Encourage employee engagement and development through mentoring and coaching
“What happens when we invest in developing our people and they leave us?”
This is an age old dilemma. Companies and managers hesitate to invest in their people with the fear that they’d leave the organisation in due course, along with the time, effort, knowledge and skills invested in them.
A Harvard Business Review research however, shows that people leave when there is dissatisfaction over the limited development opportunities in the company.
This means, the lesser you invest in training and development programmes for your people, the higher the turnover, particularly among the young, ambitious and bright talent.
Despite multiple reasons for companies to not invest in their employees – due to cost, lack of time, focus on other priorities, long lead time or uncertainty in realising the return on investment in development – non-investment can cost them a greater deal.
Talented, motivated and engaged employees have the inherent desire to advance. They want to gain skills to be more valuable to the organisation and successful in their jobs. The lack of career development support such as training, mentoring and coaching contributes to early employee attrition.
Having someone looking out for their development goes a long way as it demonstrates a genuine interest in their employees’ personal and professional growth and shows the caring nature of the organisation that has its employees’ best interest at heart.
Employees cannot be successful on their own and learning is accelerated when there is someone encouraging their development.
When you develop your people well enough to move up to the next level, they leave a trail of knowledge behind as they pass it on and create a pipeline of leaders within the organisation.
Promoting employee development therefore, makes good business sense as it not only improves productivity and performance capability, it also builds loyalty and improves employee engagement.
Engagement through development
Companies need their managers to encourage development and coach their employees, more than just managing work, correcting and evaluating people.
When a manager is able to propel individuals ahead of their career through role modeling and facilitating an environment for growth, it provides the psychosocial support and confidence employees need to excel in their jobs.
This is in line with Gallup’s Sixth Element of Great Managing, Q6: Someone At Work Encourages My Development which addresses an employee’s plea to “help me grow”.
Employee development in the company needs to be encouraged by providing employees the necessary resources and tools to do their best job.
Gallup defines development as “helping individuals find the right opportunities that fit their unique combination of skills, knowledge and talents”. This includes the autonomy and freedom to take risk and embrace challenges for growth without force-fitting them into a box.
According to Gallup, less than 1% of employees are engaged when the employer has no one to advocate for their development.
In contrast, 90% of employees that works in companies with high Q6 scores are engaged with their work and business goals.
Statistics suggest that a mentor-mentee relationship, one which has a substantial amount of personal interaction and investment with the manager and employee, is necessary for engagement.
This “manager see, manager do” phenomenon is not new as the fundamental step to great managing is through mentoring and setting an example for the team.
But beyond that, a mentor can wear many hats including that of a friend, coach, counselor, advisor and supporter.
Development for employees
There is an unspoken expectation when employees join the company, that their learning and development needs would be looked after.
Employees need coaching and guidance and if the company does not provide right opportunities for growth, they will look for it elsewhere.
This is due to human’s innate desire to progress, succeed and be better individuals, particularly at work or in their career as it is easier to reinforce a more measurable view of development and motivation.
Nevertheless, development does not necessarily mean “promotion” as growth can happen without changing roles.
Debunking the assumption that we are all motivated by extrinsic rewards such as compensation and promotion, some rather stay in their current position or even be willing to take a pay cut for a role that has better learning opportunities.
There are some instances of which role development precedes career advancement where employees turn down a promotion that does not match their talents or interest.
In our current times, “lifetime employability” is replacing the concept of lifetime employment at a company.
Employees are more interested in jobs that contributes to their long term career goals than being loyal to a company.
Instead of assigning roles that do not suit them, great companies would maximise employees’ talents by creating the best job-role fit based on the employees’ strengths, competencies and experiences.
In addition, employees’ developmental needs to be addressed differently – with a tailored approach – to help them find the right job roles and growth opportunities.
Encouraging development as managers
Managers and direct supervisors are typically the first in line to assume the responsibility of their team members’ development.
This is when the ability to coach and mentor becomes a highly valuable skill and naturally reaps immense benefits for the team.
Having the emotional support from their managers that they are doing well, combined with the moral boost that their goals are within reach from the very people that they have high regards for, will tremendously encourage, motivate and inspire employees.
Meanwhile, frequent feedback and advice from their mentors – as they learn the ropes – opens up the possibilities for career advancement.
A great manager knows their team member’s strengths and how to leverage them for performance via coaching. What differentiates a great manager from a good one is their ability to bring out the hidden talents in their employees and cultivate them.
Instead of focusing on improving weaknesses, they leverage on their team member’s strengths by giving them responsibilities which enable them to hone what they are good at.
Coaching employees to harness their talents and placing them in roles that allows them to operate from their position of strengths, create greater output.
Managers can encourage development by bringing greater self-awareness and clarity to the roles that their team members’ would thrive in. Regular check-ins and career conversations on how to improve their overall productivity and performance would motivate an individual towards continued learning and growth.
It also promotes self-discovery and better understanding of the employee’s aspirations for a better job opportunity match.
Encouraging development in organisations
Organisations jump into formal mentoring programmes as quick fixes which in reality, does not address the lack of development and mentoring.
On the contrary, a natural informal relationship formed by two mutually interested parties, especially one that does not fall into of a non-direct reporting relationship proves to be more effective.
`The culture of learning within the company is enhanced when new and young employees have access to a “career buddy” or mentor, supported by an opportunity for them to work together.
Pairing individuals based on the topics of interest or role models they desire to learn from enables them to share insights and give different perspectives to do their work better.
Without the formal reporting structure and direct reporting lines, these mentoring relationships could develop more organically which facilitates more honest and immediate feedback loop.
Besides its high correlation with business performance, employee engagement and loyalty, executives who have mentors are more likely to be one which functions as a strong conduit within the company.
Apart from the sense of fulfillment from encouraging another’s development, an engaged manager would want to play a part in contributing towards company success.
Sharing their experience is a great way to foster a reciprocal relationship that allows the more seasoned employees to guide and help other new or less experienced employees navigate through their career.
How to address employee’s “Help me grow” plea
To achieve employee engagement through encouraging development, a support structure involving both the organisation and managers of the company needs to exist to realise this.
On top of that, the approach to development to help employees grow needs to be individualised, intentional and ongoing.
The best managers develop relationships, create shared goals, recognise development by celebrating success and achievements.
With mutual understanding, intentional effort and commitment from both parties, we are able to draw out what is within employees and find creative developmental opportunities for the organisation benefit.
Amanda Chua is part of the Leaderonomics Good Monday team that specialises in enhancing workplace employee engagement through coaching and developing great managers. Being a coach herself with “Developer” as one of her dominant talent, she has always been passionate about engaging and empowering individuals, especially in the field of learning and development. To know more on how to engage your team better through development, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org