Companies worldwide are looking everywhere they can for effective, high-impact employee retention and engagement strategies. Most now turn to structured mentoring programs as a way to uniquely connect employees into active learning engagements that leverage the skills and experience of the mentor. In fact, 84% of US Fortune 500 companies now use mentoring programs (and 100% of the top 50 US companies), making mentoring a go-to strategy among the most successful companies. So why mentoring? Organizations commonly encounter several employee and talent-related issues that make mentoring a valuable strategy to consider. Companies that have figured out how to make mentoring work have also discovered that the benefits of mentoring are powerful for both mentees and mentors.
The Benefits of Mentoring (For Everyone)
1. Mentoring dramatically reduces turnover
Across the board, turnover costs US businesses close to $1 trillion annually. The cost to replace employees is exceptionally high. Gallup reports that the cost to replace an employee can be upward of 2X that employee’s salary, or more. In the Oil & Gas industry, the replacement cost for highly-specialized workers can be as much as 400% of that employee’s salary.
Meanwhile, those organizations that use mentoring enjoy far better retention rates among their mentoring program participants. Both mentors and mentees involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate compared to those not involved in mentoring. Employees who are involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in mentoring.
2. Mentoring produces significant cost savings
Once organizations reduce their turnover using mentoring programs, the obvious follows: Large savings in turnover costs. As noted above, turnover is expensive. When companies reduce their turnover by 50% or more, they also save a large amount of money. Ultimately, this leads to more money available to spend elsewhere, such as on hiring more staff, increasing pay and benefits to existing staff, or expanding and growing the business. This is particularly true when companies use mentoring software to automate and expand their mentoring programs.
Red Hat, for example, enjoyed $6 million in retention savings over a 29 month period thanks to its structured mentoring programs that utilized mentoring software to run the programs, with a 107X ROI.
3. Mentoring supplies workers with the type of personal engagements they want and need
All employees are looking to engage better within their organizations. Post-pandemic, employees want more than just higher pay. In 2021, 65% of people were looking for a new job. Most are looking for work that has meaning, greater connections with their coworkers, strong communities at work, and opportunities to grow and expand their skills and knowledge. They’re also willing to leave companies that aren’t providing those opportunities for organizations that are. Consequently, 94% of workers would stick around longer if their employer offered career development and learning opportunities, and 90% report being happy at work when they have a mentor.
When workers are happy to be where they are, they stick around. When workers stay, companies decrease their cost to replace workers, saving thousands or millions of dollars each year. Ultimately, this also leads to a better work culture, and reduces the negative impacts of skilled people taking their knowledge and training with them out the door to competing organizations.
The Benefits of Mentoring for Mentees
So, what do I mean when I say “less tangible skills”? I’m talking about foundational skills that are the basis for learning about your everyday work and will also help you with relationships and soft skills:
- Your ability to learn
- Reciprocity in a relationship
- Creating meaningful connections
- Building resiliency and adaptability
Each of these is an ingredient in the secret sauce that will boost your efforts to improve, no matter where you are and what you are doing. Let’s look at how being in a mentoring relationship can factor in to help you develop these skills
1. Your Ability to Learn
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese proverb
As this is absolutely true, you want to make sure that you are taking the best advantage of your learning opportunities. Being in a mentoring relationship can give you the comfort zone and time to figure out not just what to learn but how to learn. Your mentor can give you a safe place to step outside your comfort zone and test ideas that might be “risky”. Mentors can also help you save time and effort, as they help you identify what things are “time sucks” and what you should be focusing your energy on. Pay attention to what you are learning and adjust your learning style to what will be most effective in that situation. For example, if you are working on being a better public speaker, don’t just watch a video about it – ask your mentor to critique you or join a group, such as Toastmasters, to develop your skills. Be creative when looking for ways to build skills, so you don’t get in a rut. As you achieve some successes from what you’ve learned, you will increase your confidence to continue taking on new challenges.
2. Reciprocity in a Relationship
“It’s so good to have the opportunity to help others who have helped you.”
– Karen E. Quinones Miller, American Journalist, Historian
One thing that most mentees don’t consider as an opportunity but should, is the satisfaction of being in a relationship that is much like a partnership. There is a sense of reciprocity in a mentoring relationship because, believe it or not, your mentor is also getting some benefit from mentoring you. Some skills, such as getting satisfaction by sharing expertise or increasing their organizational reputation, are mostly applicable to them but you both can take advantage of riding the life-long learner train. Yes, you are the mentee and will be doing most of the learning but you can change the dynamic of the relationship by knowing that you, too, have something to offer. This feeling is called the “protege effect” and benefits you by making you more aware of your learning process, can make you a more effective and efficient learner, can make you more open to learning new things and give you an increased feeling of competence. During the many years that I served in the program admin capacity, another home truth was made clear to me. The mentees who were engaged and actively took responsibility for their learning, rather than passively letting their mentor decide everything, had the most productive and successful relationships. By “mentoring up”, you can share your thoughts and needs and provide your mentor with the information that they need to help you become more successful and achieve your goals.
