Nicola Dibb, co-founder and executive director of Women in Social Housing (WISH), talks about why mentoring is vital to helping grow the housing sector.
The housing sector can only step forward into a strong future if it learns from the lessons of the past. Growth, in any walk of life, occurs when we take on new skills and seek to continually improve. That’s why those working in housing need to push forward by learning from those around them and, in turn, sharing their own knowledge.
Mentoring can be invaluable in any organisation or situation, benefiting both mentor and mentee. I believe this approach of continuous learning, reviewing and feeding back will be crucial in building a resilient housing sector for the future, where we support other women in their own growth and are able to reflect and grow ourselves.
According to a survey by Sage.com, of those questioned who had a mentor, 97% said they were valuable and 55% believed mentoring could help them succeed.
Having a knowledgeable person as a trusted sounding board, can be an important influence for those looking for career development or progression, to improve personal performance, get through a challenging time or develop their talents. Rather than making decisions for them, a good mentor should support, challenge, advise and offer feedback on the journey their mentee is on, offering a fresh perspective on an issue and helping identify strengths and weaknesses.
The results can be achieving goals much quicker, identifying new skills and gaining fresh motivation to tackle a challenge.
In one of the largest studies of its kind in the US, research conducted by Gartner monitored 1,000 Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) employees over a five-year period and used statistical analysis to examine the financial impact of mentoring.
A quarter of employees in a test group who took part in the company’s mentoring programme had a salary grade change, compared with 5% who didn’t take part. Mentored employees were promoted five times more often than those not in the programme and retention rates were much higher for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for employees not taking part (49%).
Of course, having someone to bounce thoughts off is useful whatever stage of your career, and sometimes it can be helpful not to choose a person who has had the same experience as you. Someone that has had a completely different journey than the one you’re on can share different perspectives and be just as useful as someone with the same experience.
Everyone can teach us something and, just as a mentee will learn from a mentor, the teaching can happen in the opposite direction too. American poet Maya Angelos famously mentored talk show host Oprah Winfrey, with the mentee commenting: “Mentors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs performed the same role for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
We know we need to do more to attract people to the housing sector, but those efforts should not stop once they are working in it. Supporting people, to enable them to develop their skills and evolve, is key to producing a resilient and diverse industry we can be proud of. Sharing our skill and experiences through mentoring is a vital step in achieving that.