Mentorship is a time-tested technique that leverages experience and human relationships to help employees learn and grow.
Bypassing the hierarchical management structure, a mentor provides guidance and support to a protégé in order to help them develop new skills, knowledge, and abilities.
Unfortunately, in our hyper-digital age, many companies have forgotten about the benefits of mentorship; they rapidly implement corporate e-Learning and distance education programs, but are surprised when metrics fall short of projections.
The thing that’s missing from our L&D strategies? The human touch—mentorship.
Mentorship is not just a tradition—it is a vital part of developing a strong workforce, and the knowledge transfer that occurs during mentorship offers a very high return on investment.
According to a recent survey, 37% of employees in the United States feel disconnected from their work. In the end, employees, particularly those from the younger generations, are less motivated than their predecessors to learn and grow.
Today's millennials and gen-Z’s are looking for meaning, growth, and community; they prefer coaches over bosses. Many businesses, as a result, are striving to fill this need. That’s where mentorship comes in: as a tool to reinforce employee learning and training.
In this article, you’ll gain a greater understanding of how mentorship can contribute to closing the knowledge and performance gap in your L&D strategy, and why now is the time for organizations to start incorporating mentorship programs into their corporate culture.
Let’s get started!
How does your organization currently train employees?
The business landscape has drastically changed over the past decade, especially during the pandemic: social networks developed, mobile technology boomed, and virtual teams became the norm.
What has not changed is the way that human beings learn; even though our workforce has shifted dramatically over those years—with the majority of millennials and gen-z'ers in the workforce—the processes by which we develop and train those workforces remain relatively similar.
We’re not criticizing this; rather, we’re illustrating how pervasive these tendencies are in our culture, and how they’re negatively impacting employee growth.
There is an over-emphasis on coursework, surveys, quizzes, training videos, and other activities that employees complete independently.
There is an over-emphasis on coursework, surveys, quizzes, training videos, and other activities that employees complete independently. They’re usually locked away in a room or a cubicle, and get little to no interaction with other employees.
This independent approach is not only flawed, but also incredibly frustrating for the next generation of workers. They prefer to learn as part of a community, not in isolation.
How is this flawed, you ask? Only 25% of respondents to a McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved their performance. When only one-quarter of your team can definitively say that training was beneficial, that’s a red flag that something is ineffective with the training process - and a huge low-hanging fruit to fix.
There are two main reasons this approach is unsustainable: work disruption and a lack of learning reinforcement. This is where mentorship comes in.
How does mentorship reinforce employee learning?
Mentoring programs have long been regarded as a successful means to achieve diversity and inclusion within an organization, address the opportunity gap, and retain employees. However, it also plays a key role in providing a framework for employee development.
Employees—especially those in remote workplaces—need mentorship.
When the pandemic started, most companies shifted their workforce into remote work. Though embraced by many companies as an opportunity to cut corners and improve profit margins, one of the biggest ensuing problems was that employee skills started dropping across the board. Trainees were, to put it frankly, disengaged; when they weren’t able to progress with someone, they preferred not to progress at all.
There will always be a place for individual study and guided learning. But many studies and surveys show that it isn’t enough for employees. Employees—especially those in remote workplaces—need mentorship.
Jennifer Petrela, a mentoring expert, connected with our team to discuss inclusive mentoring. During the conversation, Jennifer emphasized that mentorship is a great way to close the skills gap between the skills new graduates enter the workforce with and the skills they need to thrive:
Generally, mentorship improves learning in the following ways:
It’s the most natural way to learn.
Mentorship is the most natural form of learning because it’s how we all learn as children; we start with our parents or guardians, graduate to friends and those in our social circle; and continue with the acquaintances and relationships we build our entire life. Scientifically, this is known as learning through observation and imitation, and it’s the bedrock for most of our development.
Imitation is different from emulation. Emulation involves copying someone's work exactly in order to produce the same results, which does not represent a real transfer of knowledge. Many online learning programs encourage emulation rather than imitation, and it’s having a devastating impact on employee learning and training.
