For the modern workforce, an engaging work environment is a baseline requirement. According to Gallup, many employees refuse to settle for an organisation that does not strategically prioritise engagement.
There is also a direct correlation between employee engagement and increased productivity – research shows that engaged employees are more likely to work diligently and expend discretionary effort in their jobs, supercharging productivity and innovation. Companies with a high level of employee engagement are more profitable by a factor of 21%. Besides, engaged employees are more likely to remain committed to their employers, leading to longer-term employee retention.
The good news is that there are many activities and programs which help increase your employees’ engagement, some of which you might have already implemented at your company. Team building activities, recognition programs, learning lunches, flexible schedules and extra perks are all great, but if you are looking for a program that supports your employees in the long run, implementing a mentorship program is the way to go.
Workplace mentoring is currently one of the most powerful tools for employee development and engagement, with over 84% of US Fortune 500 companies presently adopting them.
So, why does your organisation need a mentoring program?
1. Encourages ownership and the development of clear career plans
To create a successful mentorship program, you would need to create a structured program with mentors willing to support your employees to take control of their career plans and keep them accountable. Successful career development requires much more than job-related skills – many professionals fail to move up the career ladder, even when exceeding at their jobs, because they lack other important competencies, such as soft skills, professional relationships, a career vision, or big picture thinking. A mentor can help and motivate the mentee to identify and develop the missing skills, create a clearer career plan, and build key relationships.
Mentorship programs demonstrate to employees that their company is actively investing in their careers. Research shows that 82% of employees would quit their jobs because of no career progression, and 32% of employees feel they need to leave their job to advance in their careers.
Creating a mentorship program will help you retain employees in all phases of their careers. According to MentorCliq, employees who are involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in mentoring.
For early-career professionals, mentoring provides them with the meaningful career development they need to grow. Whilst sharp technical skills may have helped them succeed at the individual contributor level, to rise to a position managing others requires leadership skills, enhanced communication skills and the ability to collaborate and inspire others.
Mentorship programs are beneficial not only for the mentees but also for the mentors and is in fact, considered the most effective method of learning at a minimal cost.
For the mentors, a mentorship program will cultivate leadership and communication skills. To be an effective mentor, one would need to be a good active listener, have advanced coaching and questioning skills and be effective at providing feedback. Mentorships allow mentors to practice and improve all these skills. Through mentorships, mentors can also learn something meaningful about their organisations and their employees as they would get a peek into a world that they aren’t usually privy to – apart from broadening their perspective on different departments, processes, and roles, knowledge gained by mentors can help them make better quality decisions and be proactive at foreseeing challenges within your organisation.
For mentees, a mentorship program would help them learn directly from a peer who has accomplished the skills and experiences they are looking to develop. Besides, a mentee would gain a better understanding of organisational culture, develop new perspectives and expand their own leadership skills, helping them become the next leaders in your organisation.
From a company perspective, a mentorship program helps you build an inclusive workplace culture centred around learning, innovating, coming up with new ideas and creating a shared vision.
When facing a challenge or difficult situation at work, mentees will think twice before going to their manager for help. At times, it could be that an employee is having a problem with the manager or teammates, or they are not comfortable discussing the issue with a peer from their department. A workplace mentor is someone a mentee can always turn to for guidance, and knowing a mentor is always there to lend an ear can put an employee at ease. A mentor could help the employee look at the difficult situation through a different lens and help the mentee come up not only with a solution to the problem but with a different approach to deal with a similar problem in the future.
How to implement the mentorship program at your company
Creating a mentorship program takes time and involves several stakeholders, but it does not have to be an overwhelming project. In reality, there isn’t a standard way to implement a mentorship program. Still, there are a few steps that you will need to consider and take in order to develop a mentorship program that will help your organisation thrive.
1. The first step you would need to take is to establish the goal of the mentoring program.
Why are you setting up the program, and what are you hoping to achieve? Is the objective of the mentorship to improve leadership development or employee retention? Are you hoping to improve employee performance or fast-track career progressions?
In other words, what are your objectives, and how will you measure the results?
Once you establish your objectives and KPIs, you will need to define in more detail how you will achieve them. Answering the below questions will help:
- What are the eligibility criteria for mentors and mentees?
- Will the program be led by the mentor or by the mentee?
- Should the mentee only have one mentor? Should the mentor only have a mentee?
- How are the mentors and mentees matched? Should there be any set criteria, or should this be the responsibility of the mentee to choose the right mentor?
- How often should the mentors and mentees meet?
- How long should the program last?
There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions, but your answers should help you better define the mentorship program you are hoping to implement at your company.
2. Choose what type of mentorship program you are creating for your company.
There are several types of workplace mentorships. The most common one is when a senior employee guides a junior one.
Some other types of mentoring programs include:
- Group Mentoring – where one or several mentors guide a mentee group.
Group mentoring is ideal for onboarding because all the new hires on a similar level can receive mentorship as part of their onboarding process. Besides, group mentoring is also perfect when you are not having enough mentors in your organisation. If you have more mentors than mentees, a mentor would be able to take on several mentees.
- Peer mentoring – when employees on similar seniority levels in their careers are mentoring each other.
Peer mentoring is ideal for employees on similar hierarchical levels who do not have many opportunities to connect. Usually, these employees work across different departments. For example, a peer mentoring program is ideal for new managers who might be experiencing challenges adjusting to their new roles. By discussing their challenges, they would share advice and hold each other accountable for becoming better leaders.
3. Invite employees to be mentors and mentees, match them and support their relationships
The third step in building a mentorship program at your workplace is identifying mentors and mentees. Are you planning to hand pick the mentors first and invite them to participate in the mentorship program, or are you opening these positions to all the people in the company?
Besides, are you planning to test the mentorship program with one department, or will it be companywide?
Regardless of your plan, it is important to build excitement in your program and to effectively communicate what the objectives are – once your employees know what they will gain from your mentorship program, they will be more inclined to sign up for it.
Once the mentors and mentees are matched up, you will need to ensure that the mentors and mentees develop a meaningful relationship. Since a mentoring program runs anywhere from 6 months to a few years, it is important to support your mentors and mentees constantly.
Consider providing your mentors with learning resources to guide them in kick-starting the mentoring relationship. This mentor handbook and mentee handbook give participants lots of tips for building strong mentoring relationships.
4. Evaluate the success of the mentorship program
Once your mentorship program is up and running, start evaluating its success.
There are many criteria you could look at, from the number of sign-ups to how many mentors and mentees are in the program, how many of them dropped out, what skills mentors bring to the program, whether the goals that the mentees set up at the beginning are being met and many more.
It would be best if you also considered sending a survey to the employees participating in your workplace mentoring program, asking them for their feedback – make sure that the survey is anonymous to allow for candid feedback.
Can your company afford passing mentorship programs by?
There is no denial that mentorship programs are beneficial for both organisations and their employees. Apart from being inexpensive to implement, it fosters a positive work culture that promotes career development, constant learning, and collaboration. By adopting a mentorship program at your organisation, you will have a higher chance of retaining your top talent, building your next generation of leaders and encouraging your employees to reach their full potential.
Since last year, Foothold America has been running its own mentorship program, which has proven to be quite successful.
If you are contemplating the best way to develop a mentorship program at your company and you would like our advice, do not hesitate to contact us at HR@footholdamerica.com