International performance improvement guru Dr H. James Harrington famously stated:
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
This is where workplace mentoring schemes tend to suffer. After some lengthy implementation, there is often little way to measure their success beyond participant-reaction smile sheets. Yet without the right measurement, companies are unable to reap the full benefits from their mentoring programme as a powerful and strategically focused training tool. In the face of ever tightening budgets and greater accountability in an increasingly competitive environment, this is all the more relevant. L&D practitioners face greater pressure than ever before in reporting quantifiable outcomes to senior management that are demonstrable on the bottom line. Measurement is therefore key to any successful workplace mentoring scheme.
1. Understanding the Data
Why are students measured by test results, stores by number of sales, or sportspeople by athletic performance? Well, these quantifiable results help them to understand where they are, what they need to improve on, and how they can measure their progress. They know where they want to go and are motivated to create better results.
Mentoring schemes are no different. At first glance they may seem to reap only qualitative data being very much relationship-based. Yet identifying key success metrics, including those on the bottom line, will unlock the greatest potential in the programme. They will bring out the hard, quantitative data that will help companies fully understand the strengths and weaknesses within their organisation, how to increase efficiency utilising existing talent, and how effective their mentoring programme is in achieving the business strategies and goals. They will be able to understand how the quality of the mentoring relationships in practice, and where connections are most sought. They will understand the goals and career aspirations held by their employees, what they need to do to achieve these goals, and how long it takes them to do so.
Understanding each of these elements arms L&D departments with unique knowledge and data that could only emerge from measuring their mentoring schemes. By truly understanding the organisation as a whole and how each employee links into the bigger picture (a gigantuan task, particularly in larger, hierarchical organisations), L&D departments can now strategically control the direction of the programme in line with the company vision.
2. From Understanding to Control
The Hawthorne Effect is a psychological phenomenon that emerged from a series of studies on worker productivity. Essentially, it showed that employees increased their efforts and productivity when they thought they were being observed or watched closely, as a result of the motivational effect of the interest shown in them. The feeling of being an integral part of the group and desiring to stand well amongst one’s fellows, was found to be a key determinant of employee output by reference to the group’s conception of a fair day’s work.
With this in mind and armed with greater understanding from their measurements, L&D departments can strategically focus their mentoring programme whilst motivating a result-based culture amongst its participants. Identifying KPIs in line with the organisational objectives and tracking them at key points will provide a powerful tool for all involved. The L&D department can get a detailed snapshot of the progress of each employee and the effect it has on the bottom line, which can then be reported to senior management and key stakeholders. They can focus the mentoring relationships in a goal-oriented manner aligned with the organisational strategy. Knowing they are being measured, the participants will be motivated to actively maintain focused mentoring relationships and achieve their goals in a timely manner. They will understand the organisational strategy and know where they fit in in relation to it.
3. Improvement: Unleashing Human Possibility
In their article ‘A New Vision’, Professors Anteby and Kuruna said on the Hawthorne Effect that:
“Management… was not about controlling human behaviour but unleashing human possibility”.
The increased gains under the Hawthorne Effect only last for a limited time unless another change occurs. But now, with greater understanding and focused control of the mentoring programme, L&D departments are in the position to continue to mold the programme to facilitate a culture of continuous learning and identify areas for improvement. If the mentoring programme has been well implemented to be aligned with business strategy, participants will be motivated to improve, will feel like a valued part of the company and will understand the connection between their actions and the organisation’s ability to fulfill a common purpose. By continuously measuring the mentoring programme, L&D departments can ensure this golden state of being remains.
In a nutshell
As we can see, understanding, control, and improvement are an essential cycle to any workplace mentoring scheme. This can only be done through continuous measurement. Without this, mentoring relationships will inevitably collapse or lose the necessary focus. Being able to find the right measurement and strategically focus and structure their workplace mentoring scheme, L&D departments can maintain the golden state of continuous learning as employees are motivated to improve as a valued and integral cog in the organisational wheel.