Implementing coaching and mentorship in your business

They say employees are the lifeblood of all organisations - yes, without customers, your business would not exist, but employees are the ones who keep your customers happy, who help you make important decisions, so training and developing them should be one of your key priorities.

While training employees is central to any business's skills development strategy, coaching and mentoring should be seen as key to helping employees integrate what they learn in training with what they do at work. It is also an effective way to maximise knowledge transfer - particularly those core skills that are unique to the business - and facilitate succession planning.

Of course, many businesses don't immediately see the value in coaching and mentoring. With budgets constraints and fewer people available to carry out the business of the company, employers may find it difficult to sacrifice the time and resources needed for an effective programme.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Coaching and mentoring falls under category G of the learning programme matrix. This means that initiatives relating to it can form part of recognised expenditure under the skills development element of broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE). As per the proposed amendments to the scorecard, which were issued in March 2018, 25% of the leviable amount target can now be recognised. This expenditure is related to the informal training of black employees, however, training the mentor programmes could also form part of recognised expenditure even if the mentors being trained are white.

How to go about implementing an effective coaching and mentoring programme

Coaching and mentoring programmes are especially effective for identifying and training the future leaders of the organisation, so it important to identify suitable candidates. At face value, it would be ideal to identify black employees, particularly female black employees or employees with disabilities, who can be trained to occupy leadership positions. However, women employees, in general, should also be earmarked for development.
Here are some tips on how to effectively design and implement a programme.

1. Differentiate between coaching and mentoring.

Leadership management books offer an easy way to differentiate the two. But the rule of thumb is that coaching is task-oriented, while mentoring is relationship-oriented. For example, a coaching programme will focus on concrete issues such as effective management, presentation skills, strategy formulation, and financial management. These require a skilled coach who can transfer such knowledge. It is short-term in nature - so it might involve three-day training sessions or online exercises.

By contrast, mentorship is long term in nature. It involves a more experienced or seasoned leader in the organisation taking an employee under their wing. Typically, this will entail conversations around challenges faced in the employee 's leadership journey. The mentor acts as a sounding board, helping the employee solve problems that might emerge along the way. The mentor acts as an adviser.
Coaching and mentorship should work hand in hand.

2. Determine your objectives

What does the business want to achieve? Does it want to fast-track identified candidates to fill identified positions in the short term, or does it want to create a pipeline of future leaders to fill positions as and when they become available when current leaders move on?

Understanding the objectives will help employers determine the content and time frame of the coaching and mentoring programme.

3. Formalise the programme

Employers should consider drawing up contracts and agreements in order to evaluate the performance of candidates. This will also assist in measuring the effectiveness of the programme and make it simpler to claim points in their BEE Scorecards.

4. Budget

Set aside funding for the programme. Align this with your overall skills development budget.

5. Identify your candidates

Does the business have candidates already employed within the business or does it want to recruit potential candidates? What are the skills and competencies required to be a candidate? This is especially important if the aim of the programme is to retain high-performing employees who currently occupy operational roles.

6. Train your coaches and mentors
Identify existing employees who will carry out the programme. These will likely be current managers and executives in the business. Remember, their training can also be recognised as a skills development expenditure under the B-BBEE scorecard.

Aligning with your B-BBEE scorecard

The important thing to note is that businesses can maximise category G spending with an effective mentorship programme. This will allow businesses to ensure that they have a steady stream of future leaders, whilst bolstering B-BBEE compliance.