We retain more information.
When employees are able to connect what they are learning in their role with a real-life example, they are more likely to remember it. Mentorship provides this connection and helps employees learn and grow in their roles more effectively.
Collaborative learning is better for culture.
When employees are able to learn from their peers, it helps them feel more connected to their team and develop better relationships. Employee engagement has been a top challenge that leaders have faced for many years, and mentorship is integral to building a collaborative team culture.
Now that it's clear your employee development program should include mentorship let's look at how you can put it into action.
How do you include a mentorship program as part of your training initiatives?
There are many practical ways to start adding mentorship to your training programs.
Get leadership on-board
The first step is getting leadership on board with the idea of a mentorship program. Once you have their support, it’s significantly easier to implement and manage the program.
How to achieve that is simple: present the data, and show the benefits. Any leader genuinely interested in the growth of their company can’t refute hard statistics.
Additionally, leadership is more likely to listen and engage if you can show benefits; a link between the data and your company that demonstrates how you’ll prosper.
Here are some of the benefits that might help with your pitch:
- Decreases turnover rate: A recent survey revealed that 38% of gen-z workers would be willing to leave their job if they don’t see a pathway for career growth. By providing them the opportunity to build relationships with other employees, you can encourage them to stay and help your company thrive.
- Helps retain employees: Mentorship programs create a network of support within the company, which makes employees feel more connected. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of leaving or changing companies.
In another study from Gallup, the approximate cost of replacing an employee ranges from 50% to 200% of an employee salary; having a network helps reduce the frequency of dropouts, keeping your payroll costs down.
- Creates better managers: Mentorship programs also provide managers with coaching and the opportunity to learn. As a result, mentorship helps new managers grow in their roles and gives them the chance to gain different perspectives. This, in turn, can help them when making decisions in the future.
- Promote diversity & inclusion: Among the major benefits of mentorship is that it fosters a diverse and inclusive culture within an organization. It encourages diversity in age, educational background, ethnicity, and job function.
In addition, mentorship helps employees from different backgrounds relate to one another better through shared experiences. In doing so, they become more comfortable reaching across departments to work together on projects or initiatives that will help achieve company goals.
If you can demonstrate how your program will provide value to the company beyond employee engagement, then leadership should be much more supportive of your efforts.
Pair mentors and mentees
For your mentorship program to be successful, you need to have a steady stream of mentors and mentees. How do you find the right people to take part in your program?
- Manual Matching: This works well if you have a small group, but can be time-consuming if you have to do it for massive teams.
- Automated Matching: Together is a practical mentorship app that uses a time-tested algorithm to match mentors and mentees based on their skills and interests. It eliminates the need for manual matching of mentors and mentees, improving learning time and outcomes.
Track your mentorship program’s impact on training initiatives
As you run your mentorship program, it’s important to track how effective it is and what impact it has on the company. How do you determine whether or not your program is successful?
Failure to measure will result in failure to improve. The Together platform provides a comprehensive reporting system and helps you monitor key metrics such as sign-ups, goals, feedback and more.
Utilizing a mentor software will help achieve your goals. Together can provide you with insights to help improve your strategy. It can also provide you with access to actionable data so that you can make changes if necessary.
Mentoring programs should be part of the bigger picture, as a component of a larger culture-building effort, which includes leadership support, team communication, and training program strategies, among others.
If you are able to demonstrate that your mentorship program will lead to an increase in engagement and retention rates, as well as decreased turnover, leadership will be significantly more likely to support it.
Furthermore, purchasing an eLearning management system alone will not result in improved employee performance; many companies have done this during the pandemic only to yield reduced training outcomes across-the-board.
Only through person-to-person relationships will employees get personalized training and development that applies to them.
Through the career guidance and support that mentors provide, the training that they undergo will be much more effective.
Learn more about running an effective mentoring program using Together’s mentoring software today!