Battling The Talent Crisis

Mentoring Software

In the new organizational era, it appears we have a new buzz term: “talent crisis.” On September 19, 2008, BusinessWeek reported in an article called “The Global Talent Crisis” that, “Companies and countries will need more than 4 billion people by 2020 to fill knowledge worker positions. Projections indicate that there will be shortages between 32 million and 39 million people to fill these positions. The U.S. will have the biggest shortfall—needing as many as an additional 14 million people.”

To add to the bleak picture, consider this: A 2008 study by Deloitte Research found that one in three new hires leave a company within the first year of employment. The first-year turnover rate grew to 31.7 percent in 2007. In addition, according to Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and Success Factors, which conducted a survey of over 700 human resource professionals (in cooperation with the Human Capital Institute), 98% of respondents said competition for talent is increasing in their industry, and 65% said it’s increasing to a “high” or “very high” degree.

As you can see, attracting, developing, and retaining top talent is likely to remain a challenge. What companies need is a proactive and viable solution to this challenge. Luckily, that solution exists: mentoring programs. Mentoring programs involve matching talented, experienced employees (mentors) with promising, less experienced employees (mentees). Over time, working one-on-one, the mentor and mentoree—and the organization—reap real rewards.

A successful mentoring program benefits your organization by:

  • Enhancing strategic business initiatives
  • Encouraging retention
  • Improving productivity
  • Engender collaboration across departments
  • Linking employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
  • Using your own employees, instead of outside consultants, as internal experts for professional development

In this article, I would like to share how Mentoring can benefit your organization:

Attract the Best & Brightest

Your organization’s reputation is a huge incentive for eager and skilled prospects to join your organization. However, with ‘talent crisis’ this scenario changes. Think of it like this: if a prospective employee is deciding between a company with an outstanding reputation but a notoriously brutal work environment and an organization with an outstanding reputation and a proven mentoring program that grows and nurtures its top talent, which company will the person likely choose? A planned approach to a person’s career development, such as a mentoring program, has become a “must-have” for organizations that want to attract top talent. When marketing to prospective employees, advertising that your company has a professional and effective mentoring program can be a significant differentiator between you and your competitors.

Develop Your Employees into Tomorrow’s Leaders

Developing your company’s junior employees can be a daunting challenge. Where does a new employee go if he or she wishes to gain from the experience and wisdom of a more seasoned manager? Yes, new employees can always turn to their immediate supervisors and HR directors, but there is an inherent hesitation to do this because the new employee doesn’t want to appear “incompetent” or “weak.” Mentoring can provide not only the experiential wisdom, but also a supportive environment whereby the newer employee can share the real issues affecting success. During the mentoring relationship, mentees and mentors will discuss important issues, such as how to interact and work effectively with your top clients; how to get along and communicate with peers and upper management; how to understand and fit in better with your organization’s “corporate culture”; and how to deal with increased scrutiny; plus so much more. While baptism by fire often remains a popular strategy for getting new employees up to speed, it still makes sense to provide a safe haven—the mentoring relationship—where the associate can relax and let down his or her guard.

Retain Top Talent & See High ROI

According to the Deloitte Research study, “Research suggests that a company’s ‘HiPos’ are the first to be poached and are less likely to stay. Also, a study of investment banks found that when imported from elsewhere, stars rarely sustain their performance in the new organization.” The last thing you want to see is your HiPos walk across the street to one of your competitors. Talent retention affects the bottom line not only by reducing costs, but also by building an effective workforce. Companies often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting talent but then stop there and miss the opportunity to get the best return on their hiring investment. Mentoring is a strategic tool that has multiple outcomes for your organization:

  • Demonstrate to new employees the company’s investment in their future with the organization
  • Create a more effective contributor to the company’s overall goals
  • Engender a sense of loyalty in employees

Succeed in Succession Planning

Mentoring is an ideal strategy for enriching your succession-planning program. In succession planning, you’re targeting individual talent to take on increasingly more responsible positions and eventually assume a major position within your organization. This requires solid experience and solid advice from seasoned employees. Adding mentoring as a method of pairing such individuals with your talent pool ensures that the right expertise will complement your succession-planning goals. Mentoring also ensures that your senior managers’ expertise will not be lost once they retire or leave the company. Rather, the expertise will be retained by having been shared with those who are poised to take their place.

