How Mentorship Grooms Leaders and Three Reasons Why It’s More Important Than Ever
Many of today’s business leaders learned much about their field in university, but gained far superior insights about how to succeed from their mentors. The tradition of mentoring — old school as it may seem — is still extremely important in today’s workplace. With younger workers entering the business world and fierce competition for talent in certain markets, mentoring may be exactly what’s needed to identify, train and retain future leaders.
In the tech space, mentoring may be even more important than it is in other sectors. That’s because the industry is so dynamic and advancing so rapidly, it’s almost impossible to keep pace. In the ad tech space, where GDM Group operates, key aspects of the industry seem to change on a daily basis, whether it’s a new Google algorithm, a new ad format or a new way to measure campaign effectiveness — it’s almost impossible to keep up, even for industry veterans. The passing of knowledge from senior employees to novices is often the best way — and sometimes the only way — to share information and deeper, more nuanced insights.
We’ve introduced a formal mentorship program within our company for three key reasons:
1. Technology moves too fast for the classroom. Technology is dynamic and moves quickly, whether you’re in ad tech, or any other tech-driven vertical. By the time industry changes make it into the university classroom or textbook, they’re already obsolete. Even beyond industry-wide innovations, every company has its own process and its own know-hows. Whether it’s an end-to-end sales process or an agency’s unique campaign methodology, every company will handle things differently. Introducing a mentoring program means that your junior staff will learn the things they need to learn, and they’ll learn to employ them in ways that are meaningful to your organization.
2. There are skills that just can’t be taught in school. Where did you learn the most important aspects of business strategy? Where did you learn how to become a successful entrepreneur? For me, it was a mentor who taught me to look at problems with an eye for finding a solution that could be monetized. My mentor taught me which ideas were worth implementing, which needed to be scrapped and how to tell the difference. Networking, pitching, forging partnerships — these are all skills that are best learned outside the classroom, for example on a trade show floor. Experienced senior managers have a lot of knowledge to share with younger employees regarding the more nuanced aspects of business.
3. Identify leaders early on. In addition to guiding younger staff through their paces, there are also benefits for the company. Senior team members, especially those who have been in the same role of a number of years, may have developed patterns and routines that work for them, but have stagnated creatively. A mentee with an affinity in a particular area may be able to bring a fresh perspective and introduce innovation to areas of the business where things have reached a creative halt. In this way, mentorship may help identify the future leaders within your “freshman class,” and give you the opportunity to nurture them and grow their careers.
For these reasons, we maintain a formal mentorship program wherein every manager has a few fresh minds under their tutelage. Each junior team member has more than one single mentor within the program — they learn different aspects of the business from colleagues in various departments. We make the responsibility of our team leads to teach mentees their unique discipline, and also to identify and foster new talent.
We invest in our team to help them grow, and our company grows accordingly. The end result of a mentorship program is that employees feel empowered and invested in the company. A source of that empowerment is the employee’s relationships with their mentors; those relationships are genuine and make their jobs more enjoyable. It builds a positive culture and improves tenure. It’s critical for every company to keep the talent they have trained and cultivated to support the overall effectiveness and growth of the business. Helping our team build their skills and grow their careers within our walls is both to their benefit and ours.
In the US, there’s more talent to be found, but also more competition for that talent. Perhaps mentorship can help break that churn-and-burn cycle by helping foster great talent and building loyalty — both on the part of the company and the employee.