I’ve had many mentors throughout my life. I always subscribed to the idea that they had to be older and more successful than me. But in the last five years or so, some of my most important mentors have actually been younger than me. Their strong comfort level with social media and digitization were just the things I needed to break out of old routines and embrace the future.
Forbes contributor, Diana Rau, cofounder of Veterati, the digital platform for Veteran mentorship, speaks of the importance of many mentors and the ways in which strangers can serve as mentors through technological advances like crowdsourcing.1 Her organization finds mentors for veterans and their spouses through a network of what she calls, “the Military Passionate Tribe.”
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a tribe to effectively mentor someone. Training magazine recently compiled a list of 125 companies who use technology to implement training best practices.2 One company, PPD, uses a social network for members of its Global Leadership Network (alumni of their high-potential leadership development and executive leadership programs). Members specify a skill or competency that they are willing to teach someone and through this network they are connected to mentees.
Real-time help when problems/issues arise is one of the benefits of mentoring via digital technology. Today there are even specific mentoring software programs like FirstHand and Plato. But it is not just about the technology. Culture is an important part of an effective mentoring program. Timo Rein, co-founder, Pipedrive, shared with Foundr.com his “rules for serving as a leader, and leading as a servant.” They are:
- Find the best people possible
- Put them in a good place
- Get out of the way
- Serve them to reach your collective goals
Companies with strong mentoring programs enjoy higher rates of employee retention and engagement. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial survey4 indicates millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not. In industries that are struggling to attract millennials to their workforce (like the energy industry), mentoring can be a game changer. A recent whitepaper by executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles, on “Creating a Culture of Mentorship”5 finds that companies who offer mentoring are in a better position to recruit and retain top talent.
In the accounting and finance worlds, mentoring is hugely important. IMA members can make virtual mentoring connections via LinkUp IMA. But it is critical that undergraduate students, who are just learning about the profession, be given the opportunity to connect with professional mentors. A 2017 article from Strategic Finance on “High-Impact Mentoring” looks at a mentoring program developed by IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) Louisville Chapter for this purpose. The program was designed to recruit people into the management accounting profession and expose students on local campuses to a career in management accounting. Through this program mentees learned about management accounting, but also about soft skills, interview skills, and networking skills.
Kristina Merrill, CMA, CSCA, CPA, member of IMA’s Global Board of Directors, said this about the program:
“As a young person, I struggled unnecessarily by not having a strong support network. Now that I have found personal success, paying it forward by helping students and young people is a cause I am passionate about.”
- “Redefining Mentoring for the Digital Age,” Forbes, April 8, 2017
- ”Mentoring in The Digital Age,” Training.com
- “132: The Importance of Leadership for a Fast Growth Company with Timo Rein of Pipedrive,” Podcast, Foundr.com, as assessed here https://foundr.com/timo-rein/
- “The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders,” Deloitte, 2016
- “Creating a Culture of Mentorship,” Heidrick & Struggles, December, 2017