The job market is more cut throat than ever. Companies are jockeying for position to not only attract new talent but also retain the brain trust they’ve got. There are many paths that promise employment nirvana, but one stands out from the rest — mentorship.
Mentorship is tied to several important aspects of career development. A study found that employees with mentors reported higher compensation, greater levels of promotion, more commitment and satisfaction in their career and more positive feelings about the organization and its leaders. On the flip side, high achievers in large organizations cited lack of mentorship as a chief reason they left their last job according to a Harvard Business Review report.
What makes mentoring so essential in today’s business, and how does it add value for all parties involved? When we look at the value of mentorship, it is helpful to view it from the perspective of the mentor, the mentee and the organization.
Benefits for the Mentor
Breeding the next generation of leaders
Not many are born leaders. It’s a skill that has to be refined and developed over time just like any other. Leadership opportunities can be sparse in the corporate environment. It’s too late to evaluate a person’s leadership capabilities once they’ve been promoted into a management role. Mentorship helps build great leaders. 75 percent of executives credited mentorship as a driving force in helping them reach their position.
Through mentoring, seasoned employees can develop their leadership skills in a low-risk environment. Senior-level managers can help guide mentors and polish their approach with their mentees, helping the mentor become more effective.
Exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches
Many view mentorship as a one-way street where the mentor gives of their knowledge and time while the mentee reaps the rewards. This assumption fails to take into account the considerable value the mentee contributes to the relationship.
Whether one has worked in the field for thirty years or are fresh out of college, everyone brings a different perspective to the table. Seasoned veterans can gain a lot from being asked why. Why is the current established way of doing things the way it is? How does the team deal with the limitations of this approach? Why was a seemingly superior option not selected? By walking through existing business processes, the mentor may end up questioning their validity based new advances or even the evolution of the company. This curiosity, injected by new team members, is healthy to reevaluate long held assumptions that have grown into standard practice.
Opportunity to give back and share knowledge
Like building a Habitat house or devoting time to volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister, helping others feels good. You are lending your time and experience to help someone reach a greater level of fulfillment in their career. Watching someone’s confidence take hold is a very gratifying thing and being a stepping stone to their success is something to take pride in.
It’s hard to put a price tag on that feeling, but mentors have to have an element of that altruistic drive for it to be effective. Mentorship requires carving out time and energy from one’s busy schedule. Mentors have to internally feel the value in what they are doing in order to maintain the motivation to keep doing it.
Benefits for the Mentee
Increased visibility and recognition within the organization
One of the biggest challenges a new hire can face is getting on the radar of their superiors. Great work is often overlooked. Groundbreaking ideas can be misattributed. In short, the channel to management can seem like an inescapable maze for a new employee. Having a mentor advocating for them instantly pulls the new hire out of the shadows.
Under the mentoring model, managers should be regularly briefed on the mentee’s status with their achievements highlighted. This allows the mentee to be properly recognized for their efforts instead of feeling lost as just another cog in the machine.
Develop personal skills and provide guidance on professional growth
Mentors are great at providing perspective that can often be difficult to see. While one may be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they may not know how to properly nurture those talents or how to eliminate their shortcomings. These could be stunting their career advancement without them even realizing it.
In addition to helping fulfill their potential, mentors can also provide invaluable advice and perspective on everything from daily challenges to career shaping advice. A good mentor fleshes out options and attempts to bring to light things that may have been overlooked. At other times, mentors can serve as a great sounding board, allowing their mentee to put a second set of eyes on a difficult situation.
Instantly create a web of contacts within the organization
That first day on the job can be like walking into the high school cafeteria for the first time. Some are fortunate enough to have a social group to sit with while others are swiftly fed to the piranhas. Those who walk into a job with a social web already in place are more likely to be productive quicker, adopt the culture more easily and ultimately reach their potential.
By serving as their anchor, a mentor can instill all these things in a new employee by assisting with knowledge transfer, including them in the community and reinforcing important cultural norms. A mentor can be the difference between an employee failing to take root versus one who becomes the next great team member.
Benefits for the Organization
Increase employee retention
Mentorship equals happier employees. Of the notorious job-hopping millennials, 68 percent stayed with a company over five years who had a mentor.
Happiness is, of course, an elusive thing so how can happiness be traced back to mentoring? MentorcliQ found tight bonds in the workplace translates into lower turnover rates. Employees with one to five work friends were 62 percent more likely to reject a job offer. That percentage jumps to 70 when this circle exceeds six or more. Mentorship helps build this web of close relationships within the workplace.
Aid in talent acquisition
Currently, 54 percent of workers reportedly don’t have a mentor, and 76 percent view it as important to their overall success. Having a strong mentorship program is a benefit for companies trying to woo top talent. It says that the organization cares about its employees, and that personal and professional development is a cornerstone to the organization’s success..
Human Resource departments should actively sell mentorship as a feature of the organization right alongside 401K and health-care benefits. Potential employees want to know what their career development will look like if they join the organization. Other companies will talk about sending employees off to a conference once a year or the wealth of experience they will learn on the job, but traditional efforts pale in comparison to the career development that can take place under a structured mentoring program.
A good mentor pushes you out of your comfort zone. They boost your self esteem and confidence. They provide knowledge and advice to allow you to overcome challenges that block your way. They help you grow personally and professionally in ways that can be exceedingly difficult without such guidance.
Few corporate initiatives reach as many areas of employee growth and fulfillment as mentoring. Companies that fail to embrace the benefits of mentorship are missing out on a prime opportunity to be more than just a place to collect a paycheck.