Power of one on one

Power of one on one

Mentoring is a good way to promote innovative thinking within companies, yet few chief executives make use of it, says Deloitte.

Lack of skilled staff is stifling the ability of companies to innovate, a report by accounting firm Deloitte, based on talks with 480 chief executives, found. "There are about a quarter of a million skilled workers needed to fill the existing void," the report's author, Tom Imbesi, a lead partner with Deloitte's manufacturing team, says.

Skilled workers are the source of innovation in workplaces, he says. "The most skilled workers are the most innovative. They have the skills to respond to customers' wants and demands."

However, because of the shortage, leaders can fill their skilled vacancies only by improving the abilities of internal candidates through training.

The report, Skilling for Innovation, found that chief executives rated mentoring as the second-most useful method of improving staff skills behind in-house training - and one of the cheapest.

However, it was the fourth-most used method. "In my view, mentoring is under-rated and under-utilised," Imbesi says. "It is relatively inexpensive. When you read a survey that says CEOs regard mentoring as the second-most effective means of upskilling, but they are not using it, there is a message there."

Deloitte devised a project to test the effectiveness of mentors, working with the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology. Under the project, factories making car components were benchmarked against world's best practice then used mentoring to produce improvements.

The researchers found experts in a range of skills, such as lean manufacturing and business strategy, to work one on one with relevant executives, Imbesi says. "We got them walking through the factory and telling each organisation what they could do differently."

Chief executives reported that mentors had a big influence on improving the skills and perspectives of executives. "When you get someone in who is clearly a deep specialist, working one on one on the ground at the company's premises, the feedback is overwhelming," Imbesi says.

 © Fairfax Business Media

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