Creating a culture of mentorship may sound easy in theory, however, many companies struggle to put the concept into practice.
While studies show that more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs, less than half of employees say they have one or more mentors in their life currently. This shows a clear disconnect that organizations must do more to implement mentorship practices in the workplace.
Despite popular belief, two employees connecting over coffee or Zoom doesn’t give an organization the green light to shout about their “culture of mentorship” from the proverbial rooftops. This is a strong sign that a culture of mentorship can be successful within this company, but is only scratching the surface of the true potential of implementing mentorship best practices.
Organizations that embrace a consistent practice of mentorship, from the longstanding CEO to the fresh-faced intern just starting on the job, both in application and in utility, are in the running to creating a true culture of mentorship.
With a culture of mentorship, businesses can programmatically and systematically use this program to not only cultivate and retain talent, but also to meet and exceed top-line business goals.
The Benefits of a Mentorship-First Culture
There are myriad benefits to a company that sets out to build a culture of mentorship.
Building a Corporate Reputation
Some are obvious — having this type of reputation makes it far easier for an organization to receive a “Great Place to Work” stamp of approval and tout the workplace culture and corporate brand. Not to mention, several studies show that a culture of mentorship increases employee engagement and job satisfaction.
A socially supportive environment and culture have a trickle-down effect, where employees are more apt to engage with their peers and others. These employees are also more likely to tell others about their experiences at work, becoming instant brand ambassadors for the organization and new talent looking for opportunities such as this.
Increasing Employee Engagement & Productivity
With the cost of attrition rising for organizations across the globe, increasing employee retention is of utmost importance to many corporate executives. Creating a culture where employees are encouraged to connect with their peers can dovetail into increased levels of productivity and ultimately retention. An employee who feels connected to their workplace is more likely to not only want to stay, but will also want to work hard to meet the goals of their organization.
Cultivating Underrepresented Talent
A culture of mentorship allows many who may not be the first to speak up the chance to connect with leaders without barriers to entry.
For underrepresented employees and new underrepresented talent, a culture where social justice and fairness reign supreme means these individuals feel like they can advance without limitation. According to the Tech Leavers Survey, 62 percent of employees would have stayed at their company if it had taken steps to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. An open culture of mentorship allows this to happen.
Building Confidence to Elevate Competence
Implementing a mentorship program from day one helps new employees to build confidence in their role. An employee who may have taken 18-24 months to feel confident to operate autonomously is now ready to be fully autonomous in their role only after one year. Mentoring helps to build that confidence-style mindset.
How to Build a Culture of Mentorship
Setting aside an hour for employees to chat over Zoom or creating dedicated Slack channels for workplace culture is not what a true culture of mentorship is all about.
Identify the Pain Point
To truly create a culture of mentorship that can grow and thrive over time, organizations must identify the greatest need that mentoring can solve. This question must be answered first: “What is our acute point of pain?”
Is it attracting new, diverse talent? Onboarding new talent? Retaining the highest-performing employees? Increasing productivity?
Once that is determined, it must be tied to an organizational or business objective. It can’t just be a box to be checked on a to-do list, mentorship needs a long-term opportunity to thrive. For this to happen, senior executives will want to understand how it can improve the bottom line.
There are several studies that show how mentorship can improve employee engagement, increase productivity, retain employees and cultivate diverse talent. By implementing a mentorship program, organizations can see near-immediate results to almost all of these pain points.
However, for well-established companies that have several smaller informal mentorship programs already running, it is important to start small. Any large-scale rollout of a new type of mentorship program will likely be met with resistance.
Just like in sales, the “land and expand” type strategy can allow a small group of employees to test out a new program before it is brought to the masses. Employee resource groups (ERGs) can be a great catalyst and place to start.
In addition to starting small, organizations must implement new strategies to reach a potentially disparate workforce. Prior to COVID-19, in-person mentorship programs or all-day training were the most popular ways to start a mentorship program. In our current environment, technology-driven mentorship programs are a must.
With employees opting to stay in a remote work environment for the foreseeable future, virtual mentorship programs will be the strategy of choice to both implement and scale mentorship, no matter the size of the organization.
A Culture of Mentorship As a Way of Life
Once an organization moves from an “I” culture to a “we” culture through mentorship, executives will see reduced pockets of resistance and minimal barriers to productivity.
When a company can identify a pain point, start small, and utilize technology, it will be well on its way to creating a long-term, successful culture of mentorship. The employees that participate will become the mouthpiece for mentorship and in turn, can help to lead talent development and retention. Disengaged employees will turn into loyal, retained advocates.
A culture of mentorship can truly be a way of life, where employees are connected and thrive. These organizations don’t rely on hierarchy to define success, they give each and every employee the tools they need to succeed and grow. Leaders are not just mentors and interns are not just mentees; different groups of people can learn from each others’ vast experiences, both personally and professionally.
Creating a culture of mentorship may not be easy, but the companies that put in the time early and often will reap the benefits for years to come.