Thinking up ideas during the lunch break? Enquiring about possible mentors in the canteen? In other European countries, opportunities for networking are used much more incidentally and naturally. Here in Germany, it is rather unusual for HR staff to meet top management for lunch to talk about personnel development. From my own work experience in France, all I can say is, ‘What a pity to waste such an opportunity!’ I am a firm believer in networking events and in exchange that goes beyond conference rooms. For many of my clients, I designed and implemented networking events as part of talent management.
“Meet the management” – in line with this motto, young talents have the opportunity to meet leaders on an equal footing, off the beaten track of offices and conference rooms. Managers, on the other hand, can discuss things in a relaxed setting and get an impression of their employees without creating an atmosphere like in a job interview. Yet, in addition to being perfect for discussing positions that need to be filled, the events offer also many other opportunities.
Why networking should be practised as an important leadership quality
Networking is an art – an art you can learn regardless of character and preferences. Having relaxed conversations at business level that go beyond work-related topics requires practice. Offering young talents such an opportunity is a good and simple investment in the leaders of tomorrow.
Once they reach beyond the level of classic small talk at a networking event, managers and young talents are likely to have an exciting conversation about interesting topics. In this relaxed setting, the future leaders learn particularly well how to keep cool in such situations and control the conversation.
A conversation in a conference room, which is about clear facts, is quite different from a networking event. In the latter, new levels of discussion may contribute to ongoing substantive challenges.
The advantages of networking for top management
Outside the office world, conversations can be held differently and bonds can be strengthened. What is more, top management gets a good overview of the talents in the company.
In a relaxed setting, the inhibition threshold when talking to managers is lower than in everyday office life. Here, it is easier to get to know new employees.
In fast-growing companies, physical distances can be a challenge. Events are a good way to reduce such distances and to maintain and strengthen contacts.
What is it about and who participates?
To give everyone a chance to talk to each other, management should invite only eight to ten young talents.
Good events offer new opportunities for exchange on both sides. Employees get a chance to ask what they have always wanted to know from the executive board. Top management, on the other hand, can share their messages directly, communicate strategic issues, listen, and gain new ideas.
Extraordinary conversations develop particularly easily if the event is associated with a special theme. A keynote speech of about 15 minutes given by one of the managers can provide exciting ideas for discussion. The quality of the event depends very much on good facilitation – ideally implemented directly by colleagues in HR development. This creates space for qualitative exchange.
What environment is most suitable for networking events?
Unconventional formats such as a shared breakfast or evenings in front of an open fire have proven successful with many of my clients. Getting together in a relaxed atmosphere for two to three hours, eating finger food at a round table – this promotes exchange and has a lasting effect.
Wouldn’t networking as part of talent management be an interesting option for your company? You would like to get started straight away but are not quite sure how best to prepare the events? Please, get in touch!
Photo(detail) © Minyipuru Pangkalpa 2015, Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman
Mentoring plays a crucial role for a successful talent management. Used in the right way, it lays the foundation for highly committed new leaders. However, mentoring can only work if certain basic tactical prerequisites are observed. First of all, it is important to find the perfect match of mentor and mentee, to make sure they are well prepared, and to support them with regard to their first meeting, when they should define together the process as well as the guidelines and principles that suit them. Furthermore, it is essential in this initial phase that both parties clearly specify what they expect from the coming relationship. The HR department can occasionally provide guidance and support for the process.
The fresh perspective of the mentee
It has proven successful that the mentee structures the process and is involved in planning the development. Active listening, well-prepared questions for the meetings, and a subsequent summary of the results lead to a high level of involvement in the mentoring process. Someone who uses mentoring should be willing to accept feedback and be challenged. Then they will particularly benefit from the professional and personal support as well as from the wealth of experience of their mentor. In the best case, they will gain permanent support for a long-term career within the company.
However, the role of the mentee is also to question and analyse with an open mind existing ways of working, possibly to bring in and share other references, without losing track of their own development.
