Why Australian L&D needs a mentoring revolution

by L&D10 Jan 2017
Heidi Holmes, co-founder of MentorLoop – a platform which runs organisational mentoring programs – told the Financial Review that human resources is “broken, outdated, process-oriented and disliked by most employees”.
“When I started my career as an 18-year-old bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cadet at KPMG I was enthusiastic about the opportunities that lay ahead of me. Although I never envisaged being partner, the path to that role was clearly defined and everyone knew what it took to get there,” she said.

“Things have changed and organisations can no longer expect or dictate that their employees toe the line and follow a traditional career path.”

Holmes said the way in which employees work, and want to work, has significantly shifted in the last five years.

“Driven by a number of factors – generational, technological and economical – people want to work in more collaborative environments and take responsibility for their own learning and development,” she explained.

“They no longer map out their career for the next 20 years. Instead, they need learning outcomes that respond to their individual needs now or in six to 12 months' time.”

Holmes pointed out that in 2014, Australian organisations spent an average $1,208 per employee on training and development, but this investment is failing to make an impact, particularly on early to mid-career employees.

She said this is because organisations are implementing learning and development activities that don't align with how their next generation of employees want to engage and learn at work.

“The assumption that younger employees are disengaged and reluctant to accept feedback couldn't be further from the truth,” Holmes said.
“In fact, a report by the Harvard Business Review found that instead of receiving feedback based on an arbitrary date set through the performance management process,  80% of millennials expect and want continuous coaching and feedback throughout the year.”
With advances in technology, Holmes said many organisations are now implementing real time engagement surveys so they can get an immediate reading on culture and engagement across the organisation.

“This approach enables leaders and HR teams to get a direct insight into how their employees are feeling and what they need to be more engaged and productive at work,” she said.

“This is a bottom-up approach where your people drive your people strategy, rather than a top down strategy of pushing learning on them.”

Holmes said that through this feedback loop, many organisations are uncovering “a latent demand” for mentoring within their workforce.

“It's something mirrored in our experience with our clients: over 80% of mentor programs being oversubscribed when organisations using Mentorloop have a firm wide approach and offer mentoring to all,” she said.
Capitalise on your greatest resource
Holmes pointed out that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies run mentoring programs. However, in Australia fewer than one in five organisations does so, and of those that do, they can be hard to access.
“Mentoring evolved from a hierarchal one-way relationship and is now seen as a process that is mutually beneficial. It's moved beyond boardrooms and old boys' networks to an organisation-wide people engagement and development strategy, especially as the Millennial workforce takes over,” she said.

“Today's leaders need to capitalise on their greatest resource and take more responsibility for engagement and performance throughout the entire organisation.”
Holmes added that it is no longer about talent management and improved processes , but about people management and how leaders can we make life at work better.
“Creating a culture of mentoring can be the first step in trying to achieve this,” she said.