It’s evident by now that mentoring programs can achieve many positive results when implemented in the most effective way. Also, read How DHL & Sun Nailed IT With Mentoring to know how you can implement a successful Mentoring Program.

Correct Mentor Mentee Matching Holds The Key

In order to make Mentoring Programs successful, an organization needs to make a significant investment of time and effort. However, investments made by the mentor and the mentee are even greater in terms of time and commitment.

It’s crucial then to make this investment worthwhile.  According to a research report by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit working for over 50 years towards building inclusive workplaces, Mentor-Mentee matching is the most important criteria for a Mentoring Program to be successful.

Successful Mentoring Software

How do you then do that? Here are three useful pointers for successful matching criteria:

Goals should be clear and objectively defined

Without having clarity around goals, it’s difficult to assess what kind of mentoring support is required. The mentee can approach this in multiple ways – self reflection, talk to peers and managers and take a self assessment for goal identification.

Clear Goals lead to Identifying support required

Once the goals are clear, the mentee would know what kind of skills are needed to reach the goals. The mentee can then reach out to the right mentors who have those skills or have overlapping interests and can help.

Matching Should Be Comprehensive

In order to ensure the match is compatible to the mentor mentee relationship, one needs to ensure that matching should be done not only at skills level but also at the interest level, personality type, etc. as they become crucial to the success of the relationship.

Matching with so many parameters can be complex and a manually daunting task. NxtSpark’s intuitive algorithm takes all the matching criteria into consideration and throws up the most optimal matches between a mentee and several mentors out of which either the Mentoring Program administrator or the Mentee can make a choice.

Have Startups Got Their People Strategy Right?


In the last few weeks there has been an interminable spate of news around Indian startups and their people. Amongst the high-profile exits were Punit Soni the Chief Product Officer of Flipkart left who left after a year at the Indian ecommerce giant, Anand Radhakrishnan CPO of Snapdeal, Manish Dugar, CFO and Samuel John Director, Operations for North America who left InMobi.

In another string of events around people, Flipkart, Stayzilla, Babajobs, Nearbuy and a few other startups delayed joining dates at premier B-school and engineering campus thereby inciting nationwide uproar against these brands and inviting the ire of the management of these prestigious schools.

A sea of opinions from industry experts and HR gurus started floating around on the mainstream and social media about why they shouldn’t have reneged on their offers or not postponed the joining dates. Like many others I also enjoyed reading these opinions and posts.

However, at this juncture, I want to take a step back and reflect on something deeper. Isn’t it time for us to take a pause and ponder what’s going wrong? Will it not be far more constructive to figure out what could be done to set it right rather than pass judgment on their decisions as wrong or right?

Here are a few thoughts and suggestions that I think startups should consider tackling some of these issues:

People Are The Biggest Brand Ambassadors of A Company

And I mean to include those who have worked in the past and those who didn’t get selected in the interview round. Every potential hire does a lot of research about the company before joining as career is one of the most important decisions of life. They find out about the company from their friends who are working in these companies. Also, as work is a significant part of our lives, employees (and former employees) talk often about the company with their friends and family.

So what do you do to meaningfully engage them? It has been observed that money and perks beyond a point are not sufficient motivators.

In 2010, Timothy Judge and others carried out a meta-analysis of research literature that covered over 15,000 individuals and found that the overlap between pay and job satisfaction is less than 2%!

A startup has a lot of business challenges and every employee goes through the same. Startups need to engage their workforce as they try to navigate through these challenges. Do employees have a sounding board in another employee who can help them with some clues? Do they have the ear of an industry veteran inside the company who can help them acquire the required skills to navigate? If the answers to these questions are in affirmative, then employees and alumni of startups will become the biggest PR machinery for your startup.

Talent Engagement Needs to Happen At All Levels

Even senior people need to feel engaged and they can do so by giving away from the veritable storehouse of knowledge and skills that they have because of their varied experiences and years of work across multiple companies and geographies. Established companies like Intel, Sun Microsystems and IBM have understood this very well and have designed Mentoring Programs to not only engage the junior and middle level employees but also gainfully engage their leadership cadres. Across all these levels, these have been able to grow people faster and have been able to retain them longer.

