Many small to medium sized companies have become so successful that they have been "corporatized," a term coined that describes the feeling of professionals working in those companies that makes them feel like "cogs in a wheel."
In an article the Harvard Business Review, authors Thomas J. Delong, John J. Gabarro and Robert J. Lees argue that the remedy for the corporatized phenomena is for those companies to institute a program of mentoring. While the need for mentoring was once more commonplace during good economic times, it has slowly disappeared from many organizations during the growth of the global economy and fierce competition and specifically during the recession.The mentoring relationship can serve a critical role in an employee's career, skill development; and is a key to retaining talent and a fundamental way by which the organization can shape leadership.
Workplace mentoring usually takes place between two individuals--one, the older more experience person and the other, the younger, less experienced individual. Mentors typically provide career related support which includes visibility, networking, coaching and sponsorship as well as psychosocial support by developing the protégés sense of identity, competence and effectiveness, sometimes including friendship and role modeling.
A research study conducted by professor Christina Underhill at he University of Memphis, where she examined all the research conducted on mentoring in the past 25 years showed the organization benefits from mentoring by enhanced organization attractiveness and recruitment, reduced employee turnover, increased organizational learning, and employee productivity and socialization.
The selection of a mentor is critical to the program's success. The research by DeLong, Gabarro and Lees showed that good mentor: Is someone who is absolutely credible and whose integrity transcends any messages; tells the protégés truthful things they may not want to hear; interacts with the protégés in ways that the protégés wants to become a better person; helps the protégés feel secure enough to take risks; helps develop the protégé’s' confidence to raise above their inner doubts and fears; supports the protégé’s' attempts to set and achieve audacious but attainable goals; and present challenges and opportunities the protégés might not have seen on their own.
The Vancouver Board of Trade initiated the Leaders of Tomorrow program, in which young university graduates, who want to be involved with the Board of Trade, are matched up with experienced business and professional mentors. Feedback from the both the protégés and the mentors involved in the program have indicated it has been a huge success.
Given the challenge and potential conflicts between the generations--Baby Boomers and Generation Y in particular--the promise of a beneficial and low cost initiative such as mentoring can be a smart organizational strategy.