Unemployment in South Africa stood at 23,9% as at the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Labour Force Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa. This translates to 4,244 million jobless people in the three months to December 2011.
Job creation is one of the government’s top priorities, and as such, it has introduced training programmes to help people become more employable. These include learnerships, internships and short learning programmes. Government is encouraging companies to implement these training programmes and take on unemployed, or qualified but inexperienced individuals, by offering financial grants and tax incentives.
Managers more hands-on
This has put the spotlight on the need for managers to become more hands-on and effective in terms of coaching and mentoring their staff in order to develop them. With the old managerial hierarchy now obsolete and the fast pace of business today, coaching and mentoring have become pivotal to reducing staff turnover, increasing productivity (thereby improving the bottom line), assisting with organisational transformation and building global competitiveness.
Current challenges in the South African workplace such as a multicultural workforce and the requisite need for sensitivity to these cultures, as well as generation gaps between graduate employees and managers, also necessitate a coaching/ mentoring mindset, which the USA,Australia and the UK demonstrate so well.
A study of 500 HR professionals by Allied Van Lines called Why Your Employees Leave and How to Stop Them, completed in May 2012, found that failure to properly train, mentor, and acclimate new employees to the workplace was a key reason behind their moving on. The study also found that the economy or demographics had nothing to do with high staff turnover.
At Turning Point Coaching we have found that individuals who have been coached and/or mentored are more likely to be promoted. The positive spinoff for a company includes improved morale, communication and loyalty, and therefore a reduction in staff turnover.
Mentoring vs coaching
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are, in fact, distinct differences. Mentoring is the quickest way to transfer skills and accelerate empowerment in the workplace. It is a developmental relationship between a senior manager and an inexperienced employee, intern or mentee, which is focused on their individual growth.
Mentorship helps them to reach their full potential by putting them in a position where they can act as assistants to someone senior and learn on the job. In this kind of business relationship, the manager is able to impart his or her many years of experience and teach the mentee about accountability, ethical behaviour and good corporate governance. In my experience, no amount of formal training or informal courses can achieve what mentorship can.
Coaches recognise that staff turnover is a reality of the modern workplace. Their goal is to capitalise on employees’ strengths and ensure a work environment that offers opportunities for growth and advancement, making current employees want to stay and outsiders aspire to join.
Coaching empowers individuals to progress and helps them meet organisational goals, so as to improve a company’s bottom line. It is a directive approach rather than a relationship-building approach. Being performance orientated, the intention is to improve individual skills and behaviour within the parameters of the job and the company.
I always recommend that a manager who is not a direct manager be assigned as mentor and/or coach. This ensures impartiality and prevents a ‘buddy system’. Where possible,
I recommend bringing in someone from outside the company. Some of the advantages of employing an external coach are:
- He/she can provide an objective, confidential and professional ear
- He/she has a healthy detachment from the organisation and therefore an objective perspective on issues raised during the coaching process
- The staff is encouraged to be more open and candid about goals and concerns
The attributes of a manager who would fit this role are someone who leads by example, commands respect and is trusted by team members and colleagues. He or she would be fair, not betray confidentiality and never be too busy to listen; someone who has a real open door policy. Integrity, compassion and a positive attitude are also important.
Training for managers
Managers themselves need to be coached so that they can be effective in this role and learn to communicate well, however most of them have not received any training in this regard. It’s problematic because managers often feel they don’t have the time to be trained or to do the mentoring and coaching. While it does require some extra effort and time management, it is also possible to turn routine interactions with employees into mentoring or coaching opportunities.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK surveyed both managers and employees in 2012 and found a startling gap between what each believed was happening in the workplace. Ninety percent of managers said they would coach their people whenever they met, but only 40% of employees agreed. Seventy-five percent claimed to discuss career progression with their employees, of whom only 38% agreed. Eighty percent of managers said they are doing a good job and only 40% of employees agreed.