Software Executive Magazine

December 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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ment skills that can be refined through mentorship), they are much more likely to be engaged in their role. 2. MENTORING LEADS TO MORE ENGAGED AND PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES. In a Harvard Business Review article, "Why Top Young Managers Are In A Nonstop Job Hunt," Monika Ham- ori, Jie Cao, and Burak Koyuncu report that 95 percent of young "high achievers" were actively searching for other job opportunities. These high achievers left their companies after 28 months on average. The research- ers conclude, "Dissatisfaction with some employee-de- velopment efforts appears to fuel many early exits … they're not getting much in the way of formal devel- opment, such as training, mentoring, and coaching — things they also value highly." So mentorship is a clear way to keep your high-performing employees engaged and prevent them from seeking out the next best thing. 3. TALENT WILL FLOCK TO COMPANIES THAT INVEST IN THEIR DEVELOPMENT. There's a tight competition for tech talent. And if your company has a well-known consumer or employer brand, you may have a constant influx of applications. But if not, how do you stand apart from your compe- tition? Sure, you can buy the Ping Pong tables and the kegerators, but every other software company has the same perks. However, if you publicly commit to the development of your employees through a mentor- ship program, this is one way of clearly differentiating yourself from your competitors. Research from SHRM showed that only 39 percent of companies had positive- ly leveraged their professional and career development benefits in recruiting, so there's still a considerable op- portunity here. One thing to note: Engineers have a strong preference for being coached by other engineers. I've observed this firsthand when a Bay Area-based tech company had of- fered an internal mentorship program whereby people could be paired with mentors from various disciplines. When they launched the program, only 5 percent of engineers opted in (despite the fact that engineers comprised 40 percent of the company). Yet when they offered mentors who came from a strictly engineering background, participation skyrocketed. We can't expect engineers to automatically be skilled at managing people, but we can provide them with the tools that will help them learn this skill in a way that's natural and comfortable for them. By offering men- torship with experienced engineers who have solved similar problems in comparable situations, you're not just helping the manager in question but also the rest of their team, your product, and your company as a whole. Isn't it worth giving it a shot? S direct reports, the rest of your company, and even to potential candidates who are considering joining your company. Let's take a look at some of the ways a struc- tured mentorship program can have a positive impact on these different groups. 1. A STRUCTURED MENTORSHIP PROGRAM IS GREAT FOR RETENTION. Most engineers love a challenge, but they also want to feel like what's being asked of them is reasonable. If you place a strong individual contributor into a management position and they suddenly have to adjust to an entirely new way of working, they will undoubtedly need support — and a structured process. Even experienced managers can find themselves in unfamiliar terrain if they're trans- ferred to a new department or if they are now the senior leader managing engineers who used to be their peers. Mentoring can ensure retention in two critical ways. First, you'll retain the manager. Showing your man- agers that you value and support them makes them much more likely to stay with your company. Accord- ing to Gallup research, 87 percent of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development op- portunities" as important to them in a job. This re- search also shows "opportunities to learn and grow" to be one of the top three factors in retaining mil- lennial talent. Culture Amp also analyzed data from hundreds of companies and found that 52 percent of people chose to leave a company due to the lack of de- velopment opportunities. Second, and probably the most important, when you in- vest in your managers and give them the skills they need to better lead their team, you're amplifying the impact and retention of your entire workforce. Gallup research has shown a direct correlation between managers' be- havior and employee engagement and retention — in fact, one in two people surveyed has left a job specifically to escape a bad manager. When employees feel their man- agers are open and approachable, help them set perfor- mance goals, and focus on their strengths (all manage- Sure, you can buy the Ping Pong tables and the kegerators, but every other software company has the same perks. However, if you publicly commit to the development of your employees through a mentorship program, this is one way of clearly differentiating yourself from your competitors. 35 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM DECEMBER 2017

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