HR Indaba Conversation examines the benefits of mentoring and coaching

Panellists discussed mentoring and coaching and why organisations need to create cultures that promote both.

Increasingly, organisations are identifying mentorship and coaching as key factors in an employee’s career growth plan. So, what is the power of mentoring and coaching? And is there a difference between the two?

Yvonne Mosadi, HR director at Heineken South Africa said, “Both are tools to develop people and accelerate their growth. Coaching, however, is a short-term intervention and is useful when developing someone who is struggling with certain aspects of the job. A coaching process is not a talent situation, but rather helping someone tap into themselves to find solutions to their current challenges. Coaching is often used by leaders to overcome and involves an external party providing a service.

“Mentorship on the other hand is all about talent. It’s about identifying people in your organisation who you want to grow, and pairing them with a mentor. The mentor is someone experienced and knowledgeable who will impart technical and soft skills and help them build relationships that will take them to the next level of their career. Unlike coaching, mentoring can be done internally,” she said.

Terms like EQ, emotional intelligence and self-awareness have become part of KPAs, as organisations look for well-rounded individuals who have technical and soft skills. Bongani Phakathi, executive: human resources and public affairs at Assore said soft skills are hard to master but equally important in understanding and harnessing, because the workplace is complex and ever changing.

“When you start your career, your technical skills are dominant but as your career progresses, you start focusing on developing career skills like becoming a better team player or improving the function of a team. And that’s about emotional intelligence and that’s where mentorship and coaching can play a role and help you evolve,” he explained.

Is HR responsible for a culture of mentorship and coaching?
Antoinette Roberts, group executive: HR and transformation at Blue Label Telecoms said the responsibility of creating a culture that enables mentoring and coaching is also that of the leadership, who must see the business imperative for such programmes.

But before coaching and mentorship programmes are introduced Antoinette said a foundation of trust, curiosity and belief needs to be in place in for coaching and mentorship programmes to work. “It’s important to unpack these because sometimes employees see mentoring and coaching negatively. Trust is about making mentor, mentee, coach, and leader understood that their relationship is a partnership.

“Also, we mustn’t always make managers coaches. Employees should be allowed to choose who they want as a coach. Organisations should have a body of external coaches to choose from.

“When it comes to curiosity, we are talking to the fact that employees need to bring new ideas to the table and have a growth mindset when entering these relationships. On the other hand, the organisation needs to be open to being questioned. The organisation needs to believe in developing people, it needs be part of the value system.”

But said Bongani, individuals should also be responsible for their own coaching and mentoring journeys and should not just rely on those put together by their companies. He advises everyone to build a broad network of people that spans their careers and to tap into that network for mentorship or coaching opportunities.

“Coaching doesn’t always have to be structured and formal,” he said, “and neither does mentorship. Mentorship has a personal dynamic, so its important to pick someone you trust. You must have someone who provides a psychologically safe environment because you are sharing experience and perspectives.”

So how many coaches and mentors do you need? Several, said the panel, who agreed that throughout your career, you should have different mentors and coaches, to serve your different career stages. “No one is all knowing,” said Bongani.

You are not alone
Worried about how mentorship and coaching will shape your career? Don’t be. All three members of the panel said they have benefitted from mentoring and coaching at various points in their career. Yvonne shared that last year she enlisted the services of a coach.

“Behind the scenes there are people coaching and mentoring me to be a better version of myself. People always tell me that I am resilient, but it is something I have learnt, especially in the past year,” she said. “Last year I explored the services of a professional coach to help me navigate solutions and reposition myself. As a result, I came out stronger. My mental health has improved, and I have learnt that I mustn’t navigate difficult situations alone.”

In the breakout room
Yvonne and Bongani joined 25 people in a breakout room to understand the topic better.
Esti Lindeque, HR manager, ProjectLink asked, in a small company like the one she works for, should there be mentoring and coaching programmes and who should be responsible for them? Bongani answered: “Mentoring and coaching should be a business imperative and viewed from a business continuity point of view. Because it’s how a business survives.
Leaders play an important role in ensuring culture gets entrenched.”

Dheran Pillay, HR manager, Payments Association, wanted to know how to deal with resistance to mentoring and coaching? Yvonne answered by telling him that the relationships cannot be forced. “You also need to dig deeper to find out why there is resistance. Are the mentors the right people? What are the other dynamics around the resistance? People who are good at their jobs don’t necessarily make good mentors or coaches. That maybe where the problem lies.”

Mandisa Mbatani, an HR Consultant at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said she faced the challenge of being chosen for a mentorship role but not feeling prepared for it. “Organisations need to invest in preparing mentors. Too much focus is placed on the mentee. Because sometimes I feel like there are blurred lines: am I overstepping my role if I say this?” she said.