How Industry Based Mentoring Can Fast Track Leadership In Aged Care

By Cynthia Payne 

The aged care industry continues to face its greatest challenges, driven by the reform agenda and now, currently the pivot driver of a major health crisis for Australia’s most vulnerable population – older Australians. It is recognised that mortality in an older person with COVID-19 can result in a death rate as high as 30%. Now, more than ever, industry leaders (Boards, Executives and Managers) need to rise up and lean into those challenges, in order to bring about the best possible outcomes for themselves, their organisations and their consumers. 

The benefits of mentoring for organisations are clear and wide-ranging. Mentoring can help organizations retain leadership, increase diversity, develop up-and-coming nextgen leaders, and capture institutional knowledge. It provides leaders with the time to think about what they have in front of them; brings focus to their performance, their team’s performance and also the performance of the business unit or organisation they lead. 

In formal mentoring programs, mentors and mentees are paired up with explicit developmental objectives for the mentee. Typically, there is a predetermined duration for the relationship. Informal mentoring contains far less structure. Mentors and mentees pair up organically, and can often seem more like a friendship than a business relationship.

My greatest experience with this is as a Lead Mentor for over 10 years with the University of Sydney Lucy Mentoring program. A program connecting undergraduate women, typically in male dominated courses like Business, Economics and Law, and pairing them with Executive women. The success of the program is such that it continues today in many Universities as a way to bridge the gap from University to the world of work and Corporate Australia.

Which mentoring strategy is most effective for your organisation?

Companies considering mentoring should understand the benefits and downsides of both informal and formal mentoring. 

For organizations that are just beginning to build mentoring capabilities, informal mentoring might seem less daunting than trying to launch a formal mentorship program. Additionally, there are benefits to informal mentoring over formal mentoring programs:

  1. Informal mentoring feels more “natural.” When a mentor and mentee pair up informally, it’s usually the result of chemistry between the two individuals, at least in part. Just like in a dating or romantic relationship, chemistry can drive a significant portion of an informal mentoring relationship. Besides being beneficial for the mentee’s development, informal mentor-mentee pairs often spend time together simply because they enjoy each other’s company.
  2. Informal mentoring is mentee-driven. Without a formal structure to kick-start a mentoring relationship, informal mentoring is generally driven by the mentee as it is the mentee that seeks out a mentor. Whether the mentee wants career mentoring to advance up the ladder, move into a new functional area, or develop new skills, they aren’t likely to pursue and stay in a mentoring relationship that doesn’t help them achieve their broader career goals. As a result, the mentoring relationship is likely to hit on whatever goals the mentee has.
  3. Informal mentoring is more flexible. Sometimes, a mentee may only need a business mentor for a short period of time, perhaps one or two sessions. This can happen if they need help thinking through a tough career decision, or need to develop a specific skill or competency.Other times, mentoring relationships continue to be beneficial for both the mentor and mentee for several years, even decades. Informal mentoring allows this kind of flexibility.

However, there are some limitations to informal mentoring. Depending on the goals of the leader or the drivers behind the organisation’s investment and that usually links to clear deliverables or performance outcomes. 

Formal mentoring programs can provide greater benefits:

  1. Formal mentoring programs are better for supporting diversity and inclusion efforts. Employees don’t always have equal access to mentors in informal mentoring. For example, in some organisations men in leadership positions are reticent to mentor younger women for fear that the relationship will be seen as improper. This is a major problem for organizations with top leadership that is male-dominated, since men in leadership positions are more open to mentoring early career men than women. Further, a big part of the “chemistry” that many mentors may feel with informal mentees tends to be the result of a shared background, such as attending the same school, or being a part of the same religion, gender or race. As a result, women often get shut out of mentoring relationships more often than men. For organizations that are trying to increase the number of women in their leadership ranks, informal mentoring isn’t likely to be the best choice.
  2. Formal mentoring programs can more easily span business units and geographic areas. One major benefit that mentoring offers large organizations is the ability to provide perspective to different areas of the business.For example, a mentee in research and development paired with a mentor from the sales department will be able to expand their perspective to include a different functional viewpoint. Or, mentor-mentee pairs in different areas of the country, or even the globe, can help different geographic units establish stronger relationships.With informal mentoring, mentor-mentee pairs are more likely to be from the same business unit or geographic area, since their pairing is typically dependent on them “running into” one another in the first place. With formal mentoring, individuals can be paired up based on other compatibility factors other than convenience.
  3. Formal mentoring programs can be more easily tied to organizational objectives. With informal mentoring programs, mentoring relationship objectives tend to be set by the mentee.This may or may not be at odds with what the organizational needs are. With formal mentoring programs, the organization plays a much bigger role in defining the objectives for the mentoring relationship.For example, an organization may want to grow its leadership capabilities. While this goal can easily be supported with a formal mentoring program, it would be hit-or-miss for informal mentoring to achieve the same objective.

Now it’s time to bring a third type of mentoring into play…

Industry based mentoring combines formal and informal mentoring to adopt a blended approach.  

Industry based mentoring programs connect a combination of both – but importantly link a credentialled Mentor with a very specific set of industry experience and skills, which are not necessarily translatable into a standard course format. 

The AnchorMentor model brings an experienced aged care leader and with a formalised model to underpin the relationship. This model particularly benefits leaders who have been elevated up a tier in accountability or seniority, or they may be a new entrant to the industry. 

Example: 

  • A newly appointed CEO who has not fulfilled that role before
  • A new entrant Business Leader who has extensive adjacent skills but is a newcomer into the aged care industry
  • A Board member who needs to better understand the industry they have just joined, or is a new appointment to an aged care board. 

The signature Anchor Excellence – AnchorMentor program supplies a format of phone and/or video based connections. The Mentee is asked performance based questions relating to their roles, their aspirations and the needs of their organisations. This is translated into a focussed plan when the mentor brings a focus to content, discussion and problem solving; ideal for new executives that are executing 100 day commencement plans. Goals are set and the joint focus of both the mentor and mentee is to focus performance over the proceeding ten 1.5 hours sessions. 

The results speak volumes – higher retention, faster fit for role and organisation needs, and a Leader who feels valued and supported from the very beginning of their employment. 

All critical ingredients for an workforce that is agile and rises up to the challenges ahead of them

For more information about the AnchorMentor Program please email info@anchorexcellence.com and we will send you a brochure and arrange a brief chat about your needs.