Communicator, career coach, promoter: the roles of the mentor
In addition to integrating the mentee and promoting a deeper understanding of the corporate culture and structure, the mentor offers support and asks the right questions at the right time to stimulate thought processes in their counterpart. Their critical view of the gap between experience and skills is an important driver for the mentee. The mentor supports strategic thinking, reveals different options, and helps the mentee to set goals and make informed decisions. In this connection, the mentee should be allowed to speak to their mentor in confidence at any time. As a career coach, the mentor also acts as a potential role model. With the help of the mentor, the mentee can establish contacts in the company and expand their network.
Well-managed mentoring: a win-win situation
Experience shows that, if the above conditions are met, the mentor-mentee relationship will be positively challenging and enriching for both parties. Leaders and top management pass on knowledge and experience, are involved in the development of talent, and can further develop their own leadership skills. The fresh perspective of their mentee enriches their daily work and expands the company’s international network. Many examples from my practice and current research prove the positive effects of this fruitful concept.
I’d be delighted if the second blog post on the topic of “mentoring” in my talent management series has given you a few exciting ideas for your company. Please, get in touch, should you have further questions.
Photo © Pexels-Andrea-Piacquadio
A Teams call in the afternoon. When Isabelle joins the call, Fiona, who works from home, smiles into the camera. She has great news: she completed her Scrum Master certification with distinction. It was through the initiative of Isabelle that Fiona did a Scrum Master course in the first place. Isabelle is Fiona’s mentor. She works in a thriving software company as head of e-commerce. The two have been a mentoring pair for almost a year. Isabelle supports Fiona in her development, guides her when she has to make decisions, and answers questions. But Isabelle also benefits from the mentoring relationship: inspired by Fiona’s fresh perspective on things, she has already adjusted some of her processes for the good of her department. Moreover, Isabelle can well imagine Fiona succeeding a colleague from management whose promotion is coming up soon.
Many of the mentoring processes I have supported so far take place in this way or in a similar way. The case of Fiona and Isabelle demonstrates what a successful exchange between mentor and mentee might look like. I hear many success stories from my clients after we established mentoring as part of talent management in their companies. This is no wonder, because mentoring really is an invaluable development tool. It enables different generations to engage in fruitful dialogue, guarantees knowledge transfer across immediate company hierarchies, and brings exchange of experience to a new, direct and – at best – partnership level. The mentee learns from the mentor and vice versa. New knowledge and a fresh perspective on processes and structures can be very valuable also for executives.
Knowledge, corporate culture, and motivation for the leaders of tomorrow
Research shows that mentoring has a positive impact on corporate culture and lays the foundation for a new level of leadership that is deeply involved in content issues. This makes mentoring an important element in talent and leadership development. It furthers strategic thinking and assists the development of a shared mindset besides paving the way for extraordinary personal relationships. In this way, young talent can be motivated remarkably well, supported in their development, and tied to the company. Top management gets to know the leaders of tomorrow and is strongly involved in their development. Mentoring also promotes a commitment to diversity within the company.
If mentoring is successful, it can develop into a true learning partnership that offers future leaders deep insights into the organisation of the company, promotes personal development, and teaches new skills. It gives mentees the freedom to develop their own solutions under the guidance of professionals and experts. This creates an extraordinary level of trust, which ensures honest and open feedback. Mentoring also furthers the development of a wide and more international network within the company.
How can mentoring be successfully established in a company?
The first step is to bring together promising mentoring pairs in cooperation with the HR department. Ideally, the make-up of the pairs cuts across departments, countries, and functions. Once the pairs have been put together, the mentor is informed about the mentee’s needs and their level of development. At the beginning, both jointly determine the goals, rules and circumstances of their individual processes. For all other meetings, the mentee should ideally take the initiative and assume responsibility. These meetings take place regularly for a maximum period of twelve months – either face to face or as a video call. The HR department accompanies the process in close cooperation with both partners. If successful, the programme is an enriching and rewarding way for both sides to gain new insights – in the company and at a personal level.
Might mentoring be an interesting approach for your company? In this case, you are invited to read the next part of my blog series about this topic: here, I will take a closer look at the role models of the mentoring process and their relationship. You don’t want to wait? Let’s consider together how we can develop a suitable mentoring concept for your company.