People Strategy Is A Part of Business Strategy

People Strategy is the cornerstone for a startup’s success.

Designing and implementing a sound People Strategy should not be interpreted as having stylish workspaces with candy colored work-pods, cutting-edge fitness equipment and coffee machines brewing beans sourced from Kenya, Sumatra and Brazil.

It’s also not definitely about astronomical salaries that are doled out as a trade off to the employee for the risk he’s taken of joining a startup. All of these are good to have provided there is a well thought out People Strategy to nurture and grow them.

A solid People Strategy should have a well meaning Mentoring Program which has the buy-in of the leadership team can address a lot of people issues and create effective engagement.

Startups should have a strong engagement process during On-boarding too, apart from the orientation. By mentoring the employees during On-boarding period, they get completely aligned with the culture and are able to find a sure footing, thus contributing to the organization sooner than expected.

Startups usually suffer from a deficit in leadership pipeline and a Mentoring Program can develop that by leveraging internal talent available in senior employees to groom high potential people for future leadership roles. This creates a huge engagement point for the senior employees as well as they contribute to the growth of the company and tend to stay around longer.

People Strategy should be a part of the Business Strategy of the startups and should have the leadership of the company completely involved in its drafting and implementation, without which Indian startups are bound to go through difficult times with their people.

Outcomes Of Mentoring in the Workplace



According to a recent study by US-based HR Consulting firm Manpower Group, employers need to check with millennials regularly about their career path and development. Rather than annual reviews, focus on near-term objectives. Frequent conversations will enhance their career prospects and long-term employability.

The importance of Mentoring couldn’t be stressed more, especially with an increasing number of organizations doing away with their Annual Performance Appraisals as now it calls for regular connects and conversations around career progress and development.

Mentoring has several positive outcomes for the employee as well as the organizations and can be classified into the following:

1.   Behavioral

a.    Increase in Performance e.g. business success, sales performance

b.    Decrease in Withdrawal behavior e.g. organizational turnover, absence from work

c.    Decrease in Withdrawal intentions e.g. intent to leave organization

d.   An increased tendency to help fellow employees e.g., mentoring others

2.   Attitudinal

a.    An increase in situational satisfaction & attachment e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment

b.    An improvement in career attitudes e.g., career satisfaction, career expectations, career expectations, perceived employment opportunity

3.   Health-related

a. Reduced psychological stress & strain e.g. anxiety, pessimistic world view, work stress, role conflict

b. Improvement in self-perceptions e.g., self-esteem, self-efficacy

4. Relational

a. Improvement in interpersonal relations e.g., positive peer relations, peer intimacy, satisfaction with coworkers, peer support, supervisor support, relationship quality

5. Motivational

a. Increase in motivation and a higher involvement in work e.g., hours worked, career planning, job involvement, motivation, aspiration, career commitment

6. Career

a. Improvement in career recognition & success parameters e.g. pay, promotion rate, prestige of job

b. Competence development e.g. communication skills, problem-solving skills, work knowledge, goal setting ability

To know more about how your organization could benefit from Mentoring Solutions, write to us at or

How DHL & Sun Microsystems Nailed It With Mentoring

mentoring1Based on a survey it has been found that corporate mentorship is on the rise, with 71% of Fortune 500 companies offering Mentorship Programs. While initiating a mentorship program at the workplace may seem like a daunting task, the rewards the mentors, mentees and company reap are well worth the time and effort.

A 2013 a study examined responses from more than 830 mentees and some 670 mentors participating in Sun Microsystem’s program. Employee retention rates climbed 69 % for the mentors and 72 % for the mentees over the seven-year period of the study. The increased retention resulted in a savings of $6.7 million in avoided staff turnover and replacement costs.

Since 2011, DHL Express has run an advanced mentoring program so employees can learn new skills, understand the company culture on a larger scale and develop a career path. Through this, 60 % of the mentees advanced their careers at the company over the course of a year.

The important takeaway is that Mentoring can deliver outstanding results when executed using the right processes.

