COVID has renewed the importance of mentorship

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COVID has renewed the importance of mentorship

Maha Al Qattan |

Mentoring can transform careers, bolster retention, and maximise potential. And in a global business environment increasingly defined by the status of COVID-19, it has become more important than ever that businesses recognise the critical role mentorship plays in building and maintaining resilient, successful teams.

More of us are now working remotely and adapting to doing business virtually. According to recent research from ETR, the percentage of permanent remote workers globally is set to double in 2021. Across DP World, we estimate that around 80% of our office workers have worked remotely in the past 9 months.

It is crucial that effective mentorship does not suffer as a result but stays a visible and active part of our professional lives. The scale and pace of change in the last nine months has left many of us scrambling to understand the future of our professional and personal growth. As mentors, it is imperative that we now show up, listen, and engage.

When I joined DP World three years ago, I remember our Chairman, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, telling me that a leader’s ability to act quickly and decisively in uncertain environments was indispensable to success. While neither of us could have predicted what has happened this year, I think of those words often, as they ring true today more than they did then.

The Chairman is just one of many mentors I have been fortunate to have during my career. I am also incredibly grateful for the great mentoring relationships I have developed with senior leaders such as Dr Tommy Weir and Wayne Davis, who have supported me throughout my career with empowering counsel and guidance.

Inspired by my mentors, I have sought to approach my own meetings with my mentees with authenticity and candour. In them, I have encouraged reflection, helped devise professional goals, and shared strategies, skills, and resources that have helped me cope and thrive in my career.

This is an approach to mentorship which we are working to replicate across our business. Through our Mentor Her program, we have connected female employees across the DP World network with senior mentors equipped with a wide range of expertise. With a clear onus on knowledge transfer, it has been wonderful to see that the program has inspired several women in our business to better understand and accomplish their career goals.

Moreover, with the current limits to travel, opportunities for face to face interaction have been few and far between. Face to face interactions help bring a business to life, something I experienced first-hand last year when visiting our team in Peru, one of my colleagues presented me with a beautiful ceramic owl, a symbol of caretakers among some Latin American cultures.

Since lockdown, I have sought to schedule regular check-in conversations with my mentees alongside our more formal meetings. These have taken form through video calls, emails, and texts. Amongst other things, we have used our time in them to discuss the importance of taking breaks from the news, speak about the significance of self-care, and share several laughs about our personal lives. In these moments, I have also listened carefully and taken time to acknowledge their concerns around career progression.

Mentorship doesn’t just enrich personal interactions. It is essential in retaining top talent, championing diversity, and increasing knowledge sharing between our global teams. During this pandemic, as companies and organisations grapple with new work models, I believe that investment in mentoring our future leaders will be key to sustainable growth.

So, for mentors reading this, I encourage you to check in with your mentees. And your own mentors too. Where possible, establish new norms with them. You will be surprised by the empathy on offer, and the potential for career growth that can be unlocked.

And finally, to DP World employees, please do reach out and share your experiences during lockdown with me. I’d love to learn how your mentoring relationships have helped you during this time, and how you in turn have been mentoring others.