Why does your organization need a mentoring program?

There's a strong business case for having a mentoring program. Here are six reasons to have one and how to sell it to senior leaders.

Matthew Reeves

April 14, 2021

The way we work is changing rapidly and the necessity to move with the times increases as each day passes. Gone are the days of metaphorically throwing new employees into the deep end with expectations to pick up and learn their role as they work. Companies recognize that learning and knowledge sharing is crucial to keep up with fast-changing business needs, and to ensure a satisfied workforce.

There are many factors that can put an organization at the top of their game when it comes to its employees and how it looks after them. Various studies show a direct correlation between job satisfaction and increased productivity. Although the two aren’t mutually exclusive, reports show that when an organisation takes on board the influence that both of those things will have on their overall success, they are more likely to adapt and introduce practices that promote a positive working environment. 

Job satisfaction is a blanket statement depending on what an organization does to support overall happiness from its employees, and relies on multiple factors such as engagement, inclusion, and support. In a Gallup survey, reports of up to 21 percent greater profitability were noted in organizations where employee engagement was central to their business strategy. 

So, how do organizations manage and enhance employee engagement within a fast-changing landscape? A report from SHRM centred around employee satisfaction reported that 47 percent of people surveyed had indicated that developmental support and opportunities were a contributing factor to how engaged they felt with their job. There are many methods of introducing developmental opportunities in the workplace, such as onboarding programs and continued mentoring and coaching. Mentoring programs have proven to be most successful with over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently adopting them. 

Identifying the need for a mentoring program

Identifying whether your organization could benefit from having a mentoring program is the first step toward developing a structure that promotes a win-win situation for all involved. There is an assumption that only larger corporations will benefit from having a mentoring program, and while smaller businesses are less likely to incorporate a highly structured program, there can still be a lot to gain. 

When the objective is focused on growth, a mentoring program can create a strong learning culture at all levels., When knowledge is shared amongst a larger percentage of a smaller company, it reduces risking the loss of institutional knowledge as people leave or move on from the organization. The investment doesn’t necessarily have to put a financial strain by adopting even more concise mentoring programs. In fact organizations can increase and expand business potential by opening up networks and setting a benchmark for a positive company reputation. 

Of course, even when an employee mentoring program is a favoured option, there has to be a need for one, as opposed to creating a mentoring structure for the sake of doing what everyone else is doing. Identifying existing problems within the workplace, such as employee turnover, costs of hiring and even current motivation and satisfaction levels must come into play if a mentoring program is to be considered. Checking statistics on a national scale will not necessarily give a correct indication to how one business is performing. It would be advisable to conduct internal surveys and data analysis of current and past business performance before committing to a mentoring program. 

Benefits of adopting a mentoring program

Once the need for a mentoring program has been established, it is vital that the roll out of such program has beneficial qualities for everyone involved. Even if the financial investment is minimal, it will require a substantial use of time to get off the ground running, to maintain and then improve as time goes on. For successful implementation the benefits need to massively outweigh any negative factors. When you think about the benefits of incorporating a mentoring program, it is important to consider the needs of each party, from the mentors to the potential mentees, to the organization itself. 

Encourages ownership of career development

As much as putting the tools in place is important for a successful program, it isn’t a hand-holding exercise. While there will be an element of trial and error, there needs to be a structured program with willing mentors that will require interested participants to take control of their own career development and step out of their comfort zone once they have been enrolled into the program. 

Each individual looking for learning solutions in mentorship will be thinking about their career goals and potentially have current opportunities mapped out that having a mentor can help boost chances of attaining. The benefit for the organization is in creating an ongoing culture of knowledge sharing and offering support without the need to roll out information through repetitive training exercises that can often end up outdated quite quickly. Potential mentees benefit from having career control by learning at a pace that suits their needs to reach their desired goals. 

Positive effects on diversity

Mentoring increases the chances of promotion for both mentees and mentors, with statistics showing that engaging in a mentoring program makes promotion five times more likely than those who have not been involved with mentoring. But what about minority representation in that figure? Studies show that promotion has so far been boosted to 24 percent in minorities that have had a mentor. 

While those figures create a great argument for implementing a mentoring program in the workplace, it is the personal and cultural growth mentoring encourages that is more important to see. Mentoring offers a platform for voices to be heard and is a way to share in experiences and knowledge with a high level of inclusion of people who may not have previously been presented with such opportunity to do so. In retaining talent, a mentoring program has a lot to offer organizations of all sizes to ensure diverse talent doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Offers opportunity for Millennials

Millennials tend to suffer the brunt of arguments regarding the global economic status, with generational bias to blame for creating unpopular assumptions about all people within that age group. The issue with this is that a fast-increasing portion of the workforce belong to the millennial generation and it is estimated that by 2025 over 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials. The problem with this bias is that it has created the idea that support is particularly lacking for people born during a certain time period which leads millennials to have pre-conceived, negative expectations when entering a new company. 

