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Five reasons mentoring is vital in the public sector

Cultivating future leadership is essential to the public sector. It’s integral to ensuring the long-term stability of digital service delivery in a climate of increasing disruption. It’s vital that digital leaders in the public sector come together to nurture and develop its own leaders. Here are five reasons why mentoring is vital to the public sector.

1. Deepening the internal talent pool

Research by Deloitte has revealed that 43% of millennial workers plan on leaving their existing role within two years. The term ‘millennial’ might have become an overused sound bite but this generation represents a significant portion of the workforce. For local authorities, particularly, employee retention is key. Experience and knowledge of local idiosyncrasies and issues can often be a crucial factor in the efficiency and effectiveness of strategy deployment and it’s not something that can be developed overnight. Mentorship dramatically improves staff retention. It helps people in more junior roles visualise a career path and value their mentor’s experience, thereby creating a deeper talent pool for future leadership.

However, mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. What matters is that mentors have experience that others can learn from. Reverse mentoring programmes, where younger employees share their experience with senior colleagues, are also powerful employee engagement tools. Particularly in the public sector where some established roles haven’t traditionally relied upon technology usage.

2. Employee expectation

The concept of mentorship is now widely known. Although it’s been approximately 3,000 years since, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus entrusted his young son Telemachus to the care of his trusted friend Mentor, mentoring has become standard business practice only recently. Studies now show that people are seeking greater mentorship from their employers. The Huffington Post has reported that 75% of millennials not only want mentors, but deem it crucial for success.  In the same survey, 70% of non-millennials say they are open to reverse mentoring. Deloitte has suggested that employers who intend to stay with an organisation for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not.

Public sector organisations should regard this as a definite positive. It demonstrates that those entering the sector are enthusiastic to achieve and build an enduring and believe in staying with their employer long term if they are given the opportunity to develop.

3. Mentors facilitate networking

Mentors in the public sector can connect with others able to provide expertise and support in areas that differ from their own. Mentoring programmes facilitated by a membership association like Socitm, mean these connections can be developed beyond individual organisations and across the public sector as a whole. Connections and relationships developed in this way can only improve service delivery and, therefore, outcomes for citizens. This is of particular significance in that different sectors, such as health & social care and local government, can collaborate and apply best practice across the board. Strong leadership is dependent on collaboration, relationship-building and communication. In developing such connections, the public sector ensures that the legacy of leadership is more readily and effectively passed on without disruption to services.

4. People centred not technology centric

There is stronger demand on leadership to confidently navigate businesses through disruption. Evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are all disruptive factors that pose a risk to organisational continuity today. Mentoring is critical to ensuring that those who understand these growing challenges also understand how to lead effectively.

Service delivery that impacts positively on people’s outcomes is the ultimate aim of ‘digital transformation’ in practice. Mentoring is a highly effective means of broadening people’s mindsets, making sure they are aware of the human implications of implementing digital strategy rather than focussing too heavily on technology itself.

5. Mentors grow through mentoring

Effective and inspiring leaders need to know how to establish positive, trusted relationships. Working with a mentee, particularly someone from outside one’s immediate organisation, is an opportunity to practice necessary skills, including empathy and active listening.

Mentoring within the public sector, particularly through an organisation like Socitm, provides an opportunity to continue to build your own network as you support your mentees to expand theirs.

Mentoring also promotes self-reflection and opportunity for mentors to reflect not only on what they have achieved but also on how they have reached those goals. Asking questions of a mentee often supports deeper insights into one’s own learning path, helping to build self-confidence. This self-reflection also helps mentors to identify training and development pathways they may wish to follow.