Mentoring programs have been a feature of the workplace for decades and can be key to boosting employee retention and engagement, as well as enhancing professional development.
With many organisations currently struggling to retain talent, and more employees placing greater emphasis on career development, now could be the perfect time to implement a mentorship program in your company and benefit from creating a learning culture where employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated – and therefore less likely to jump ship.
What is mentoring?
“Mentoring in the workplace is where those in more senior positions provide help and guidance to more junior employees,” explains Guy Denison-Smith, director at Universal Recruitment and Interim Solutions. “It helps foster a collegiate working environment and acts to spread knowledge and best practice through an organisation. If done correctly, employees will feel empowered and ultimately be happier.”
Mentoring can take many forms and range from training on specific projects, regular check-ins, or one-to-one guidance, adds Kate Palmer, HR advice & consultancy director at Peninsula. “Mentoring allows an employee to grow in their role and improve their confidence, as well as ensure key organisational objectives are met.”
Why is mentoring important?
Mentoring in the workplace is valuable because there are numerous benefits for everyone involved. For the mentees, it can boost confidence, improve job satisfaction, and provide them with career development opportunities. For the mentors, it can enhance their leadership and communication skills and give them a sense of fulfilment at work; and for the organisation, it can improve employee engagement, boost retention rates, increase employee performance, encourage knowledge sharing, and promote a strong company culture.
“Now more than ever, employees want to feel valued in the workplace and be recognised for their contributions and achievements,” remarks Kate Palmer. “Where an employee doesn’t feel adequately valued for the work they do, they are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. As such, mentorship is key to developing a positive relationship with staff, to support them and show an employer’s prioritisation for their development and success.”
How can mentoring programs increase engagement and retention?
Workplace mentoring can improve engagement because employees will feel that their employer is focused on their own professional development, job satisfaction and wellbeing. This enables them to feel valued, motivated, and empowered, which in turn improves performance and retention.
“Employees who feel valued and supported in the workplace are more likely to remain with the same employer, be engaged in their work and perform better,” remarks Kate Palmer. “As such, employers should recognise that there is a positive correlation between high motivation and satisfaction and low turnover with boosted productivity. When leveraged successfully, mentorship of employees will facilitate these factors and provide a win-win solution for both employees and employers.”
Some organisations also make the mistake of assuming that employees are only focused on salary – yet many are now looking to further their career and want their employers to place emphasis on their professional and personal development too.
“Companies spend a lot of money on salaries and benefits to keep their people, but sometimes they lose out because they fail to realise it’s not always about the money,” remarks Fidelma Hewitt, director at Universal Recruitment and Interim Solutions. “People have anxieties and concerns, and need guidance, so to have a mentor who is experienced in dealing with a wide range of issues is often the difference between someone staying or moving on.”
How can HR ensure their mentoring programs are successful?
A crucial part of the success of any mentorship program is to gain leadership buy-in.
“It is about senior people promoting the concept and being seen to use this medium themselves,” comments Fidelma Hewitt. “Whatever position you have in a company, at some point you will seek advice. It is a plus not a negative to discuss any issues. Senior leaders need to talk about this and the benefits.”
It’s also important to evaluate and measure your mentoring program, to ensure it is working as it should.
“Employers shouldn’t assume their mentorship programs are structured in a way that meets employees’ wants and needs, or that they are working effectively; instead, they should find out from them directly,” advises Kate Palmer. “Conducting stay interviews can help employers assess and understand what motivates and satisfies employees and encourages them to be productive. It can also help to tailor mentorship programmes specifically to an individual’s development and long-term career plans.
How can HR technology support employee mentoring?
HR software can support mentoring programs by enabling employers to automate their employee development processes. Cloud-based performance management software can, for example, track performance, reduce the admin burden on HR, increase employee engagement through a collaborative ownership of the process, and provide valuable insight from regular performance appraisals and feedback.
“There are many ways that employee mentoring can be aided by technology,” says Kate Palmer. “For instance, cloud document storage can help businesses stay on top of important documentation and dates, such as performance reviews. Likewise, software can allow employers to set reminders for anniversaries like six-month reviews and read receipts can ensure employees have read and taken on feedback.”
Philippa Barnes, director at ReThink HR Ltd, adds: “HR technology can be used to support the interactions that managers have with their team. Information about how an employee is doing in their role can be combined with the setting of objectives and training needs – all data can be collated centrally and used to determine an L&D program, as well as looking at succession planning, flight risk and highlighting any issues of poor performance that need to be addressed.”
She adds that while HR software can’t always replace the efforts of the line manager to build and maintain relationships, it can help to embed performance, objectives, and engagement into the organisation. “This then allows the business to reap the rewards of a team who feel valued and engaged in their roles, and who continue to grow their skills and experiences in ways that interest them and support the wider business objectives.”
To find out how XCD can help facilitate your employee mentorship program through our performance module, or to request a demo, please click here.