The Mentoring Manager

The Mentoring Manager

With organisations evolving in the digital age, we have witnessed the vocabulary of the development plan expanding to reflect a much broader vision of people development. A simple 5-point plan mapping the organisation charter to training plans appears myopic when one looks at the changing ecosystem of today’s workplace. Traditionally restricted to upskilling employees to meet the future needs of business and the industry, a development plan is all about carefully nurturing your human wealth with purpose and compassion.


If one were to examine the tech sector alone, the potential for growth is immense, especially with the proliferation of jobs around emerging technology. While the workforce is prepared to take on these new roles head-on, it is interesting to see whether they are equipped physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally to meet the demands of the digital revolution. As people leaders, are we asking ourselves this before laying out development plans and mapping them to organisational needs? What does our organisational scorecard look like if we were to score ourselves as employers who empower employees in a holistic manner to be more effective at their jobs?


While skill changes as demanded by the business is one part of the equation, emotional intelligence, cultural adaptation, strategic intent, physical wellness, financial acumen, etc., all become a part of holistic people development and are infused into the plans, structured or otherwise. For such an approach to work, a people manager's role shall see a shift from being a supervisor to that of a coach/mentor. Such an approach to a development plan would also shift the onus of development from the manager to the employee. The key idea is not the organisation being prescriptive about one's development plans, but to create an enabling environment in which one identifies the development needs, both related to the core functional areas as well as personal attributes.


The 5-Point Development Charter


A well-defined and holistic development plan should ideally address the following factors that will connect to employees at all levels.


Emotional Intelligence: It will definitely take sustained efforts to modify intrinsic human behaviour. However difficult employee behaviour may be, when observed closely, it is the lack of exposure or the right information at the right time - or simply personal experiences - that dictate employee behaviour.


Perhaps no one has asked a withdrawn employee to come out of their shell or has tried to get to know them better. It is likely that they would like to change, but are unsure of the next move. But the key to developing Emotional Intelligence (EI) lies with the manager’s ability to show employees the larger picture, and how his or her behaviour is linked to their career trajectory. The growth vision of an employee could be blurry, but you could mentor them to see a clearer picture of what will work best for his/her career in the long run.


“The key to developing Emotional Intelligence (EI) lies with the manager’s ability to show employees the larger picture, and how his or her behaviour is linked to their career trajectory.”


Strategic alignment: People drive your business, and taking them along in your journey of transformation requires clarity in vision, which leads to actionable ideas. This is possible only when employees are aware of the organisation's mission and vision, and how their work plays a key role in the grand scheme of things. A mentor instils the values of the organisation in its people and makes them feel valued.


Inclusive culture: If a resounding “yes” answers all the questions mentioned below, then you, your team, and the organisation are working as a cohesive unit towards a unified goal!


Is your organisation’s long-term goal well-embraced throughout the organisation?


Is your team with you at every step of the way as you work towards defining the organisation’s growth path, with actionable items in the short term and planning and vision for the long term?


Does your organisation make everyone involved and valued in their larger purpose?


Physical and mental wellness: Wellness at work is a rage now - and for good reason. Employees spend most of their waking hours at the office, which leaves them very little bandwidth to accommodate a schedule prioritising physical and mental health. Professional development can only be realised when employees have a positive disposition affecting their physical and mental health. And it is not just a gym at the office that gets employees motivation going. A well-rounded wellness programme should include regular wellness sessions, 24-hour availability of counsellors for employees who need support coping with pressure at work or outside of it, periodic health check-ups, or simply breaking the monotony of work with periodic floor exercises.


Financial wellness: Worrying about finances is known to adversely affect productivity. So, it is essential to have a programme in place that educates employees on all possible options to develop a sound financial plan. This is more important for those who are the sole providers for their family. Personal finance is and will continue to be a sensitive subject, but employees should be given the assurance that help is at hand for those who need assistance with savings and investments.


Adopting such an approach for People Development clearly cannot be handled unaided by technology. The various apps and tools available today help build and activate holistic development plans, starting with identifying the total human value and potential, and going all the way to fulfilling it with realistic, self-paced methods. It is not so much about what apps and tools one uses, but how the plan is laid out. And for this, the approach needs to be holistic, apart from leveraging enough digital tools. Such a development plan and a culture supporting it will be a strategic advantage for organisations in all industries.


Gopinath Pullaihgari is General Manager & Head-Human Resources, Verizon India. He comes with an experience of twenty years in managing human capital across HR roles and geographies.


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