Almost every progressive organization has tried Mentoring at the workplace but a lot of them have failed to get the best out of it, unlike DHL and Sun Microsystems. In this post, I want to highlight four critical success factors for a Mentoring Program:

Drive it from the top: Mentoring needs to be driven by the leadership and needs to be accorded its due importance. It can’t be just another HR intervention left to run on its own and die its own death after a while. It has to be driven with strategic intent to retain and engage its top talent and spearhead the organization’s business objectives.

Have a clear purpose: Any Mentoring program needs to have clearly defined objectives right at the onset. It’s equally imperative that the objectives are aligned with the business goals of the organization else the Mentoring Program soon loses its relevance and disappears in thin air.

Provide budgetary resources: An allocated budget is required so that the Mentoring program can run with sufficient resources. Mentoring often requires some amount of promotion for visibility inside the organization in order to sustain the interest of the mentees and the mentors. The program may also entail mentees or mentors traveling once in a while for in-person mentoring sessions. Finally, a reward and recognition program to highlight the best mentors may also be needed.

Execute Mentoring using a scalable technology platform: Most Mentoring Programs fall through the cracks when there is not enough information around how the program is running. A robust Mentoring program needs extensive communication and coordination between Mentor and Mentee, the HR and the management team. The HR and the Management team want to look at the program health through dashboards that give neat analysis of the Mentoring Program. Cloud based SaaS solutions offer easy, scalable solutions that offer a quick ROI on the investment.

Equip your Mentors: Mentors need to know how to manage the expectations of the Mentees and how to follow all the Mentoring processes well. A training program at regular intervals for the Mentors is an absolute must, where they can clarify their doubts and can strengthen their Mentoring skills.

NxtSpark offers Talent Development technology solutions around large-scale Mentoring in the workplace alongwith assistance of training Mentors by a panel of industry experts. Write to or for more information.

Why Indian Businesses Need To Invest in Talent Development System NOW?

India continues to be fastest growing country in the world. Riding on this growth, Indian businesses have grown rapidly in the last 15-20 years and now compete with some of the best names in their industry across the world. Indian businesses are no more local, and have gone global both in terms of capturing overseas market and acquiring global companies and brands. Indian businesses have grown sometimes at a pace so high that there has been no time to lay down critical processes and systems that support this growth and scale.

People remain the key differentiator in driving business value. It’s people, talent and their skills that are driving innovation, creativity and pushing the boundaries of business. It then goes without saying that talent is the biggest ‘asset’ for any business which supports all the strategic initiatives of the organization.  Businesses realize this amply well this but the investments commensurate with the significance of Talent Development have not been made.

In the course of my interactions with clients, I have found many organizations are using old enterprise HR solutions which don’t address the needs of modern day Talent Development. Some companies have in-house developed software or even excel sheet based solutions which are fall short of catering to the needs of Talent Development in today’s organizations.


Benefits of a Talent Development Solution

For Indian businesses to compete globally, they need to have superior tools for Talent Development. A modern workforce needs a modern Talent Development Solution which can create real engagement with the employees, drive learning initiatives and give measurable results.

A Talent Development Solution with advanced analytics can even point out possible career paths for HiPos (high potential employees) inside the organization. From the perspective of attrition management, analytics can predict ‘at risk’ employees and give time to the organization to plan and retain top talent resources.

A comprehensive Talent Development Solution can help an organization:

  1. Retain top talent as organizations go on an exponential growth path
  2. Boost engagement & productivity to drive the strategic interests of the organization
  3. Increase training effectiveness of both internal and external programs
  4. Acquire new business projects based on organization’s talent repository


Implementation of Talent Development Solution

The implementation of a Talent Development Solution is easy and can run simultaneously with existing legacy HR systems, if there be a need for the legacy systems to continue in the transition phase. The breakeven of investing in Talent Development Solution can happen in a few months when the implementation happens in the right spirit.

Businesses must understand this imperative and strategically invest in Talent Development Solution to remain competitive, globally!

Employees Don’t Leave Because of Bosses Alone

In today’s competitive scenario, retention of high quality talent is the key to business success and growth. Organizations amply well understand this, as a recent survey of across organizations demonstrates.

A number of studies show that Milennials are not leaving organizations because of their Bosses or Managers alone. They look at the culture of the organization, growth opportunities, job satisfaction and freedom to use their creativity at work. One of the most important factors of attrition, often overlooked, is when the employee can’t see a future for himself.  A career development plan that gives a sense to the employee that the organization cares for her and that there is a future in the organization becomes the cornerstone for the employee to have a long and successful career in the organization.

