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How Mentorship Can Improve the Employee Experience

Media reports and social media channels these days are full of data and stats related to the “great resignation” of employees of all ages, and across all types of jobs. Much of this exodus has been reported to be related to employees’ experiences during the pandemic. Working from home has provided many employees with more control over their work/life balance, as well as the opportunity to re-examine their work/life values.

Now is a critical time for employers to be considering ways that they can better engage and energize their employees in meaningful ways. This is especially true for those employees who are newest to the workplace and represent new opportunities to build a talent pipeline — Generation Z.

A Role for Mentorship

Combine the need for mentorship and feedback amongst all employees with the opportunity for junior, senior and seasoned employees to share their knowledge, and the impact can be significant. Less experienced staff can reap the value of senior executives experience, while the organization and its leadership can benefit from younger employees' perspective, new ideas and fresh approaches.

Having a formal program in place can ensure that this type of feedback isn’t just an afterthought or something that occurs “on occasion,” but part of the overall employee experience.

Traditional mentorship, and reverse mentorship — where a senior employee partners with a less experienced, often younger employee to gain business insights — is a win-win for everyone, offering important benefits for both employees and employers, especially in a multigenerational workforce.

The Benefits of Mentorship for Employees

In a recent SHRM article, Daniel Bortz pointed out the many benefits that mentorship can represent for employees. “A great mentor can help you kick-start your career, build your skill set and define your professional brand,” he says. And yet, he reports “more than 4 in 10 U.S. workers (44%) reported that they have never had a mentor, according to a survey by Olivet Nazarene University.”

That’s unfortunate because mentorship can provide significant benefits to employees — in addition to busting the myth that only Gen Z needs attention and feedback (hint: everyone does):

  • Mentors provide different perspective especially when they’re from different age groups, have different life/professional experiences, or represent various other forms of diversity
  • Mentees gain new knowledge about the organization, their profession, the industry they work in, and develop and hone leadership and communication skills
  • Mentorship boosts job satisfaction as mentors encourage mentees to tackle new challenges and champions their successes
  • Mentorship programs build relationships especially cross-functionally and across generations
  • Mentorship programs build community by breaking down organizational and generational silos

In addition, says Angie Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions and a Certified Personnel Consultant, “mentorship can help employees gain better knowledge about company resources — including benefits they may have otherwise overlooked or failed to appreciate. It’s surprising how many employees today aren’t sure about the benefits and perks that their workplaces actually offer. Mentors can make things clearer and help employees utilize available company resources, such as healthcare plans, 401k access, and employee assistance programs.”

Employers can play a part in the process of ensuring employees gain the advantages that a mentorship program can bring. In fact, employers can also benefit from supporting the employee mentorship experience.

The Benefits of Mentorship for Employers

One of the big benefits of strategically using mentorship as an employee engagement strategy is retention. Gen Z employees are particularly at risk these days. In fact, SmartBrief reports that an Adobe study revealed that “more than half of Generation Z employees intend to look for a new job in the next 12 months” and that “they are the generation least happy with their jobs and work-life balance.” They point to a separate survey by GetApp that found 69% of Gen Zers want mentorship and regular feedback from managers, and GetApp's Brian Westfall said, "Gen Z wants to know where they stand at all times, and it's on company leaders and mentors to let them know."

The pandemic and move to more remote and hybrid work opportunities has fueled this trend as Gen Z workers look for the continuation of the flexibility they’ve experienced while working from home. Providing mentorship opportunities for Gen Z and, in fact, all generations, can help employers benefit from:

  • A more highly trained, upskilled workforce
  • A cost-effective way to provide training and development opportunities to employees
  • An opportunity to show employees that their career development is valued
  • Grooming the leadership pipeline which, when done strategically, can be a great way to boost diversity at higher levels of the organization
  • Improvements in employee engagement and retention

It’s important to note that the benefits of retention actually accrue to both mentees and mentors. In fact, Forbes has reported that retention rates were significantly higher for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for employees not participating in these relationships (49%).

We know that it’s more costly to acquire new talent than to retain existing talent — mentorship programs can help reduce the costs of recruitment while improving the chances that organizations will be able to retain top talent.

In an environment where top talent is in high demand and companies of all kinds are talking about the growing need for reskilling, mentorship programs can be a cost-effective way to close gaps in skill training, something we pointed out in our Employee Engagement Trends and Forecasts for 2021.

Boosting the Value of Mentorship with Rewards and Recognition

Mentorship programs are most effective when the efforts of both mentors and mentees are recognized and shared. Celebrating the accomplishments of new learning, taking advantage of opportunities to thank their mentors, recognizing new achievements of mentees, etc., are all great ways to encourage learning and growth in visible ways — and to build a strong team culture.

Recognizing these efforts is important, says Mangrum. “Providing coaching or guidance to others is time-consuming, so you need to compensate for this additional duty somehow,” she advises. “I always recommend providing some form of recognition or incentive to your organization’s mentors if you’re serious about establishing a successful company-wide mentorship program.”

Inspirus Connects is a single employee engagement platform that connects employees to senior leaders to interact, celebrate accomplishments and share and receive recognition, fueling a culture of continuous learning, innovation and collaboration.

Topics: learning, employee engagement, skills development, employee growth, mentorship