Mentorship – the secret ingredient to make a good employee great

Columnists

Greg Le Tocq

Productivity is the name of today’s employment game. Many businesses are looking for people who can do more, in less time, for less money. For the workforce, however, it can breed derision.

If anything, the vast majority of businesses have got it backwards. Productivity should come from a place of giving, not taking. If we give time, input and trust to staff, they will by definition become more productive. Those that don’t can be cut loose. It’s all about balance.

That’s where the value of mentorship really becomes clear.

Early on in my career, I started my first business with the help of The Prince’s Trust. They’re an organisation dedicated to helping people turn business ideas into reality. One of the key steps on that ladder was a monthly mentor.

In this case, being coached on the fundamentals of business then turned into precisely how to run a business. That was everything from Product Lifecycle Management, to how to deal with funding and acquisition conversations and how to scale the business quickly – vital information in the early days.

Without my mentor, it’s safe to say that starting a successful business would have been a more difficult proposition. The benefit of having someone experienced there to speak with can’t be underestimated, and it trickles down into my business strategy today.

From first hand experience, I’m a firm believer that whatever you invest in a person you get back. There’s a perennial question in business: “What if I invest in someone and they leave?” The answer is always “what if you don’t invest in them and they stay?”

Helping your employees be the best that they can be is, in short, one of the best ways to boost their output. It not only shows that those higher up in the organisation actually care about their careers, but it gives them an open forum to discuss challenges, roadblocks or successes – whether that’s in their professional or personal life.

This is one of the most important areas of my business today – identifying the leaders of the future. It gives them time for growth with a senior individual in the company – an overview of the employees career to date and where it’s going.

Without my mentors, I certainly wouldn’t have learned as much as quickly – difficult decisions would have been made far more so without that support system in place. That’s why it’s so important for mentorship to be encouraged; it’s the fast track to success.

People tend to misrepresent the mentor / mentee relationship as that of student and master; that’s absolutely not the case. Instead, it’s more a case of two people on the same path, at different stages, helping each other. The mentee gains the benefit of experience and knowledge, and the mentor benefits from wider perspective and enthusiasm.

Better yet, it’s an initiative that costs nothing but time.

One of the key reasons that people remain at a company long term is high job satisfaction – an aspect defined by the following criteria:

  • Long term career growth prospects
  • Rewarding and important work
  • A welcoming and friendly atmosphere

You can find top 12 or top 24 lists with ‘the best things to look for in a company’, and they all come down to one of these three points (so save yourself some time). Mentorship, done correctly, can hit each of these elements simultaneously.

To get the most out of the people they employ, businesses first need to actively invest in the career success of staff in the organisation.

Anyone can hire a good employee. To make them great, they need to have absolutely bought in to the company mission. Beyond that, the company has to have bought into them and their professional goals.

It’s a two way street, after all.

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