What CIOs Need To Know About Mentoring

The secret is to get the right people to sign up for mentoring
The secret is to get the right people to sign up for mentoring
Image Credit: Brian Ujiie

Every CIO wants to have the best and the brightest team working for them. We understand that this may not be the case right now. Sure, we’ve got good people in the department, but not everyone knows everything that they need in order to be the best at their job. Many of your employees need some help. What they really need is some mentoring. They need someone who has “been there, done that” to provide them with some guidance. What you need, is a working mentoring program.

The Problem With Mentoring

CIOs have a problem when they make workplace mentorship programs optional: it turns out that the workers who would benefit the most are less likely to sign up. That is the conclusion of a study that was done. CIOs may think that those who are likely to benefit the most from mentoring are going to raise their hands and choose to participate. However, it turns out that it is actually the opposite. What has been found is that those who are likely to benefit the most from mentorship are those who are more likely to opt out.

In the study that was done, the researchers followed two groups of newly hired sales agents at a company. In the first group, half of the sales agents were assigned to a mentor and half were not. In the second group, new hires could choose if they wanted a mentor. But of those who went ahead and requested a mentor, only half actually were given mentors. As part of the study, mentors were instructed to share product knowledge, discuss their own sales tactics and practice the company’s sales protocol with protégés. What the study showed was that when mentoring was required, the mentored employees generated 19% more daily revenue during the first two months than the nonmentored employees, and their outperformance persisted over the six months of the study.

Things got very interesting when you took a look at the group where mentoring was optional. For this group outcomes were markedly different. The gains associated with required mentorship virtually disappeared when employees were given the option of opting out. The new hires who asked for and received a mentor ended up not performing significantly better than those who asked for but did not receive a mentor. And of those who opted out completely, they performed significantly worse than those who asked for but ended up not receiving a mentor. It turned out that the weakest performers, as suggested by the results – those who would have likely benefited most from mentorship – were the ones who were least likely to ask for assistance.

Mentoring Results

What conclusions can CIOs draw from this study? The authors of the study said these results suggest that those who asked for a mentor had the ambition and skills to succeed regardless of whether they received mentorship. The takeaway is that CIOs should set an expectation that all employees participate in mentorship programs.

The study was not perfect. It was not able to predict who might opt out of mentorship. CIOs need to understand that there are many reasons people choose not to participate. Participants may suspect there are no mentors with whom they would feel comfortable for cultural or gender reasons. They may feel that they may not be good enough to be mentored, or that they are too vulnerable in a mentorship relationship, or perhaps that they don’t have the extra time it might require. It is also possible that they might also think that asking for assistance signals weakness.

The reason that CIOs should spend time trying to address this issue is because that reluctance to ask for help can negatively affect performance and career advancement. CIOs need to take action because requiring mentorship will lift people who might otherwise be going to fall behind their peers.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs understand that one of their key responsibilities is to create a team of IT workers who are well suited to take on the daily challenges that they will be facing. However, a great deal of what these workers need to do can only be learned though experience. What this means is that the workers who have the knowledge need to take the time to share what they know with other workers. This is where mentoring comes in. However, how can CIOs make sure that the workers who need mentoring will get it?

A study was done where new sales recruits were divided into two groups. One group was further split into two groups and one of these groups was given a mentor. In the other group, people could request a mentor, but only half of them received on. The results of the study showed that the group where mentoring was required generated the greatest sales. Ultimately, the people who really needed mentoring never asked for it.

CIOs need to understand that they may have a problem on their hands. The people in the IT department who would most benefit from having a mentor may not be the ones who are requesting a mentor. What this means is that CIOs have to step in and make mentoring mandatory. Take this step and you should be able to see improvements in your IT department.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that a CIO can sell mandatory mentoring to his or her department?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Back when the pandemic was a big deal, CIOs had to scramble to make it so that everyone at the company could work remotely. Now that this problem has been solved, there are still a lot of workers who continue to work remotely using the tools that we have provided them with. This can be a boon for these workers who don’t want to make the trek into the office. However, as CIOs we need to understand that remote work has both benefits and costs. Do you fully understand what the cost of working remotely is?