The Property Council’s popular mentoring program has evolved to meet the challenges of COVID-19, delivering creative online solutions and forging even stronger connections. How can you get involved in 2021?
Established in Victoria in 2011 with just 10 participants, the mentoring program has grown rapidly, with 122 people taking part in 2020.
When lockdowns took force, face-to-face meetings and speed networking events made way for new methods of communication and connection, from Zoom catch-ups to an online scavenger hunt that was a recent smash hit with participants.
Feedback from mentees over the last six weeks has been very positive, says Nicole Stockton, who runs the program on behalf of the Property Council in Victoria.
“Mentees have actually reported connecting with their mentors more often since Covid-19, not less. And they’ve told us that the program’s culture of inclusion and support is helping to sustain them through challenging times.”
“It was a fantastic effort by the team who were able to pivot this program to online activities which enhanced rather than detracted from its value proposition in a time of uncertainty,” adds Victorian executive director, Cressida Wall.
The program has been delivered in partnership with Bank of Melbourne for the last eight years. Over that time, Jim Serafim, Bank of Melbourne’s head of property finance, has been a mentor and integral member of advisory board.
“Each year, the program gets stronger and better,” Serafim says.
Both mentees and mentors apply to participate, but mentors must have at least 15 years' experience in the property industry, Serafim explains.
The rigorous matching process – based on a comprehensive questionnaire that teases out career goals and development priorities, industry specialisation and personality style – means “we get it right 99 per cent of the time,” Serafim says.
A raft of research confirms the benefits of mentoring programs. Mentees gain exposure to deep experience, sage advice and networking channels that would take years to build – and so it’s no surprise that mentees are more likely to be happy at work. Just one survey of 8,000 people late last year found nine in 10 workers with a career mentor are satisfied in their jobs.
Property companies have relied on mentoring programs for retention and talent management, but increasingly see mentoring as a strategy to enhance diversity – a smart move when mentoring can boost representation of minority groups in management by as much as 24 per cent.
Mentors gain just as much from the process, Serafim emphasises. “While mentors offer their time pro bono, the program allows mentors to connect with the next generation of property professionals coming through the ranks, and to understand how they think and what they value.”
The program includes structured activities – from speed networking and team building to social gatherings and a secondment program – that Serafim says provides “incredible insights and real value”.
The Property Council is looking to scale up the program nationally in 2021, Stockton adds.
“We’ve built an extremely successful program in Victoria and scaling it up nationally could offer greater value to our members across Australia.” More information will be released in the weeks ahead, but for now people can email Nicole Stockton.
Serafim says investing in “our fantastic industry” requires a commitment above and beyond the financial.
“People are the foundation of the property industry, which is why mentoring and relationships matter. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to share your experience and give back to the industry.”