How can you harness the experience of a senior executive, and spread new ideas and a fresh approach of a promising manager? The answer lies in mentoring: a practice that is growing in popularity as companies look to develop their future leaders. Low-cost, high returns and happy people all round, what’s not to like in a mentoring program?
As companies look to develop the careers of their employees, without resorting to personalized and expensive training, mentoring has never been so popular. Tailored to the specific needs of their company, and delivered at little or no cost, mentoring can be provided with a variety of objectives – from on-boarding new hires to improving collaboration and promoting inclusion. Add the more familiar role of passing on experience to talented, up-and coming employees, and it’s easy to understand the popularity.
For a successful mentoring program, though, careful planning is essential. Once the objectives have been decided, the next step is the format – such as inter-generational, where senior executives pass on their experience, or a focus on gender, where the aim could be to develop women’s leadership. Typically, this offers not only a transfer of knowledge but also a better understanding of generational differences on both sides. Organizations also need to decide if a mentor is helping a single employee or a group.
More confidence, higher revenues
The benefits of mentoring are wide-ranging, with corporate programs being proven to increase employees’ skills and self-confidence. They also improve employee engagement and retention, which raise productivity and lower HR costs respectively. A Gartner Group study  found that retention rates were higher for both mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for other employees, while another survey  revealed that nearly twice as many companies with mentoring programs reported an increase in revenue as non-mentored counterparts.
A boost for careers
And if mentoring is good for business, it’s also very popular with employees. Over 79% of Millennials see mentoring as crucial to their career success , while 25% of employees enrolled in a mentoring program had a positive salary grade change, compared to 5% who did not enroll , studies show. Such is the consensus among management and employees of their positive impact, that over 71% of Fortune 500 companies now offer mentoring programs.
A positive experience at Sodexo
Advantages such as these are also well-known to Sodexo. A program was first deployed at Group level in 2009, while Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services began mentoring in 2014 with a target audience of the top 350 managers. Around 24 to 28 mentees and an equal number of mentors – in separate departments and ideally in different countries – are selected for its international program every June. Organized by the Talent Management team, the selection process matches the needs of potential mentees on the one hand, with Sodexo’s business requirements on the other. Over the year, each pair has a monthly conversation by phone or Skype for at least an hour, plus a face-to face meeting. With the objectives and format agreed at the outset, the program has proved very successful.
Small investment, big return
“In their feedback, the mentees are extremely enthusiastic,” says Laure Arnaud, HR Development Director, Sodexo Benefits & Rewards Services. “They really appreciate that someone is taking time to help them. Satisfaction levels with our programs are spectacular, as they meet a real need. While mentees gain in knowledge, leadership and career development, mentors also learn new ideas and new approaches, and both sides also gain in empathy. Mentoring costs very little to provide, yet is very beneficial for everyone involved. It’s the ultimate win-win.”