Mentoring: A New Way to Look at Performance Management

Mentoring: A New Way to Look at Performance Management

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by Megan Wolverton

February 27, 2020

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Over the past few years, we’ve seen an abundance of research telling us that performance management processes are overengineered, are time-consuming, and they tend to demotivate employees while hindering candid and honest conversations. Moreover, they’re nearly equally deplored by both employees and managers.

In examining a variety of ways both to promote candid conversations about performance and to focus on future improvement and accelerated positive growth, a combination of programmatic mentoring and performance management delivers good outcomes.

While not initially obvious, a close examination of the two programs reveals an interesting overlap. Consider the similarities between ideal-state mentoring programs and ideal-state performance management programs. Both seek to help your organization create an environment that strategically aligns employees’ skills to meet your company’s vision and achieve long-term business needs and organizational goals. Both combine education, training, growth opportunities and continuous feedback. Both have a common goal: enabling employees to perform at their peak potential.

Having a number of thoughtfully designed mentoring programs that span your employees’ career at your company will help your leaders set short- and long-term expectations and goals, monitor progress, and provide real-time feedback. These programs provide mentees with the type of learning relationship needed to thrive and for career growth, resulting in higher engagement, mobility and retention.

It’s relatively easy to draw meaningful conclusions about the impact of onboarding new hires quickly and effectively, developing employees’ functional expertise, measuring the readiness of upcoming leaders, or developing a capable talent pipeline for executive positions. The following examples will share how to combine performance management strategies with mentoring initiatives and bring about a maximum return on investment (ROI).

Onboarding Mentoring

Your onboarding program is new employees’ introduction to your organization. It gives them a step up on becoming productive and integrated as quickly as possible. Onboarding is often a starting point for mentoring programs; many companies experience a high level of turnover around the six-month mark, and mentoring programs can help alleviate that attrition. At six months, an organization has invested time and money in recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding a new employee, but the employee hasn’t been productive long enough to have yielded returns on the organization’s investment.

If your organization decides to invest in an onboarding mentoring program, you’ll pair up each new employee with a mentor who will help him or her align with the company’s culture and values, vision and mission, and written and unwritten rules, helping the employee feel more connected to the business and his or her team. In addition, their mentor can help make the employee aware of performance expectations, monitor progress toward meeting those expectations and identify strengths or areas for improvement — all of which helps improve productivity. This close connection with someone who has an interest in his or her success at the company increases the likelihood that the new employee will stay.

Functional Expertise Mentoring

After employees are up to speed on how to actually do their jobs, they will need additional information to hone the skills they need to do their specific job effectively, supporting the case for functional expertise mentoring programs. In these programs, mentors act as subject matter experts (SMEs), sharing knowledge and skills, experiences, and best practices, helping their mentees expand their skill sets and perform their jobs better. Mentors typically use guided conversations and observations to report on performance and develop mentee talent. These programs are helpful not only to measure individual productivity and provide desired learning opportunities but also to help management identify high-performing individuals and future leaders.

High-potential Mentoring

Once employees are productive and doing great things at your organization, they’ll start to have access to opportunities for increased responsibility and leadership roles. This stage is where a high-potential mentoring program can help expand your organization’s management talent pool. Identified through other mentoring programs, like the functional expertise program, these top contributors stand out for their potential to be great leaders and elevate the organization. High-potential mentoring programs help proactive employees find mentors who can advance their careers and access the development they need to be ready for future roles. Popular content resources include 360-degree or multi-rater feedback tools; advanced communication models; business acumen training; and training to improve soft skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

Succession Planning Mentoring

The final phase in the employee life cycle that can benefit from proactive performance management is the succession planning program. These types of mentoring programs help ensure a talent pipeline for an organization’s executive leadership roles. Executives hand-select protégés from an exclusive list of highly qualified candidates and choose one or two mentees to develop over a longer period of time. These programs do not typically include structured content, because each mentee is being groomed for a specific executive position. Each has a unique set of strengths, experience and skills to develop, and knowledge gaps to address. Each relationship is focused on real-world skill-building and application, usually through projects, stretch assignments and challenges that will take months, if not longer, to complete. Performance management doesn’t need to be a negative or punitive action. When you are using mentoring programs to integrate, educate and promote your employees, you’re not only showing them that you see their potential and are willing to invest in their future. You are also positioning your company to reap the benefits of having an engaged, loyal workforce who will help your organization achieve their goals.