As organizations mull over how to prepare the next generation of leaders, many of them have developed mentoring programs. Yet, given the accelerating speed of business and the rapidly approaching talent shortage, traditional mentoring arrangements might not offer the swiftness and agility enterprises need to compete.
In an effort to bring mentoring into the knowledge economy, IBM has attempted to reinvent the concept. What it has come up with is “intelligent mentoring,” a suite of programs that blends varying aims and delivery methods.
“About two years ago, as we realized we were entering an era of knowledge and innovation, we decided to revise our mentoring program,” said Sheila Forte-Trammell, learning consultant and co-author of Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships. “We anchored mentoring on three pillars: organizational intelligence, connecting people and business impact.”
The idea behind organizational intelligence is that employees develop their individual capabilities via mentoring, but are expected to share what they learn throughout the enterprise to bridge the company’s leadership, knowledge, and generational and diversity gaps.
“Sharing knowledge throughout IBM is not optional,” Forte-Trammell said. “It’s something that we expect individuals who are part of a high-performing organization to do.”
IBM’s cross-functional approach to mentoring fulfills all three pillars of its model. Additionally, with a combination of rotational mentoring, job shadowing and experiential learning, intelligent mentoring imbues employees with “depth and breadth,” Forte-Trammell explained.
“We look at mentoring as more of a talent process,” she said. “What it does as far as moving up the ranks is concerned is position people to develop a competitive portfolio to get higher responsibilities in the business. The tendency in the past was to focus on mentoring for the purpose of promotion. But what we’ve done is broaden the outlook here, so employees develop depth and breadth through the mentoring process. When I talk about depth and breadth, I mean we’re looking for people who master their disciplines while looking more broadly across business units, so they can develop a multidisciplinary skills portfolio.”
We’ll examine IBM’s intelligent mentoring program further in next Monday’s “Executive Briefings” newsletter.