Employee Development

Using Mentoring in the Workplace to Improve Employee Retention

Two businesswoman in an office working together on a computer.

If your organization doesn’t have a mentoring program in place, you’re missing out! If you ask a successful professional how they got to where they are today in their career, along with hard work and determination, they will probably tell you about a person or people that helped them get their start or guided them along the way.

The guidance and support of others are critical aspects which anyone needs to grow. You can provide this kind of support to your organization’s employees by creating a workplace mentoring program.

A mentoring program can improve employee retention, create more diversity, help plan for the future, and save on costs for other forms of training.

Here we’ll offer strategies, tools, and guidance for you and your employees to get a mentoring program started.

What is Workplace Mentoring?

Workplace mentoring is a cost-effective way for existing, well-trained employees to provide guidance and knowledge to less-experienced employees. The mentor is typically not the direct manager or supervisor of the mentee, and the outcomes differ, depending on the goals of the program.

The mentor helps the mentee develop new skills, become better problem-solvers, get acclimated to the work environment, and have an example to look up to. For the mentor, it is a way to practice leadership and development skills and may help them advance within the organization.

Lastly, for the company, a mentor program is a great way to cost-effectively strengthen employee engagement and reduce the turnover rate.

Benefits of a Mentoring Program

Mentorship programs benefit employers and their employees in multiple measurable and visible ways:

Employee Retention

The mentor experience positively influences job satisfaction among new employees. The addition of a mentor program helps to create a positive work environment, and a higher level of employee satisfaction leads to improved retention.

According to Forbes, retention rates were significantly higher for mentees (72%) and for mentors (69%) than for employees who did not participate (49%) in a mentor program. It’s been proven that it is more costly to acquire new talent than it is to retain employees, and mentorship programs can help reduce these costs.

Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are significant challenges for organizations too. Mentoring programs can help promote diversity in leadership by encouraging the sharing of opinions, knowledge, and ideas throughout an organization. A successful mentor program can serve to better attract and retain employees from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

Mentor Skills

It’s expected that the mentors are improving the skills of the mentees, but what professionals may not realize is that the mentors are also improving their skills through knowledge sharing. For example, employees of differing generations paired together could discuss topics like technological changes or a strong work ethic.

Succession Planning

The addition of a mentorship program can spark greater leadership development, which can help with succession planning for the future. Mentees experience faster progression in their growth and institutional knowledge, and the mentor deepens their sense of purpose and strengthens their leadership position within the organization.

How to Start a Workplace Mentoring Program

If you need help retaining your employees and preparing them for the future, starting a mentoring program can help. The steps to create a workplace mentoring program are:

1. Set the Objectives and How the Program Will Work

When you first set out to start a mentor program you will need to decide what your objectives are and how you will measure them.

Here are four examples of KPIs that measure success:

  1. Satisfaction Score: Communicate with those in the program and ask if they are satisfied with the program. If you receive any negative feedback implement a plan to change it.
  2. Engagement Activity: An improvement in engagement is proof of a successful program. The program is on track if the employees are engaging and participating.
  3. Learning and Development Targets: The right pairing of mentors and mentees increases learning. If learning and development is improved, the program is working.
  4. Retention Rate: If retention rates among program participants are improving, it is clear the mentoring program is working. If employee satisfaction of the program is high, you are likely to retain more employees.

In this stage, you can also decide who is eligible to be a mentor and what that criteria looks like, as well as who the mentees are. How often will they meet and what will their structure look like? This is essentially your game plan for how the entire program will work.

BizLibrary’s Director of Talent Development and Culture, Libby Mullen-Eaves, told us that she looks for mentors who have: been with the company for at least one year, have their manager’s approval, and are in excellent standing within the company.

2. Get Leadership Buy-In

This step is necessary to start the program on a strong footing. Ensure the organization’s leadership team is on board with the plan. This is when a learning and development professional will go into the conversation with the above game plan for how the program will work and discuss the benefits to really sell executives on the initiative.

3. Promote the Program

Now that your program is planned and approved, your team needs to create some excitement. Post it where everyone can see it, and ask managers and leaders to talk about it to get people interested in how they can become a part.

Recruiting mentors can be done in numerous ways, such as one-on-one recruiting, posting to your company’s intranet, or by using past mentor groups as models for the program.

Promote this program as a leadership opportunity – this is a great opportunity for an employee who may or may not show an interest in being a manager but likes helping to develop others.

4. Execute the Program

Pair the mentors and mentees with one another. Introduce them and have them meet more frequently (once a week) for the first month, so they can get to know one another better, and then monthly. The mentoring commitment should be for at least one full year, but often the relationship lasts much longer.

Libby Mullen-Eaves tells us what criteria she uses for matching mentors and mentees:

  • Different departments: Mentors and mentees are from different departments. This unlikely pairing helps cross-collaboration, networking, and forming a relationship outside of the people in their own department that they talk to every day.
  • Personality: We use the Ntrinsx personality test to match employees with someone who has a similar personality. She wants mentors and mentees to have similar communication styles and values.
  • Organizational level: When pairing the partners, she chooses a mentor who is either at the same organizational level or higher in the company, so that they can share some of their experiences.
  • Does this relationship make sense? Lastly, Libby determines if this partnership really makes sense – will these people work well together?

Make sure that as the L&D professional, you are available to the mentor or mentee in case something is not going well. For example, if the mentor and mentee do not seem to be a good personality fit, you are able to step in and help or make a change.

5. Follow Up

Now that the mentorship program is up and running, it’s time to reflect on those objectives you set at the very beginning. If things aren’t measuring up, dive deeper into what is and isn’t working. Be sure to celebrate the wins!

The Mentor-Mentee Relationship

This relationship should be beneficial for both parties. For an effective, productive relationship, ask your mentors to agree to the following: keep communication open, offer support, clearly state expectations, keep in contact, be honest, participate, get to know one another, stay positive, and be reliable.

At BizLibrary, mentors and mentees sign a contract binding them to a confidential relationship and a one-year commitment.

A mentor may share information about their career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, support, and be a role model. Together the mentor and mentee can take this time for career exploration, goal setting, or to develop contacts within the organization for additional support. The possibilities of this relationship are truly limitless.

Engaging Employees

Although most organizations are striving for increased retention and engagement, that doesn’t mean it can be achieved quickly. Engagement and retention increase when the company culture is improved, and having opportunities to develop your employees plays a big part in creating a strong culture. Mentoring programs are just one of many strategic ways to develop employees and improve retention.

View this webinar for more information on how to build a strong mentor program that will help you achieve your goals of increasing employee retention and engagement: Mentor Programs That Retain and Engage Employees.

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Caroline researches and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at L&D and HR issues and industry trends and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.