Workplace culture dictates the personality of an organization. It includes your business’s values and traditions - and is the foundation of employees’ engagement, productivity, and happiness at work. Positive workplace cultures can also attract more people to join your organization and help retain high-performing employees.
Studies show about half of job seekers say an engaging workplace culture is one of their most significant considerations when choosing a role. Furthermore, millennials - who are known to move from job to job much more than previous generations - regularly say that company culture is one of the things that can make them stick with an organization over the long term.
For that reason, developing a healthy workplace culture is fundamental to building a successful business.
But what if we can see areas of our workplace cultures that could improve? How do we build workplace cultures that foster high employee engagement, retention and attract top talent?
In short: with mentorship.
This article will examine how mentorship creates a high-performing and healthy company culture, and different mentoring programs organizations can adopt.
How Mentorship Influences Workplace Culture
Mentors can offer practical knowledge and valuable insights based on their experience and help more junior employees develop leadership skills or practical skills like problem-solving and communication.
Mentors can also identify which skills employees lack and coach them to close the gap. Encouraging mentoring relationships in the workplace creates more productive employees. Not only do they help with skill development, but the mentees see that their organizations value them and are investing in their growth.
Let’s look at three other ways mentorship contributes to positive workplace cultures:
Employees are likely to work as a team at organizations with strong, collaborative cultures. These kinds of cultures emphasize social interaction, teamwork, and open communication. Additionally, all organizations have a mission and vision to achieve. Communicating that mission and vision to new hires is critical to their onboarding. Leaders need to make sure they’re aligned with the company's goals.
Assigning mentors to new employees can help them understand and discuss company values to ensure they’re on the same page. Every new employee from an entry level analyst to a chief compliance officer should receive training on diversity and company values in addition to technical job training, and mentorship is a personal way to do this. Additionally, mentors can introduce new hires to other employees. All this collaboration will lead to teams buying into the same mission and seeing how they contribute to it.
Mentoring programs that focus on employees' mental, emotional, and physical health are guaranteed to boost employee morale. These mentoring programs go hand-in-hand with the goals of wellness programs.
Focusing on morale and wellbeing is particularly important as we emerge from the pandemic. Many workers are still at home and navigating what a back-to-work plan looks like. Some want to return while others are happy with more time at home. This has led companies to consider transitioning teams to hybrid arrangements and re-evaluate remote vs. in-person work.
Mentorship plays a critical role in navigating what the new workplace will look like. Mentors can help employees discuss how they feel and voice their opinions. Likewise, mentors can help connect employees with the company's resources that support wellbeing.
It can be unclear for employees how they can progress in their careers. Small teams may not see the opportunity to take on leadership roles because there are few openings. In larger companies, politics, bureaucracy, or poor managers can hold them back from moving up.
Mentors can step into employees’ situations and shed light on opportunities they may not have seen before. Additionally, they can help employees understand their career goals and what’s necessary to achieve them. As employees move forward, their mentors can open doors for them by introducing them to key decision-makers.
In this way, mentors help employees continue growing and not plateau in their careers. They play a critical role in employee development.
How To ChangeWorkplace Culture With Mentoring
Mentorship has numerous benefits, but it’s not without its challenges. Mentorship programs rely on a relevant mentor-mentee match. Employees from diverse backgrounds may not feel their mentor match is relevant to them if they don’t share their gender, ethnicity, or religion. It’s challenging for organizations to make sure every employee from a diverse background has a mentor similar to them. For this reason, employee resource groups or group mentoring programs are common. These programs allow one mentor to guide several employees.
Some of the ways to promote a diverse and inclusive work culture through mentoring are:
Choose a wide range of advocates
The most effective mentorship programs are those that invite employees from all departments and levels of the organization. This means making these programs available to all employees and offering different mentorship programs that include top-down, middle-out, and bottom-up approaches.
- Top-down: Find senior leaders who can mentor and offer testimonials that you can share with others. Having senior-level leaders promote your program shows that they are committed to their employees' growth and development.
- Middle-out: Consider recruiting managers and supervisors to give out endorsements and testimonials in addition to senior leaders. Having a direct supervisor encourage an employee’s participation can go a long way in motivating them to sign up.
- Bottom-up: Mentoring employee resource groups are most valuable when participants are invited to participate in group discussions and online communities. This is because participants will also talk about their mentoring experiences and share them online to attract more participants and spread awareness.
Focus on diversity
There is no doubt that minority groups are underrepresented and underserved across many industries, making it difficult for individuals of these identities to get their foot in the door. Your organization can not afford to fall into this harmful cycle.
Diversity entails a mix of gender, age, race, ethnicity, education level, sexual orientation, and more. A mentoring program aimed at diversity means that you're inviting your employees to collaborate and share ideas from new angles and ensuring all voices are heard. This is why diverse mentorship programs are essential for inclusivity.
Additionally, you can expand mentorship into the community to serve newer employees with internship programs. This will ensure that young professionals like millennials and GenZ can explore their career options and invest in their professional futures.
Include all employees
As stated above, companies often make the mistake of limiting mentorship programs to be high potential employees. To broaden the concept of mentoring, consider deploying different types of mentor-mentee relationships. For example, consider reverse mentoring instead of the traditional mentoring relationship where an older mentor guides and helps a younger mentee with career choices.
This involves a mentoring relationship where the older/senior person is the mentee, and the junior person is the mentor—being open to different types of mentoring leads to a more collaborative and positive work environment where every employee has something to contribute and learn.
Starting A Mentorship Program
Creating an effective mentoring program can be a great opportunity to foster an inclusive, communicative, and positive work culture. This, in turn, promotes employee satisfaction, increases morale, and leads to enhanced productivity.
Running a mentoring program is straightforward but not easy. We talked with several companies running mentoring programs across their organizations to document the best practices and pitfalls. We packaged up what we learned in our extensive white paper, Best Practices for Running A Mentorship Program. The white paper will outline best practices for running a mentorship program.