After nearly 40 years in the hospitality industry, Kevin Murphy says mentorship has been a long-term commitment for his business. “However, within the last five or six years, it’s become so much more important [due to] labour issues facing companies,” says the president and CEO of Charlottetown-based Murphy Hospitality Group (MHG). “And no matter what business you’re in, if you’re not investing in a mentoring program or initiative, your labour issue will be more acute.”
Across MHG, which includes 16 food-and-beverage operations, two boutique hotels and the Prince Edward Island Brewing Company, mentoring is about nurturing a culture of continuous learning. For example, MHG’s Culinary-U program involves education sessions eight times a year, with chefs developing and coaching back-of-house teams on topics essential to operating a successful kitchen.
The company also invites staff at various levels — from chefs to managers — to participate in business-planning sessions. “They feel ownership and like they can contribute, but we also want to teach them about the business side of the [industry],” says Murphy.
Less formally, mentors in the organization will identify promising employees and help send them back to school. “A lot of times, we’ll ask what education they have and if they have any interest in going back to school. We’ll help them do that and work the schedule around them,” says Murphy. “A great example is, two years ago, we had an assistant manager with a diploma from the local college. She was very bright and I said, ‘did you ever think about getting a business degree?’ Well, this person is now graduating with a business degree. And she’s still with us.”
For employees and businesses alike, there are myriad benefits to mentoring programs. On the mentee side, some well-known benefits are improved skills, higher job satisfaction and guidance on professional development. For mentors, the rewards include recognition as experts within the organization, learning new perspectives and gaining personal satisfaction. The translation for businesses? Happy, engaged employees and greater retention.
According to a recent CNBC/Survey Monkey Workplace Happiness Survey, companies that embrace a culture of mentorship boost workplace happiness and lower the likelihood of losing their best performers. The June 2019 survey of nearly 8,000 U.S. employees found those with mentors are more likely to say they’re satisfied with their jobs (91 per cent compared to 79 per cent) and are more likely to say their company provides opportunities for advancement (71 per cent compared to 47 per cent). Four in 10 workers who don’t have a mentor say they’ve considered quitting their job in the past three months.
Sodexo Canada has had a formal leadership-development mentoring program in place since 2010. The company spent the last year consulting its operators and redesigning and updating the program. As Ariane Montcalm, director of Human Resources at Sodexo Canada, explains, the new program takes advantage of various forms of learning, such as peer-to-peer and project-based. It will consist of group-based mentoring with one coach per three or four learners. Participants will be supported by various modes of learning, including group discussions, an online curriculum, an on-the-job project and a series of live and virtual learning events.
In the past, Sodexo Canada’s mentoring programs have helped employees develop skills, grow their relationship-building abilities and develop a sharper understanding of their own development path, says Montcalm. In turn, mentoring allows the company to develop its future leaders.
“Mentoring is a powerful form of learning that can grow our emerging leaders,” says Montcalm. “They can develop critical and strategic-thinking skills, which are often more challenging to develop than through traditional learning modes. We’ve seen many of our employees’ careers launched following their participation in mentoring programs.”
For foodservice operators that want to start a mentoring program or improve their existing one, Montcalm offers a few tips. First, be clear on your goals and the constraints you have to work within. Then find the right balance of structure and flexibility. That way, the experience can be customized to each learner, while still achieving desired business goals. Finally, secure resources and leadership support to ensure the program is successfully managed. “A lot of work happens behind the scenes of a successful mentoring program,” says Montcalm.
Written by Rebecca Harris