Talent Development Solution (TDS) holds the key to build and sustain a career development plan for the employees. The capabilities of a TDS are myriad but sadly not many organizations have implemented a TDS or have a half-baked one at best as the below info-graphic depicts.

A comprehensive TDS can enable the organization to:

  • co-create short-term, medium term and long term goals for its employees thus creating a sense of ownership and engagement amongst employees
  • build milestones and periodically review them with mentors / managers
  • have advanced features using analytics can suggest career paths within the organization; recommend training and certifications and schedule assessments
  • create dashboards that the business leaders could use to craft strategies based on the talent pool available
  • feed exhaustive real time inputs into the performance appraisal process
  • guide the HR using the dashboards to track talent progression and check the cost efficacy of training programs

A comprehensive TDS builds on existing HR data making it easy to implement. Considering that the cost of replacement can be anywhere from 40% for junior level employees to as high as 400% for employees in senior level or in specialist roles, the ROI for TDS can be achieved within a very short time.

The case for a well-crafted and implemented TDS is a strong one and it’s time every organization built it in their organizational strategy to stay competitive, stay relevant.

Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

This morning I started wondering about one of the most hackneyed questions posed by recruiters during interviews, ‘where do you see yourself in 3/5/10 years?’ While candidates have mastered the art of answering this question in all possible ways, I started dwelling upon what if every candidate really internalizedthe learning from this question.

I think there is an age-old wisdom hidden in this question which has perhaps been forgotten or got buried under the hustle to get a job. According to me, the question compels a candidate to have a methodical Career Plan.

In India, Career Planning has never got its due share of importance. Almost all professional colleges have a Training & Placement Cell, but there is no resource for Career Planning. In the US & UK, it is common practice and there are a vast number of resources related to Career Planning available within the campus or on their websites.

A Career Plan starts with a discovery and identification of skills and interests. Basis that different education courses and training programs can be taken up to augment these skills and interests. Assessment tools can then be used to test how much one knows in the areas of interest. Depending upon the Assessment scores, one can either retrain or apply for the right career opportunities. However, the Career Plan doesn’t end here. The key strength of a Career Plan is the set ofmilestones which have been planned at different intervals of time. With a properreview mechanism in place, one can revisit the Career Plan and check whether one is on-course to achieve those milestones.

A Career Plan is thus like a professional companion who walks alongside in your entire professional career and guides and prods you towards a successful career.

So before the question ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ is popped to you one more time, start building your Career Plan.

Why Employers and HR Leaders need to invest in Career Planning for their Employees

Why Employers and HR Leaders need to invest in Career Planning for their Employees

Conventional HR systems and processes have been investing money, time and effort in Learning & Development (L&D) of their employees over the years to develop talent. An annual L&D Calendar is drawn up at the onset of every year based on the identified training needs. A training schedule is then created and shared with the Business Leaders so that they could plan for releasing and making their team members available for the training programs.

However, this approach doesn’t solve a lot of issues. This approach is riddled with problems and it is at best ad-hoc and randomly allocates resources for something as important as Talent Development.

In an article written in Harvard Business Review, ‘How Employers Can Help Solve The Skills Gap’ by David Smith, Senior Managing Director of Talent & Organization group in Accenture Strategy, mentions “that there is a pervasive anxiety among managers who have trouble finding people for skilled positions, no matter what industry or region. At the same time, employees are just as stressed about the growing skills gap, Accenture research shows, and most of them are unclear about which skills they need to advance their careers.

Further he notes that the mismatch between the skills that companies need and the capabilities of people can result in delays in product releases, lower customer satisfaction, and loss of revenue. For instance, at one U.S. medical-device maker, a planned new heart defibrillator had to be scrapped after five years of expensive effort because the company’s quality engineers did not meet federal requirements — due to their inadequate knowledge and skills.

While employees take the responsibility to develop their own skills, they’re not getting good guidance from employers about exactly which skills would be most beneficial. As a result, they tend to focus narrowly on technology skills, the Accenture survey reports. Few people have updated other in-demand skills such as problem-solving or analytics.”

