Chanting the mentoring mantra

ENTERING THE POSITIVE ZONE: It is imperative for the organisation to meet expectations of its employee

Chanting the mentoring mantra

Traditionally, though the section which has been benefiting most out of it is the category of new joiners. The process basically comprises of pairing new joiners with an experienced employee each for a certain period of time, in order to familiarise them with the relevant aspects related to organisation’s structure, culture, office-holders, concerned departments et al.

However, over a period of time, organisations have started to believe that mentoring in real sense is required for all employees, irrespective of how new or old he/she is, and depending largely on how valuable the individual is to the organisation.

Given the high attrition rate in the IT industry, most of the times organisations find themselves at receiving end and get to know the even trivial issues that had arisen during an employee’s tenure and which ultimately led to his decision to move on, mostly during the exit interview! That is the moment of realisation that a mentor could have sorted the issue then and there, without the hour of disassociation arriving. And not just in extreme situations like this, but in day-to-day issues or functions, mentorship plays a huge role in ensuring that any doubt which is arising is laid to rest before it could become a nemesis.

Company vision
It is a well accepted fact that the work-force of an organisation plays a huge role in making or breaking it. Every organisation needs its members to be in sync with its vision, in order to ensure that individual members are heading in the same direction that the organisation wants to head in, collectively and individually. Mentoring an individual and making him in-sync with the expectations of the organisation thus becomes inherent. At the same time, it is imperative for the organisation to meet expectations of its employee. There has to be an equilibrium maintained between the aspirations of the employee and what the organisation has to offer to him. There may be various glitches or gaps between the two at a point of time, however it does not mean that a temporary phenomenon will stay forever. This needs to be clearly communicated to the employee, who is valuable to the organisation but may find unattached or unvalued due to certain grievances.

The mentoring of this employee becomes inevitable in such circumstances: mentoring on a personal or professional front within the organisation. Because of operational feasibility, it is easily executable through the hierarchical/reporting structure, if at all implemented. It is a matter of convenience for the management to persuade a supervisor to act as a mentor for his/her subordinates. Matter of convenience because the subordinate is already interacting with the supervisor on a day-to-day basis, and there is a set platform to the chain of communication.

All you need to do is give another dimension to the communication and make it an official/ unofficial mentoring programme as well. This way you do not have to think a lot and spend time short listing who can be the best mentor for whom.

This is the reporting structure turned mentorship structure, which unfortunately though easy to implement, does not fetch the desired results and does not work too well with most of the organisational set-ups.  The reason being that immediate reporting within a project team is of a different nature. A boss who has to adhere to strict timelines and has to get work done from his team-members would be in a different form while getting the work done. While a Mentor, on the other hand, has to be in an entirely different mould or frame of mind while understanding his Mentee’s psyche, his current scenario, his ambitions, aspirations and the gap that might be existing between the expected growth and the actual growth in the organisation.

The background work in Mentorship is that you, as an organisation, have identified certain people who can understand your employee well, think from his perspective, think from the organisational perspective, and try to converge the two of them in a manner that would be suitable to both parties, that is, basically aligning the individual’s expectations from organisation and the organisation’s expectations from the individual. This is necessary because when you have gone through an intensive process of recruitment and have finally accepted an individual as an employee, you believe that the individual can fit into the organisational structure well.

Apart from filling up the required profile, he can be a future leader, a major stakeholder, a mentor himself, so on and so forth, even though it is implicit that it is a long-term phenomenon and would take a lot of contribution from both sides in order to be successful.

One of the major reasons as to why the hierarchical system of mentoring does not work wonders is also the non-acceptance of the mentor by the mentee.
Even if sincere efforts are taken by the immediate superior authority as a mentor to dissipate the fears or insecurities of his subordinate, they are always looked down with suspicion and considered as manipulative. However, if it is a person unconnected with the day to day activities of the individual within the organisation and is a partner to him while dealing with the insecurities, fears of everyday life, it connects more easily. Neither are the efforts looked at with wrong perspective.

While the reporting structure is indispensable to any organisational structure, and acts as its blood-vessels system, the mentoring structure lends heart to this set up and acts as its nervous system! A healthy co-existence of both is therefore an absolute must for a healthy existence of the organisation. However simple it may sound, it is difficult to implement it sometimes in actual scenarios because both are eventually functions of the same organisation and may come in conflict with each-other. When your immediate supervisor considers his utmost important duty to deliver a certain component before its due date, your mentor’s priority may be to see you through the intense phase wherein your family member needs as much time of yours as the work-place. And this sure has all the ingredients of a possible conflict.

It must therefore be understood that the motive behind the two set-ups are quite different, sometimes contradictory too, and must not be entrusted to each-other. While the organisational structure is indispensable for the organisation’s movement and basic functioning, mentorship is required for a certain ‘spring in the step.” While reporting structure eases management’s reach to the various layers of organisational hierarchy, mentorship ensures that this hierarchy is being enriched through constant influx of people moving up the value chain by realising their true potential. And while reporting structure is indispensable to ensure that work is allocated and assigned properly across all ranks, mentorship, in very simple terms, ensures that the individual is motivated enough to turn up in office every day to execute that work!

It is obvious that no organisation would like to compromise on either of the two aspects of work, and hence every organisation needs to ensure that these two structures are co-existing within its framework.

The writer is Human Resource Development Manager at Endeavour Software Technologies

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