A few decades ago, a long-term career in a nine-to-five job in one company was the ultimate dream.
A lot’s changed since then, in terms of both shifting workforce structures as well as people themselves who make up that workforce. “If we look at millennials who are emerging as the largest demographic in the workforce, studies show they simply live by a different set of values and culture, compared to other generations,” mentoring software platform Mentorloop co-founder Heidi Holmes told Yahoo Finance.
Holmes, who started her career in a corporate environment, described her own experience as “generic and isolating” and put this down to large firms not knowing how to connect with most of their staff.
“I think many leaders of Australia’s largest organisations are actually extremely out of touch with what it’s like to be at the coal face, and this results in ‘people initiatives’ being implemented that have little impact or in some cases, a negative one,” Holmes said.
As the gig economy gathers momentum and more and more employees leave big firms to conceive or join start-ups, major multinational corporations are going to have to think of new ways to retain their staff.
Knuckle it down: what are the problems that employees in big firms face?
1. Being under-utilised or under-challenged. Staff are “not being developed into the leaders they want to be,” Holmes said.
2. Feeling businesses lack purpose. When employees can sense that businesses don’t have any ambition beyond profit, it’s a “gap in perception that no one can afford”.
So how do we fix this?
Holmes’ solution is quite simple: mentorship.
“Not only is mentorship proven to increase engagement and retention, we repeatedly find that employees want it,” she said. Seven in 10 millennials, the future of our workforce, feel that having a mentor will be critical to success.
“The beautiful thing about mentoring is that it is personal and scalable, in terms of both quality of outcomes and cost.”
Not only this, but mentoring can bring together employees that go on to form relationships that otherwise might not have stuck.
“This is not networking. This is not about connecting with only like minded people,” the software firm co-founder said.
“Instead, it’s about connecting with someone driven by a specific outcome or a sense of greater purpose who can share their learnings, experiences and perspectives.”
Mentors will enjoy the fulfilling experience of passing on their years and decades of rich experience, while mentees will learn lessons and get support that they wouldn’t be able to in a classroom.
“These kinds of mentoring relationships are responsible for making people feel empowered, engaged and valued. In the long term, these experiences make for happier and more productive employees, from top to bottom.”
Mentorship can make workforces more inclusive
For some, it’s just not in their nature to organically seek out a mentor. “Traditionally, mentoring favours the bold,” Holmes pointed out.
But today, there are different kinds of mentorship relationships. “For some, it’s about getting from point A to point B, whilst for other people, it’s also about connecting with role models and people who have shared like-experiences. You cannot be what you cannot see.”
In this sense, mentors can be especially powerful for employees who feel underrepresented or disempowered in a workplace, such as people from some cultural backgrounds or identify as LGBTIQ. It also reduces unconscious bias and ensures a greater sense of wellbeing in the workplace thanks to support networks that have been created.
“In 2018, there is no excuse for organisations to neglect diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Out For Australia CEO Emily Scott told Yahoo Finance that it was important to be matched with leaders who “has a similar experience of moving through the world” that employees could relate to.
“For example, I have lots of mentors at work, I even had a gay man mentor, but it was never the same as having a female LGBTIQ mentor,” Scott said.
“Being able to share experiences with someone with a similar experience to me, was the most empowering experience in my early career.”
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