Investing in young talent with coaching and mentoring

Special to Times of Oman

Organisations often speak about the lack of local talent. Local talent often speaks about the lack of opportunities in the market. Both sides have a story to share. It is not one side versus another nor who's right or who's wrong. The context differs from situation to another.

We've heard the story of fresh graduates feeling entitled to automatically land the dream job. We've heard the story of employers investing on local talent with minimal productivity and commitment in return. There's also the case of proactive youth ready to take up more responsibility and learn while the organisational system and culture does not support that.

We see budgets spent on training, but that learning is not sustained or put to practical use. We see major investments on national projects to also create job opportunities, but a challenge of finding local expertise. We see talent positioned in jobs that do not match their strengths, but they continue in that role not enjoying the work and not delivering as expected.  The misalignment between certain academic qualifications and requirements of the job market also leads some employers to manage their Omanisation targets by just filling numbers. There's additionally a drive towards encouraging entrepreneurship in the country so that more youth undertake the entrepreneurial path and in turn this contributes to further job creation.

Among all these scenarios, there's a critical element of relevance to each story. This element is the role of coaching and mentoring. Little do we give this element enough attention part of the national talent solution, and much does it have to offer. It enables us to approach these scenarios with a different kind of thinking so that we can yield different results. After all, "you can't solve the problem with the same thinking that created it."

Coaching and mentoring are both considered learning relationships. According to authors Connor and Pokora, these relationships help foster people's potential, equip them to lead their development, and enable them to achieve the results they desire.  Investing on training and youth programmes would reap lesser results compared to incorporating a coaching and mentoring aspect that sustains and engraves the learning. Most successful individuals have had some form of coaching and mentoring, and rather than keeping it to chance for young talent to benefit for the same, organisations should launch programmes that bring that value. The use of coaching and mentoring across local organisations supported by management buy-in is not widespread. Organisations in Oman should consider what they currently have in place to coach and mentor their young talent. Expecting coaching and mentoring to informally happen does not bring about the desired results.

A formal process to sustain, measure and report on results is required. This may also be combined with an organization's orientation program where a mentor or coach from the organisation is assigned.  Certain organisations may state that their employees have no time for a formal coaching and mentoring programme. It doesn't have to be a major scale programme; it may start small, focused and based on assessment of employees with their personal development plans.

Coaching may be implemented as a one-to-one session or a one-to-many as a process of team coaching. Mentoring enables the opportunity to transfer knowledge, which is especially relevant to transfer expatriate knowledge to local know-how. The organisation would have talent that is not only organsationally fit, but whose interpersonal, communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills would be enhanced.  I have interacted with many youth who are thirsty to learn yet may be demotivated or ineffectively steering their direction. Although the prevailing learning culture has been based on the traditional approach of receiving information and being told what is required, coaching and mentoring brings a shift of taking ownership of this learning.

The learning culture in organisations that adopt this would also have the potential of creating the "entrepreneurial spirit" with commitment to on-going development of personal knowledge and skills. Conversations of developing young talent should therefore strongly incorporate coaching and mentoring initiatives otherwise we remain at the surface not realising the deep hidden potential. There's no scarcity of talent. There's plenty of talent ready to be unleashed.

 The author is a senior executive at Knowledge Oman. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.  

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