for tasks outside their job descriptions.
HR can play a significant role here. Around every recruitment drive, give leverage to the line managers of the respective departments by reducing their workload.
Allow them to draft training plans and ice-breaking sessions with the recruits. After all, giving mentorship to inexperienced people is itself a great responsibility.
Once the recruits get familiar with the standard procedures, empower them by assigning a role in some key on-going projects. Doing so will not help them benefit from the experiences of your senior leadership, but also engage in reverse mentorship by being expressive about their ideas.
Eventually, they will become a part of your company’s fabric and show their utmost loyalty at the time of need.
However, you must provide managers the essential assistance to mentor the young people. Remember that you cannot have high expectations of your recruits from the very first day.
Allow them some time to adjust to your company’s culture and learn the skills they need. If HR effectively aligns the compensation and benefits policies with employees’ performance, retaining the best talent will not be a problem.
Coming back to the mentorship dilemma
The practices and policies of HR play a huge role in effective mentorship. While there are ways to retain the best talent in your company, there is no path to ensuring a strong business leadership without encouraging mentorship or vice versa.
Therefore, companies must overcome their fear of losing the best talent after investing in it their time, energy and resources. A better approach is to work towards a more collaborative workplace environment that provides everyone the opportunity to learn and share ideas without any limitations.
Jacinta Quah is the founder and CEO of JQ Coaching & Consulting. She has more than 20 years experience in the tech space, particularly, having previously worked at Microsoft.