I believe the solution to the ‘Talent Conundrum’ lies in a methodical approach, which I call as the Career Plan. I have explained the concept of a Career Plan in my previous post, Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

One of the obvious beneficiaries of a Career Plan is the employee himself, but dig a little deeper and you will see that the Employer is a bigger beneficiary. A Career Plan can be co-created by the employee and the employer, as both of them stand to gain in the short as well as the long run. Allow me to explain:

Better Engagement & Retention:  An employee whose Career Plan involves active participation of the Employer will have better visibility of how he will grow in the organization over time and will take active ownership of his self development and not just go through the motions of Training and Workshops. He sees a future for himself in the organization, feels engaged and is highly likely to stay longer with the organization. Attrition rates can be successful combated using a robust Career Planning process for each and every employee of the organization.

Strategic Diversification:  An employer playing custodian of the Career Plan of its employees will have a dynamic inventory of the skills available at any given point of time. Basis these skills, the organization can draw up strategies for diversifying into new lines of businesses, launch new products, foray into new markets and have an edge over competitors.

Higher Productivity: An employee who is eminently aware of his Career Plan will be able to upgrade his skills for the upcoming requirements of his organization and will be more productive when meeting demanding customers’ requirements as against not being able to deliver as per expectations (exemplified above in the case of a medical-device maker in US)

Better Returns on L&D dollars: With a Career Plan in place, instead of planning for Training Programs as a mandate, the HR team can sharply focus on areas that need to be addressed depending upon the skill gaps and interests that need to be polished into strategic strengths to meet the changing needs of the organization.

In a world disrupted by start-up ideas, for organizations employees are its key assets and a Career Plan can be an effective weapon in its arsenal to attract and hold on to these key assets. The organizations need to become future forward and take up Career Planning for its employees in a concerted way. It’s time employers and HR Leaders took note of this and incorporate the process of Career Planning as a non-negotiable element in their L&D and talent strategy.

What’s Lion King got to do with Career Planning & Mentoring?

What's Lion King got to do with Career Planning & Mentoring?

The Lion King went on to become one of most loved and the best animated movie of our times. We love it for its animation, music and the story, but is there more to it?

Well, I think so. We can take a few cues about Career Mentoring from the movie.

Throughout the movie, we see Simba had Mufasa as his Mentor. I am hand-picking three snippets from the movie and correlating them here with examples and anecdotes.

Snippet #1: In his early childhood, Simba learnt tangible skills from Mufasa like how to pounce. I call it ‘learning the ropes’.

A Mentor can tell you the tricks of the trade, early on in your career. A Mentor can tell you what skills you should pick up and form a solid foundation for your career. You can plan to acquire and hone these skills, and have them ready when you need them the most.

Snippet #2: Simba also gets a philosophical byte from his Mentor Mufasa, when he ventures into the forbidden elephant graveyard. After he is rescued by Mufasa, he is told ‘being brave doesn’t mean you have to go looking for trouble’. I call it ‘getting exposed’ when you are not yet ready for the challenges.

One of the organizations I worked for was going through a wave of tremendous growth. It expanded into new lines of businesses, new territories and constantly needed new people to manage these businesses and territories. So it got into a process of building Inventory Leadership. There were people who got promotions back-to-back, year-on-year and because they didn’t have the requisite skills for the next level of responsibility, they ‘got exposed’.  With Mentoring & Career Planning in place, a great Mentor would have shared insights and saved a lot of people from these utter failures.

Snippet #3: Simba who  is all grown-up and has gone away from the Pride Lands, is taken to the pond by the mandrill Rafiki where he sees a reflection of Mufasa. Mufasa reminds Simba, “Remember who you are”. This is perhaps the most profound Mentoring take-away from the movie.

A Mentor is someone who will remind you of your strengths, your passion and your true place in the Sun. Along with you, he can put in place a Career Plan which can guide you on your career journey and can be especially helpful when you have deviated in the course of your career. You can also refer to the Career Plan when deciding on what assessments to take, which training programs to undergo and what skills to acquire, when thinking of your next career move. The Career Plan can also be reviewed and dynamically change as new career opportunities emerge and the business landscape changes.

I may have stretched my argument a tad too far but it looked seemed right when I looked at it from a Mentoring perspective. Happy to hear your thoughts on the same.