3. Creating Meaningful Connections
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.”
– Rachel Naomi Remen MD, Author, Professor of Integrative Medicine
You cannot exist on this Earth without having connections and having positive, effective connections will alleviate stress, aid productivity and make you feel healthier and happier. Working within a mentoring partnership can help you build the skills needed to create these relationships – celebrating differences, being present, advanced communication skills such as effective listening and giving and taking feedback, and empathy. These skills apply to every relationship that you have, no matter if they are professional or personal relationships. In addition to developing connecting skills, your mentor should illustrate for you the importance of making the right kind of connections. Your mentor can help guide you so that you don’t spend a lot of wasted time and energy pursuing and cultivating connections that won’t help you attain your goals. Sure, meeting with someone who uses a 3-D printer to create a kidney is the coolest thing EVER but will spending that time with them actually help you do your work? Sometimes you need to weigh the pros and cons of how you allocate your personal resources.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
– Henry Ford, American Industrialist, Founder of Ford Motor Company
Hand-in-hand with forming good relationships is knowing how to collaborate. It may sound like a no-brainer – you help people out when they need it or join in on the teamwork. However, it’s easy for some folks to fall into a trap of having no time to do their own work when they don’t know how to prioritize requests and learn how to say “no”. Your mentor can help you strategize about what types of requests will benefit both you and your colleagues and show you which ones are just a time suck. They can also help you practice how to say no without alienating your coworkers. This is a tough one for many people but if you don’t develop strategies for dealing with this, you can find yourself stressed and burned out.
5. Building Resiliency and Adaptability
“Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults that we would like. It’s the only way we grow.”
– George Lucas, American Film Director, Producer, and Screenwriter
And last but not least, you can build your resilience and adaptability in the workplace. Resilience is your ability to bounce back after encountering a difficult situation, while adaptability is taking those same difficult situations and finding a way to create a positive outcome. For example, you may have your 5 year career plan all mapped out and suddenly your company goes through a complete re-organization and you find yourself in a different department doing different work. How you handle those changes speaks to your resilience and adaptability. By going back and looking at your original development plan, your mentor can help you come up with a new strategy to get you back on track or even help you embark on a completely new track. Learning from these changes and moving forward is key to building both of these skills and growing toward the future.
So, when you sit down with your mentor to discuss the career development skills and goals that you’d like to achieve during your time together, take a few minutes and talk about how you can incorporate new ways of learning, reciprocity, connecting, collaborating, resilience and adaptability into your plan. You’ll both have a richer experience and you’ll have more tools to take with you!
The Benefits of Mentoring for Mentors
Most people believe that mentorship is beneficial for the mentees but what’s in it for the mentors? Here are some of the conventional and not-so-conventional benefits of becoming a mentor, along with quotes from mentors and tips for your organizations’ mentoring success!
Mentoring is a great opportunity for you to reflect on your career.
Consider how you got to where you are currently, the strengths that make you an effective mentor and if you are doing all you should be doing to continue growing. Leading by example is an important mentor skill, so when you’re working with your mentee on development goals, why not take this opportunity to map some out for yourself? You can hold each other accountable, which also helps to alleviate some of that lopsided power dynamic that some mentees can find challenging.
“I have definitely enjoyed the opportunity to be a mentor. The Mentorship Program provided not only a great leadership opportunity, but also a great learning experience as well. Despite being in similar fields, my mentee and I came from very different educational backgrounds — so it was very interesting learning about how she’s using her medical and engineering experience to make an impact in her role. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the experience of being a mentor and would recommend it to a colleague.” – Mentor at Cardinal Health
Another great benefit of mentoring is learning.
And of course I’m not just talking about mentees here. After all, one of the best ways to learn a skill is to teach others how to do it. You have an opportunity to learn from your mentee as they’re developing their own skills. If you’re helping your mentee work on their feedback skills, have them give you feedback on your mentoring skills, such as how well you listen.
“I realized that my mentee could provide insights to my sales staff…I want her to share ins-outs of how she sells…growing sales is a huge priority for me and I think it’s a win-win.” – Mentor at 21 Century Fox
Be creative about expanding your skills.
Find other ways to be creative about expanding your skills. Depending upon your program’s set up, timing, focus and budget, you may be able to participate in some activities together. Take advantage of online learning opportunities with your mentee. Perhaps attending a conference or workshop together would be beneficial. Or if you need something simpler, you could read a book together and discuss it. Brainstorm with your mentee and see if you can come up with something fun and innovative that helps you both achieve your goals.
Regardless of what outcomes you’d like to have from your time mentoring, strive to get more bang for your buck by being mindful and strategic. Showing your mentee that learning is ongoing, collaborative and a gift from many sources is a win-win for you both.
Are your mentors ready to be successful? Jenn Labin, mentoring author, and ATD master trainer outlines why mentor training is critical to success. Do you want to see how mentoring programs powered by mentoring software can help support your mentors and help your mentoring program take off? Connect with MentorcliQ to learn more.