As part of my university course, I recently undertook a research project set out to find the key impacts that enterprise mentoring can have on an individual, business, and the wider economy. The research consisted of talking to 5 Mentors and 10 companies from in and around the Cambridgeshire area through a mixture of both qualitative and quantitative methods. The research was undertaken by me, Jack Simpson, Hugo Santos and Joshua Barnard. I would like to share with you are key findings and conclusions drawn.
We set out to find the impact by proposing our own idea for a ‘mentoring programme’. The programme involved external mentoring of employees who work within the business and have an idea for a new product, service or process that could potentially benefit the business. In an ideal world every employee would have the confidence to carry forward and develop an idea with little guidance however in some organisations this is not the case; this may be down to a lack of support from managers for their ideas, or simply that they do not have the skill set to develop their own thoughts. Nonetheless, Innovation and Intraprenership within a business is important to establish a competitive market and business growth.
What was clear from the outset is that there was a lack of understanding amongst businesses of the difference between mentoring/ coaching and consulting. Some businesses considered appraisal’s as a way of mentoring, whereas some considered training programmes as another form. I think the most important difference that can be identified is that a Mentor is about listening and guiding whereas coaching and consulting is more about advising; It is the ability to make the Mentee think for themselves.
Their seemed to be a resistance from businesses to actually undertake a mentoring programme although many said that it seems like a good idea. I believe this resistance comes from the lack of understanding of what impacts can be drawn from the experience that relate to the bottom-line financials. There seems to be a confusion that to develop a mentoring project is expensive to set-up. From our research we identified that there are many Mentor’s who work for free for industries that they love, as it gives them a sense of achievement helping others; there are also many grants available to small and medium scale businesses to help develop mentoring projects, such as the ‘Sector Mentoring Challenge Fund’. The real expenditure for the business is having the systems in place to support the employees ideas which may require time, encouragement and financial support – It becomes more investing in innovation rather than investing in mentoring.
IMPACT OF MENTORING ON INDIVIDUAL
The research showed that employee mentoring had a key impact on the Personal Growth of an employee. Mentoring had given the employees the skill-set to become more analytical when coming up with ideas and also had an effect on their future career prospects. As an example one person had been given the confidence to move on with their career and helped develop a HR department within a new business – this not only had an effect on the individual but created more jobs.
Secondly mentoring can have a real effect on the motivation and passion of an employee within a business, as they feel like their employers are interested in hearing their ideas and getting the best out of them. This leads them to become more hardworking within the business and reduces staff turnover.
IMPACT OF MENTORING ON BUSINESS
At the beginning of the project we were hoping to find more statistical data of how Mentoring can effect bottom-line performance. During the process we discovered that it is difficult to directly correlate ‘mentoring’ with business growth, however we can make assumptions based on more qualitative data.
If mentoring contributes highly to the personal growth of an employee, our programme would create higher levels of innovation from staff members making the company more innovative and introducing new sales revenues; this could have an impact to the growth of the company. It is much easier to quantify innovation from the mentoring - One company we had spoken to held an annual innovation week, from this they saw 1800 ideas put forward from 10% of their employees base – In the same year they saw a revenue increase of 8.9% which could have been related to the increase in innovation.
I personally believe that mentoring needs to be compulsory in the education system, as it gives the skill set to help people to become better thinkers when going into the business world. This would mean more people will go into the workplace with the experience to develop their own ideas, communicate more effectively with managers and become more analytical thinkers.
As we have seen from the prior discussions, mentoring has an impact of innovation – which can create new jobs from more innovative companies and more competitive industries. There does not need to be clear statistics to show the impact mentoring can have, but it can be seen through the people who have experienced mentoring processes and how they have personally developed throughout there own careers.
I hope you have enjoyed the findings of our research, for confidentiality purposes I have left out the names of the organisations spoke to. The businesses came from several industries to understand not only the experiences of the more innovative industries (Technology and Creative arts) but of a wider circumstance.