The Aston Carter thought leadership series examines strategies for navigating the finance and accounting staffing labor market.
According to 2018 statistics, 83 percent of employees involved in a mentoring program said that the experience had increased their desire to remain with the company. A strategic and well-thought-out mentoring program can ensure that an organization makes the most of long-time employees’ experience, transfers crucial knowledge and helps newer employees forge connections that help them contribute more. The mutual benefits of a program like this can go a long way toward retaining employees of all tenure levels.
Aston Carter Account Manager Aaron Francis digs deeper into the benefits of formal mentoring programs and how finance and accounting departments can implement them successfully.
Mentorship benefits accounting and finance employees who require a higher level of training and development — either new hires or those transitioning into new roles. A mentoring program provides the impactful structure, guidance and training needed to ensure all critical knowledge gets transferred to new employees.
“A formal program offers tremendous value because it shows that the leaders in the company care about employees’ development and success. Employers are willing to invest the time and sometimes financial resources needed to mentor and train newcomers, which influences skill development and facilitates a more supportive work culture,” says Francis.
Mentorship helps new accounting and finance employees shape their careers’ trajectories so they can work toward the next department level or expand to other areas.
The affiliation also benefits mentors, who are able to create a productive and rewarding relationship that can dramatically improve someone’s job and career prospects.
Francis knows from experience: “Diagnosing somebody else's situation can be eye-opening. I tend to think, ‘When was the last time I did this?’ or, ‘When did I last look at my performance and development with an objective lens?’ There’s always growth there for mentors. They can glean fresh perspectives, solutions and best practices from their mentees.”
Mentorship requires employers to focus on the future — even if it means sacrificing some short-term goals to make a better accounting and finance employee who will contribute to more successes down the road.
Preparations must go into training everyone, including the trainers. Mentors need to understand the program’s goals, their responsibilities and the effort it will take to work with their mentees. Adequate training may require that employers reallocate some of the time and resources previously designated to clients and production.
“Program structure and strategy will vary from company to company,” says Francis. “For an account manager role at Aston Carter, for instance, there is a formal mentor program where an employee is assigned to somebody outside of our office. This allows the mentor to be completely objective, having no pre-conceived notions of someone’s strengths or potential. So, not only is an employee learning from successful people in their office, they’re also working with an impartial third party who will assess their performance and offer helpful tips, technical knowledge and insight into any areas of weakness.”
In this way, trust and rapport will help advance the mentor-mentee relationship by creating a safe space for communication. Mentees can be more open about their professional struggles with a neutral party rather than the person who, a week later, could be conducting their performance review. This can help them get past any emotional barriers and get to the root of the problem.
According to Francis, consistent communication is key for successful mentoring: “It can be easy to start off consistently but then relax several months in, which is wasting the opportunity. You have to hold each other accountable for how often and how well you are communicating.”
Conversations also need to stay professionally meaningful. Though there’s room to be more conversational, veer off topic and learn along the way, sticking to a more structured plan will help keep the mentoring relationship productive.
The more committed and prepared everyone is, the more successful accounting and finance mentor-mentee relationships will be.
“The overarching goal of these programs is to help new employees grow in their professionalism, while giving long-time employees a greater sense of purpose and contribution. You want your experienced accounting and finance employees who have been through growing pains to impart wisdom on new hires, so they can learn how to overcome their struggles, develop technical skills, strengthen soft skills and stand out in their department,” says Francis.
If your business could benefit from consultation about how to meet your staffing needs, contact Aston Carter now.