Once the sidekick to more popular coaching training methods, mentoring is starting to outshine its allies in many Australian workplaces.
We are working longer hours, answering more emails and squeezing more into our stress-filled days than ever before. With the arrival of the global financial crisis, increasing numbers of people are multi-tasking – and melting down. “Your boss regularly calls you at 6am to get something out by 8am and economic competition is really intense. Mental health problems are rising and the average person just wants to stop the world and get off,” says Peter Wilson, AHRI national president. Even our language has adapted to capture the crazy corporate environment.
“I am known as a juggler,” says Anne-Marie Dolan, manager of AHRI’s development and research team. Not the plate-spinning type but the ones in many offices around Australia, particularly in smaller organisations, where, by necessity, employees wear a variety of hats Because of this, AHRI launched a pilot mentoring scheme last September with Worksafe Victoria to support jugglers in their multi-faceted roles. The process was so successful that it is set to be repeated.
The jugglers program is among a handful of mentoring initiatives run by AHRI. Its national mentoring program for HR professionals has more than doubled in size since its inception five years ago, Mentees apply online through the AHRI website and are usually matched with a more experienced mentor from a different industry, says Dolan.
“For the mentee, the advice from an external mentor is impartial and gives a perspective on broader issues,” says Dolan. Last year, the program had two intakes, the second starting mid-year, linking matched interstate pairs via webinars and Skype instead of the traditional informal coffee meetings. While the mentoring umbrella is opening to cover more options such as state-specific and indigenous schemes, the current focus remains on promoting females into leadership positions.
Another AICD campaign, Board Ready, piloted last year, exposed male and female senior executives to boardroom behaviours and activities in a simulated environment over a 12-month period.
Qantas is also helping its talented women take flight with a leadership program, Women@Qantas, supported by mentoring practice McCarthy Mentoring.
The collective success of such programs is reflected in the latest C-Suite statistics (Feb 2012), which show women hold 13.8 per cent of board positions compared with 8.3 per cent in 2009. AICD mentor John Pizzey, chairman of mining company Iluka Resources, is a great advocate of the chairmen’s mentoring scheme wants to see more women climb the corporate ladder.
“My father instilled that in me and my sister was headmistress at an all-girls school. I also have four girls in the family and I hope they will have every opportunity that our boys do,” says Pizzey,
Research from recruitment specialist Kelly Services last year, from the Kelly Global Workforce Index, listed lack of coaching and/or mentoring as one of the top five reasons why employees leave their jobs.
Last year, Standards Australia released Coaching in Organisations, the first official set of guidelines for the coaching industry, their clients and educational establishments. ”This has helped the whole marketplace become more sophisticated,” says Ann Whyte, managing director of Whyte & Co coaching company and the Centre for Coaching in Organisations, which was founded at Melbourne Business School last year.
“Clients have also become more savvy about choosing their coaches,” says Whyte, suggesting the handbook is useful for deciding which type of training would best suit employees. Larger corporations such as IBM have a wide variety of mostly in-house mentoring initiatives catering for new graduates through to senior staff and high-flying women executives.
However, cost-cutting and restructuring has led other businesses to favour internal schemes as a low-cost training alternative. “Organisations are realising that learning and development doesn’t have to rely on a formalised program,” says Jen Dalitz, founder and CEO of leadership development firm Sphinxx.
Andrew Parker, vice-president of global value plus at packaging giant Amcor, has seen the benefits of internal initiatives for new graduates and as a mentee on the company’s Mentoring for Mobility drive, launched with mentoring and coaching company Oystercorp. Expatriate employees are given a host country buddy as well as a home country mentor, a process Parker enjoyed when he moved to Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Cathy Tuckwell, HR manager at public sector development group Landcom, says it is possible to juggle internal and external mentoring schemes, even in a smaller company of 140. “It’s about having both coaching and mentoring available to an organisation. You can’t have one without the other,” says Tuckwell.