Covid forces a new approach to mentoring staff

16th June 2021

Corrine Murphy, Head of Central Services, Civica Asia Pacific

This article first appeared in The Australian in June 2021.

Corporations need a new approach to mentoring – one that focuses on the group, not the individual, according to Corrine Murphy, the head of central services at the global software services company, Civica.

Murphy, who began her professional career as a critical care nurse, argues the traditional one-on-one mentoring of senior high performers is not enough and mentoring across the board is something of an untapped potential for companies.

Her ideas crystallised during Covid-19, when as leader of a team of more than 100 people, she had to find new ways of developing them via Zoom and other videoconferencing.

“Over the last 18 months I have tried all sorts of new ways of mentoring at Civica,” she says. “I had to get one to many, as opposed to one to one, so within six months I had 10-15 people I was mentoring. There were common themes emerging, but they were all on the human side so I started to focus on how to multiply the effect of mentoring by trying different forums.”

As collaboration forums turned into mentoring sessions, Murphy, who runs the technical arm of the company across the Asia-Pacific region, realised one-on-one “is not the only way to play this game”.

She saw great results from “brains trust” sessions and roundtables: “It was just putting mentoring into everything,” Murphy says.

“Mentoring used to be what we did as a deliberate one-hour session per week, but what we have done is build mentoring into every part of your day and we have made it the responsibility of -everyone,” she says. “I have 110 people and they all have a mentor and they all mentor someone.” Some, like Murphy’s business partner who is “a Gen Y and thinks so differently from me” mentor Murphy’s direct reports “some of whom are probably twice her age”.

Murphy says mentoring will not work without the drive of the mentoree: “It can’t be led by the mentor. We have done a lot of work to get the accountability back to the mentoree. The responsibility of the mentor doesn’t change, the responsibility to bring your wealth of knowledge into a tangible form for the mentoree (but it’s up to the mentoree).”

She says mentoring is now a differentiator between companies: “In the last four weeks I have hired five people and the reasons they have come has been talking about the investment we can make to allow them to continue their development.”

She says the jobs market is now intensely competitive and organisations need to understand that many employees have high expectations around mentoring and development.

“Most of the people I see have two or three offers on the table,” she says. “It is very buoyant.”

Murphy says that while the HR department in a company must design the framework needed to build strong company culture, it will not work unless leaders drive change.

And she believes that mentoring is a “bigger topic than just within one organisation”.

She is working on a program of cross-organisational mentoring so that people can be mentored by people in different companies or sectors.

“Why can’t a women working in manufacturing be mentored by someone from tech?” she says.