Finding human connection in employee development

by | Apr 5, 2019

Regardless of what type of organisation you work for, you can hazard a guess there is a team of HR & People specialists working on high value people strategy, culture programs, employee engagement and the newest trend in the HR world – employee experience. Never have we been more focused on engaging our people in the right way, with the right initiatives and work environment that gives meaning and purpose. But to do that, we need to connect with our people on a different level – one that is based around human connection, trust and empathy.

According to Gallup just 14% of Australian workers are actively engaged at work. With 15% of employees actively disengaged (i.e.: making life uncomfortable for the people around them) and 71% merely engaged, we need to find that sweet spot of high performance and motivation where people move from active disengagement to that of investment in themselves and their organisation. Organisations need to provide better learning opportunities that give people a sense of individualism, and of their development being of importance to themselves and the business.

As learning and development solutions move toward more digital solutions, micro learning, MOOC’s, virtual reality and self paced learning programs, we need to remember the balance of human interaction.

Enter stage left: Mentoring.

One of the most bespoke ways of developing professional skills and knowledge is through access and exposure to people who have been in similar situations, real humans that have had real experiences and can support others on their journey. When organisations embrace mentoring as a option for their employees, they signal that they value individual development and a high level of care for their most important asset. The advantage of this individual approach to development is that it is done in real time, is responsive rather than reactive, is human centred and completely bespoke – the relationship provides exactly what the mentee needs in that time period where the mentor is focussed on one thing – them. It’s personalised development at its best.

As the workforce is morphing into something we never thought possible 20 years ago, people are seeking more; more desire to be challenged and stretched, and to grow into careers that we could only ever dream of. They want purpose, meaning, to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Our people want to know more, do more, BE more. And in turn, that means more for our organisations.

Having a mentor is like enjoying a lecturer, trainer and coach all in one – they are there for us, to work on our growth. Oprah Winfrey said “a mentor is someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view”.

“If organisations can tap into just 10% more of their employees, we can begin to imagine a brighter future for our relationships and impact to the business.”

The beauty of mentoring is that through human connection, a relationship with a mentor gives us the ability to take what we need from our real-life role model – and use it to test out for ourselves. Think about how you learned to ride a bike – you most likely imitated someone, you followed their leg movements, sat with similar posture, held onto the handlebars in the same way, put pressure on your feet to power through. As time went on, you started to adjust your position to something that was comfortable for you, maybe you moved your seat to suit your height, or sat with posture that made you relax into riding. In this learning, you took what you needed, adjusted what wasn’t quite you and found your own style.

The intensity of learning from a mentor builds up higher levels of self awareness, provides us with confidence and helps us uncover unrealised skills, strengths and approaches we may have taken years to uncover if not for the dynamic that mentoring offers. In these skills we learn to build stronger, more professionally intimate relationships through trust, improved communication, empathy and vulnerability. We learn to be authentic – to let our full selves be seen.

It is clear, that in a day and age where employee turnover and disengagement is at an all-time high, its time to keep a focus on human interactions. Where we get to experience someone else’s success through their stories and experiences, it becomes more tangible. We can see growth, contribution, the hope of creating something amazing. And in all of this, we trust that there is possibility for us. The tiny takeaways that we experience in bespoke, human centered learning can change the way we work – and think, and that in itself can completely change the way we work, learn and interact.

First published for Mentorloop

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