It is important that organizations start to see that by investing into mentoring programs aimed at millennials, that they are also investing in their own future. A generation that grew up as technology really started to advance can have a lot of insight to offer, especially in areas and topics that they have come to specialise in purely through coming of age at a time where this came naturally to them. Reverse mentoring is growing in popularity because of this and can be beneficial to have someone younger mentoring a more senior employee for a full range of knowledge sharing. 

Supports development

In any organization there will be key training to support initial development but with limited follow up once it has been delivered. The expectation has traditionally been that all employees learn their role within similar time frames and are then reviewed periodically to discuss any issues or parts of the job in which their performance exceeds expectations. This is the standard for all employees when they join a company and although room for internal promotion is generally available, there can be a lack of structure in place for training people for potential promotions once their initial training has been completed.

This is where a mentoring program can take the lead in developmental support for those who wish to push forward in their career. Mentoring offers insights into certain roles, how to handle larger pools of responsibility and even opportunities to learn about and develop their management and leadership skills. This portion of someone’s career development can help fill in the gaps in knowledge that they need to excel to the next level and confidently put themselves out there for promotions. 

The use of resources in mentoring is also an efficient use of time, cost, and manpower, and in supporting others who are seeking development of their own careers, a mentoring program gives opportunity for this to mentors as well as mentees. Being a mentor can be just as beneficial as having a mentor, and many find that taking on this responsibility is rewarding both personally and professionally in terms of expanding networks and career opportunities. Offering fresh perspectives and honing leadership skills, being a mentor allows those that may not currently be in a managerial position to learn the ins and outs of what it means to be a leader with full control of their own development. 

Helps to recognise and retain existing talent

One of the biggest issues within larger organizations is employee turnover. This all comes back around to job satisfaction and how employees need to feel engaged at work to want to continue their career within the company. With more than a third of employees actively looking for other jobs, and 32 percent feeling they need to leave their job in order to advance in their career (Ceridian), there is a lot of work to be done on retaining talent. 

Of course, not everyone working for large or small organisations want to change their career. Many are content in their current role without urgent need to advance, but potential talent is being lost too often when they aren’t being recognised or supported. Many organisations without a mentoring program could benefit from having one to engage talent in new initiatives and above all to let them know that their career development is valued. 

It costs around $5,000 to hire one new employee including the onboarding process, so it is crucial for businesses to revisit their strategies as far as retaining employees and minimalizing absenteeism due to lack of engagement and career support. Mentoring offers people the chance to be seen and heard in an environment where potentially hundreds of employees feel they are just going through the daily motions with no prospects in their job. Although it wouldn’t make sense to introduce every employee into a mentoring program, it does offer the opportunity to those who were looking for a way to reach the next step in their career. 

Assists with succession planning

Just as with retaining talent, succession planning can be about looking internally for talent within organizations but with specific positions in mind. Mentoring programs are beneficial to the business in this sense by providing a structured and visible platform to see who may be in line for a particular promotion and to be able to track how their progress is going. Mentors with specific sets of skills can be targeted at individuals who need to fill some gaps in knowledge before taking their next step, offering exposure to different environments, and gaining crucial experience that they would need to do a certain role. 

Succession planning is an important part of any business, where people can leave due to retirement or unforeseen circumstances, leaving positions open that require particular skills and knowledge to be able to do. Mentoring can help to ensure that this knowledge is not lost when a person leaves and prepare potential talent to step into the role when the time becomes necessary. 

Convincing the organisation that they need a mentoring program

Statistics don’t lie, but they also don’t cover everyone’s viewpoint when only a certain amount of people are surveyed. When it comes to your own organisation, the vital points in deciding if a mentoring program is needed may ultimately come down to the investment and whether the costs involved match up with the timescales and manpower needed to initiate such a program. 

Look at how much time is on the side of the organization compared with how much time is needed to develop skills of employees. If there is going to be a large change within the company where it is imperative that all individuals are caught up with training in new procedures, then a mentoring program may not be the right thing to take on board at that time. 

If there are low engagement levels, and the organization lacks in the area of internal promotions, mostly looking externally for new senior hires and time is on their side, then a mentoring program could be used as a long-term solution to internal development. The thing to realise is that once the tools are in place, a mentoring program can be the most efficient way of introducing knowledge sharing, while offering support to employees and if it invigorates current and perhaps stale development practices, the benefits will still be seen in years to come. 

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