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The Criticality of Privacy for Multi-Generational Mentoring Networks

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder and CEO

Any relationship, be it personal or professional, cannot thrive without trust. Mentoring is no different. Given the dynamics of a mentor−mentee relationship, trust is one of the key factors that influence the success of mentoring programs. In the absence of trust, people become self−protective and often defensive. This is counter−productive as mentees need to be comfortable being vulnerable in front of their mentors. If they are constantly worried about privacy, how will they lower their guard and seek help to become better and more successful individuals?

Why mentoring is essential today?

Having a well thought out mentoring program is a valuable weapon in today’s competitive marketplace. It helps you

− Identify your high−potential employees

− Strategically develop talent

− Prepare your leadership pipeline

All these contribute to organizational growth, improve innovation, and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Having a robust mentoring program also works as a tool to boost employee engagement.

With robust programs at work, employees feel that the organization is invested in their potential and growth story.

When employees feel the organization cares for them, they are better engaged at work and have high job−satisfaction levels. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how that benefits the organization.

The workforce mix today − a melting pot of five generations

Having said this, we cannot dismiss the fact that never before has there been such a curious mix of generations in the workplace. You have

− The Silent Generation (born 1900 − 1945) making up 3% of the workforce.

− The Baby Boomers (born 1946 − 1964) making 34% of the workforce.

− The Millennials (1981 − 2000) are presently the most prevalent generation in the workplace at 25% and are on their way to comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020.

− Then you have Generation Z or the Nexters (born after 2000) making 3% of the global workforce and 25% of the world’s population. They will be out of school by 2020 and will constitute 20% of the global workforce.

These generations are as different from each other as the years that separate them. The majority population, the millennials, in the workforce have been vocal about their demands and motivations. And quite unsurprisingly, trust ranks highly in this list.

Why does mentoring need privacy?

Why shouldn’t mentoring need privacy? A mentor is a guide who helps you navigate the treacherous waters of life and the workplace by helping you identify your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Often, these vulnerabilities link to the challenges you need to navigate to put your career on the growth track. In this relationship, you have a person who has more experience guiding a person with less-experience and can be a formal or informal process.

Over time, a mentor learns of the needs, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities of a mentee. They learn about their mentee’s fears just as they learn about their strengths because they are assessing the needs of a person less experienced than them. And the lack of privacy can jeopardize the workings of this relationship and lead to a complete breakdown of trust.

Millennials, for example, not only have high expectations from their employers but also have high expectations from themselves. They view work as a part of their life, not as something that has to be balanced.

They want a sense of purpose and are perhaps one of the most socially conscious generations since the 1960s. Millennials want a roadmap to success and expect their organizations to provide this. With a demographic so clear about what they want, how do you think they will react if their mentoring relationships are not confidential?

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Given how candid mentoring is, any information shared with managers or the organization regarding these conversations can prove to be detrimental to the growth of an employee. After all, aren’t we all human, each shouldering the burden of our shortcomings where we articulate thoughts according to our understanding? Is it not easy to form judgments and to label people and put them in boxes, pass them over or

make them feel undervalued when opinions contradict? Have we not heard enough stories of managers who took a person’s shortcomings and instead of helping the employee overcome these, they constructed these challenges into issues that impeded the said employee?s growth trajectory?

A mentee could also reach out to a mentor frequently and often to navigate a recurring hurdle. It could be how to battle anxiety before every big presentation. It could be how to manage an over−enthusiastic and driven boss. It could be how to manage their team or how to upgrade their technical skills. The list is long and endless. While a mentor might not see this as a shortcoming, a manager might perceive it so. And this could have an impact on the employee’s growth path.

No one wants to be perceived as weak. This is one of the reasons why women in the workforce shy away from mentoring. Since this demographic has so much more to prove, they feel any movement in the direction of help is construed as weakness. When they do take a mentor, they would ideally have to be completely honest and upfront about their work conditions and challenges. How can women professionals open up to their mentora without fear of any repercussions, especially on their performance reviews and career transitions, if they feel that their conversations are not completely confidential?

Mentoring is a highly intimate relationship. And because it is so, people must be able to share whatever they need to share, without fear and judgment. It is when we take privacy as a pivotal factor that makes up a mentorship module, that mentoring programs will find more takers and more success.

Check out NumlyEngage™ Enterprise, the privacy−first, people networking, employee engagement and skills−development platform that helps companies by providing insightful analytics and data-driven nudges to develop Leaders at all levels. It helps in creating strong trust within teams, resulting in better engagement, higher retention, and phenomenal productivity gains across medium and large organizations.

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