Today’s workplaces are in the throes of change. Hybrid working practices, shifting employee expectations, the lingering effects of the Great Resignation – it’s all having an impact. How can companies cut through the noise and create workplaces that resonate with, and attract, the modern workforce?

Mentoring remains a proven method for boosting job satisfaction, employee happiness, retention, and more. It’s tried and true, and it’s on the rise. Previously, the most-quoted statistic in the industry suggested that around 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programmes. Recently, however, a new study from MentorcliQ suggests that this is up to 84%, and 100% of Fortune 50 companies now utilise them.

The benefits for mentors and mentees

The advantages that mentees receive from effective mentoring are multifaceted. It gives them the opportunity to improve their communication skills, develop new competencies, take on challenges, expand their professional network, boost their confidence, grow their organisational knowledge, solve problems, and more.

The result? Satisfied, happy employees. In fact, the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey cites that 91% of employees with mentors experience job satisfaction, with 79% expressing that they’re well paid (versus 69% of non-mentored employees) and 89% (versus 75%) believing that their contributions are valued. Employees with mentors are also more likely to feel that their companies give them opportunities to advance their careers; crucial for talent retention in today’s market.

This view is shared by two mentees from the BIE Impact Community, which seeks to support the professional development of future leaders. “Coaching and mentoring is always something HR suggest for the people within our organisations, but it isn’t always a suggestion for HR employees. I wanted to work on my career and do something outside of the day-to-day,” said one mentee. Another mentee elaborated, “you not alone and HR should never feel alone. Whilst you have your colleagues who see you as equal at the table, it is always great to be able to speak to others in the same role as you, who have different experiences and lessons they have learned along their way.” 

Mentors also feel the benefits, experiencing enhanced job satisfaction, skill strengthening (active listening, relationship-building and knowledge-sharing, for example) and a feeling of personal accomplishment. What’s more, mentoring can be invaluable in developing and improving leadership abilities.

As Gordon Whyte, CEO of BIE explained, “we have all benefitted from personal mentors through our individual careers and also recognise the value of development.” “We are passionate about the next generation of leaders and want to be part of their development,” added Emma-Claire Kavanagh, Managing Director at BIE.

The benefits for organisations

Satisfied employees are understandably more likely to stay with their organisations, potentially helping to stem the tide of talent attrition being felt across the market and improving the overall employee experience. In fact, the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey revealed that workers at every career level were less likely to have recently considered quitting if they had a mentor.

And that’s just the beginning. Mentoring also:

  • Improves workplace culture: Mentoring boosts productivity, engagement, interpersonal connection and more, all of which can help strengthen corporate culture. Recent research from Quantum Workplace further suggests that around half of employees experience workplace culture through recognition and celebration, which can be achieved through mentoring.
  • Helps with talent acquisition: Mentoring programmes send a signal that companies are committed to the career development of their workforce, which – in today’s competitive marketplace – can help them stand out from the crowd. Candidates, particularly those in the younger generations, want more from their jobs than just a pay cheque; they’re looking for meaning and purpose. A company that values and invests in its employees, and tailors its offerings to suit their individual needs, is more likely to fit the bill.
  • Future-proofs the talent pipeline: By nurturing the strengths and ambitions of employees, mentorship at all corporate levels can ensure that organisations engage with and retain great talent over the long term, contributing towards succession planning, leadership development, a reduction of staff turnover (and the subsequent beneficial impact on costs) and employee morale. This, in turn, builds bench strength and boosts employee loyalty.
  • Contributes towards a strong learning and development (L&D) programme: 86% of those surveyed for our recent HR Report stressed that L&D is either moderately critical or very critical to their organisation. However, one stream of it – learning by osmosis – has taken a hit with the shift to remote and hybrid working. Mentoring can help bridge this gap and meet the team’s individual learning needs, helping to develop skills and boost internal connections and organisational know-how.
  • Supports diversity: A study out of Cornell University cites that mentoring is more effective at boosting diversity than other initiatives, and it improves the promotion and retention of diverse groups. Indeed, 67% of women surveyed as part of trend research for DDI, for example, believed that mentoring was highly important for advancing their careers. “A mentor helps you navigate the organisation, answers your questions and puts you in a position to help you grow,” said Marie Croes, Vice President Fused Silica - Foundry Technologies Division at Vesuvius. “Mentors are key – and were in my career – for women who want to grow and take responsibility in their organisations.”
  • Brings knowledge back into an organisation: Sharing knowledge and experiences with other professionals from different organisations can provide valuable learnings and tangible benefits.It was really helpful for me to listen to other HR professionals about their experiences, and the best practices they had integrated as part of their people strategy,” explained one mentee. “I know I would not have had these reflections and insights through my ‘day-to-day’ work experiences,” added

Five key pieces of advice for encouraging mentoring in your organisation

1. Don’t force it 

Both mentors and mentees need to be engaged and excited about the possibilities of mentoring. This is a long-term relationship, requiring regular check-ins and real investment made on both sides. Participation in mentoring should be voluntary and personally motivated.

It’s worth bearing in mind that almost two-thirds of respondents in Olivet Nazarene University’s study developed their mentoring relationship naturally, rather than formally. In such situations, organisations can best provide support by allowing adequate time for mentoring sessions, making resources available, offering additional leadership training for mentors, and so on.

2. Encourage both formal and informal mentoring

Formal mentoring programmes send a great signal to your workforce and encourage participation just by being made available. However, don’t discount the possibility of informal mentoring relationships developing as well.

“I definitely benefited from informal mentoring,” said Katie Shortland, Finance & Transformation Director at Midland Expressway Ltd. “It was from my boss at the time. She really got involved, helping encourage and promote me in terms of my capabilities and what I could get involved in at the company.”

If this is not a current part of your company culture, encourage your managers to reach out to junior employees and take a role in helping them develop. Additional management and leadership training should be made available if this is something of interest.

3. Tailor your approach and get input from HR

To be effective, mentoring needs to suit both the culture of your organisation, and the needs of the individuals involved. Take the time to establish what your goals are, and what you can invest in terms of resources. Secure internal sponsorship and consider the initial logistics to ensure you lay the best possible foundations. And if you are taking a hands-on approach and trying to establish a formal program, make sure to involve HR or top management. They are best placed to evaluate and identify the most experienced potential mentors.

Flexibility is key here – remember that personality dynamics play a role when pairing mentors and mentees, and approaching it formally can be challenging. Consider offering mentees their choice of several mentors, with introductory sessions for them to get to know each other before decisions are made. And, while mentors are often engaged internally, there are some instances – particularly when senior leaders are the ones looking for mentors – where more benefits will be reaped by looking outside the organisation.

4. Make sure opportunities are available for all

It can be difficult for women and minorities to secure a mentor, particularly if your organisation currently lacks representation at the top levels. Research suggests that the majority of people opt for mentors of the same gender, for example. Encourage people to look for desired experience when pairing, and be prepared to take a more active role in helping some members of the team find a suitable mentor, even if that means looking externally.

5. Ensure psychological safety

Embedded in the mentoring relationship is the ability to be vulnerable with a colleague. They need to be able to ask advice, share problems, get support and navigate myriad situations together.

It’s vital that your organisation fosters psychological safety in the workplace if employees are going to embark on a mentoring relationship, and get the most out of the opportunities that mentoring can offer.

For more guidance related to securing and future-proofing your talent pipeline, please reach out to our team.

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