Mentoring: It Builds Knowledge, Networks and Your Bottom Line

 In Michael's Corner

Michael Carrillo Co-Founder/President

Corporate America is going through a radical shift. Management ranks are getting leaner. Turnover is increasing. Teams are replacing top-down hierarchies. And middle managers are expected to do more and know more. Mentoring is a key solution to the management and training challenges facing American business, according to Michael Carrillo, president of CPGjobs. “Mentoring makes the best use of the two most powerful resources you have – people and knowledge. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from establishing a mentoring program in your company or joining an existing program in your industry.”

The new necessity

“Fewer middle managers, higher turnover and increased reliance on team decision- making has made mentoring a necessity for corporate America,” says Carrillo. “It’s critical to get employees up and running fast.”

Mentoring is a proven way to bring new employees and managers up to speed, Carrillo says. According to a survey conducted for Fortune magazine, 76 percent of the top companies have mentoring programs versus 55 percent of less successful companies.

Mentoring has a positive effect on retention as well. According to a survey of more than 60 Fortune 500 firms, only 16 percent of protégés planned to leave their companies in the next versus 35 percent among those who had not been mentored.

Mentoring relationships may be informal or highly structured, but the best mentoring programs are usually facilitated, according to mentoring experts. “That means more than just introducing two people,” Carrillo says. “It means helping the participants find the right partner and then providing support to help sustain an productive relationship.”

The most important element is commitment. The Network of Executive Women, an association serving the consumer products and retail industry, requires that participants in its mentoring program commit to a year-long relationship. Other mentoring programs require a commitment to communicate on a regular basis and participate in an initial training program.

While traditional corporate mentoring programs typically team a senior manager with a junior executive in a long-term counseling relationship, business mentoring can take many forms, including peer-to-peer and even organization-to-organization mentoring.

Intel is one company that is redefining mentoring for today’s fast-moving economy. It pairs mentor and protégé pairs by skill sets instead of seniority, and it uses the company’s intranet to help employees establish their own mentoring relationships throughout the company. At Intel, protégés call the shots by deciding when to meet their mentor and what to discuss.

Mentoring is a great way to promote collegiality and networking within your company and throughout your industry, Carrillo says. “It’s a good way to introduce new managers to people and resources it might take them months or even years to find on their own,” Carrillo says. “And it raises the profile of both the protégé and the mentor, and it’s a proven retention and recruiting tool, as well.”

Mentoring programs should always be voluntary and mentors should coach with humility, advocates say. “A good mentoring relationship is like a good friendship – mutual trust and respect are key,” according to Carrillo.

Cuts both ways

Improved job performance, increased productivity, faster learning curves and lower training costs are just a few of the proven benefits that organizations derive from mentoring programs. For participants the benefits of mentoring cut both ways. Mentors often say they get as much from the process as their protégés. Being a mentor strengthens one’s knowledge base, sharpens communications and coaching skills, enhances leadership, creates new networks within their company and industry, and provides “the personal satisfaction that comes from helping someone else learn and grow,” Carrillo says.

Protégés gain guidance and support, increased confidence and new opportunities, often when they are new to the company and need these qualities most. They learn how to take risks, sets goals and achieve at higher standards. “Protégés can learn things in months it has taken the mentor years to learn. But the biggest gift mentors pass on is self-confidence. The protégé gets to express themselves outside of their job definition,” Carrillo says.

Mentoring, like education, is for everyone, Carrillo says. “You’re never too senior to benefit from the fresh perspective that a mentor can give you,” he says. By the same token, he adds, there is no one too junior to be included in your company’s mentoring program. “In yesterday’s top-down leadership hierarchies, there were leaders and followers. Companies today can’t afford that dubious luxury. Mentoring is one of the best tools we have for building the teams that will lead our industry into the future.”

Michael Carrillo is president of CPGjobs, the CPG industry’s leading candidate recruiting service for HR professionals and employers. You may contact him at Michael@CPGjobs.com or call (626) 535-0143.

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