Employee engagement

5 ways to improve company culture by combining employee recognition and mentorship programs

Learn how mentorship and employee recognition programs work together to create highly engaged workplace cultures.

Joe Facciolo

Published on 

April 17, 2023

Updated on 

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As organizations strive to attract and retain top talent, they must provide their employees with opportunities for growth and development while also fostering a positive work environment. 

Mentorship programs and employee recognition initiatives are two popular strategies that many companies use to achieve these goals. 

  • The primary goal of a mentorship program is to support the career and skills development of more junior employees by pairing them with leaders.
  • On the other hand, employee recognition programs aim to acknowledge and reward employees for their hard work and contributions. 

While these programs may seem distinct, they are, in fact, complementary. 

Both programs support employees' career growth and acknowledge their value to the organization. 

When used together, mentorship and recognition programs create highly engaged workplace cultures. 

In this article, we'll explore the five ways mentorship and employee recognition programs can work together to create high-performance cultures.

Why employee recognition and mentorship are a perfect fit

Before we look at how to leverage recognition and mentoring programs, let’s look at why they complement one another.

How employee recognition programs work

Employee recognition programs allow employees to show their appreciation to their colleagues. 

Recognition can be non-monetary, where employees simply share a personalized message celebrating their coworkers or come attached to a reward like a gift card. 

How to improve recognition programs with mentorship

When used strategically, recognition programs incentivize performance, reinforce your company’s values and culture, and improve relationships and morale.

It can also work as a supplemental tool to help other initiatives, like mentorship programs, make as big an impact as possible. 

And since mentorship programs are all about helping employees to develop new skills, grow as professionals, and perform better, what better way to complement this kind of initiative than with a program which celebrates those achievements? 

It also works the other way around, too. Making a mentorship program a key pillar of your recognition strategy is an excellent way to drive more impact from a recognition program by attaching it to a clear, tangible employee development strategy. 

At their core, both recognition and mentorship help you work towards the same goal. Mentorship programs give employees the tools they need to grow, and recognition helps ensure that growth happens.

Now let’s transition to unpack how to actually combine these two programs to drive maximum impact.

5 ways employee recognition helps mentorship programs

Within your mentoring programs, mentee and mentor recognition should permeate every stage of its development, helping you promote its launch, get the right people at your company on board, and keep your program on track. 

Here are 5 key areas where recognition and mentorship can go hand in hand.

1. Boost participation

When launching a new mentorship program, getting people to sign up and participate is half the battle. If you don't get enough mentees and mentors, you won’t be able to make good matches or offer employees enough different development options, and your program won’t capture their imagination.

When you’re at this stage, make sure to bookmark the helpful tips we have in a separate article on promoting your mentoring program.

To embed recognition within your program’s promotion, try publicly promoting what leaders are participating as mentors. 

Celebrate who joined and share any initial success stories you have if you’ve run a small pilot program

Likewise, offering small rewards through a recognition program gives you a simple but effective way to incentivize participation in your program in these early stages. Small gift cards or invites to exclusive events may help pique employees’ interest and give them a little something extra for their time and effort.  

2. Reward high-performing mentees

Employees who enroll in a mentorship program to better themselves deserve a bit of appreciation, and recognition can be a great way to do this effectively. 

By periodically rewarding mentees who excel in the program, you show them that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed and that your company values the new skills and knowledge they are acquiring.

If you’re using a mentorship platform like Together to manage and scale your program, your program administrator can do this themselves by tracking your average mentee ratings, as well as qualitative feedback you’ve seen from mentors about individual participants, to identify and recognize high performers.

Alternatively, you can empower your mentors to recognize their mentees by giving them access to your employee recognition software platform, perhaps with a small budget to send rewards. 

This gives your mentors the ability to show their appreciation to mentees more personally, and can be a great way to strengthen those relationships.

3. Celebrate mentee milestones

You can add even more structure and purpose to your mentee recognition by rewarding participants who pass specific milestones in their program. 

This might simply involve rewarding mentees who complete programs or log a certain amount of hours and sessions. But you can also go further and recognize them when they reach specific goals they’ve set with their mentor, such as learning a new skill or process.

These rewards could be just the push your mentees need to keep going, especially if the program is challenging.

4. Mentor Recognition

While recognizing mentees is crucial, it’s important not to forget about your mentors, either! Their knowledge, effort, and leadership will be crucial to making your program work, and you want to make sure that your best mentors feel appreciated so that they will continue to do their very best for you.

As with your mentees, you can use your mentorship platform to identify and recognize mentors who put in a lot of hours, work with multiple mentees, or have high ratings. 

Alternatively, you could give your mentees access to recognition software to show their appreciation for their mentors themselves. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give each and every one of your mentees a rewards budget, which could become expensive if you have a large program. 

An alternative option might be using a non-monetary recognition solution like Guusto’s Shoutouts, which allows any user to send unlimited recognition without rewards. 

For mentors, simply receiving personalized thanks for their efforts from their mentees might be more meaningful than any kind of small reward. 

You can also mix these two approaches, allowing both your mentees and mentors to send Shoutouts to each other and then giving monetary rewards to high performers. 

5. Share your program’s success

An underrated benefit of employee recognition programs is their public visibility. The platforms display recognition publicly so that everyone on the system can see who’s being celebrated, and some will even integrate with messaging software like Slack and MS Teams so you can create dedicated channels for shoutouts. 

Companies will also often highlight recognition publicly at team meetings, and through internal newsletters and other channels.

If your mentorship program is really blowing up, and your mentors and mentees are recognizing each other frequently, your recognition program will help to amplify that positive feedback, making it more visible to your organization at large.

You may even be able to use recognition to help demonstrate some of the effectiveness of your mentorship program to your leadership team. Seeing the enthusiasm your mentors and mentees have for the program might help persuade them to keep it going, or even to invest more and expand it.

Using mentorship and recognition as part of a larger culture-building plan

Both mentorship and employee recognition can also be implemented alongside other initiatives, such as employee wellness programs, social events, and other culture-building efforts. 

And once you start to think about your programs as pieces of a bigger picture, rather than standalone initiatives, the sky is the limit. Your programs will become more than simple perks or benefits to your team, and start to actively drive better engagement, connection, and even business results.

To learn more, check out Culture is the Ultimate Advantage from Guusto, a free guide that details how to use these kinds of initiatives more strategically to drive the bottom-line outcomes your leadership cares about.

Or if you want to get started with one of these programs right away, book a demo of Guusto’s recognition program, or a free demonstration of Together’s mentorship platform.   

Joe Facciolo is the Co-Founder of Guusto. He loves helping HR leaders build workplace culture by sharing his experiences and knowledge in the industry.

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