Mentorship programs: they’re great, right? Or so people say. Wait, are they as great as people say? To find out, let’s look at some cold, hard facts.
Many Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs—more than 70 percent, according to the Association for Talent Development. So do about a quarter of smaller businesses. Notable success stories include Sodexo, which offers three different levels of mentorship to their 420,000 employees, and Intel, which matches its 95,000 employees to in-person and virtual mentors as needed.
It’s understandable to wonder, “Are these programs smart business moves, or are they more of a fad?” The answer is that your mileage may vary: not all mentorship programs are created equal. No two companies are the same, so if a company just jumps on the bandwagon without thinking about what it needs, it’s likely to fail. Each company needs to tailor its mentorship program to be as specific to its culture as possible. Otherwise, the program will be ineffective and may even cause damage to mentors, mentees, and the company alike.
In contrast, when a program is done well, mentors, mentees, and the company all reap substantial benefits. Mentoring is associated with job performance and satisfaction and career success for mentors. Studies also suggest that a mentoring program can “bolster recruiting, boost employee engagement, help train future company leadership, increase diversity, and raise rates of worker loyalty and retention.”
There’s also evidence that mentoring brings a measurable ROI. A 2014 business outcomes survey by MicroMentor indicated that between July 2012 and June 2013, businesses whose entrepreneurs were mentored increased their revenue by 83% compared to the 16% of non-mentored businesses. A study at University of California-Santa Cruz even “estimated that an investment in mentoring programs for new teachers returned $1.50 for every $1 spent, after taking into account how much less money was spent on credentialing teachers and how much better students performed.”
A mentorship program is also an excellent opportunity to boost satisfaction and engagement. It’s no secret that the younger generations of workers are chronically dissatisfied with their jobs, contributing mightily to the epidemic of disengagement plaguing today’s workforce. How can a company make their young, dissatisfied employees more satisfied and thus more engaged? Studies and surveys suggest that millennial and Generation Z workers want mentors, and they want them now. When they do get them, they seem to be more satisfied with their jobs. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey indicated that 68% of respondents who said they planned to stay in their organizations for a minimum of five years had a mentor.
The stats speak for themselves—companies that invest in a mentorship program tend to cultivate their company culture more effectively and retain their workforce for longer than those who do not. Outside of the realm of factual evidence, however, companies that use their existing talent as mentors for new employees create personal connections among employees. The mentor/mentee relationship is something that an employee can draw upon throughout their time with a company. When mentees face a new problem or challenge, a mentor creates a workplace resource that they can use to overcome that challenge. In many cases, these relationships evolve into deeper connections that transcend the professional environment.
In the end, companies are only as good as the relationship among their employees, and mentorship programs are great ways to cultivate those relationships while helping new hires through the onboarding process. For more tips on how to spot potential mentors within your ranks, take a look at the previous blog in our mentorship series.