Workplace Mentoring: Reduce Turnover and Increase Engagement

Sam Cook


Mentoring at Work: Reduce Turnover and Increase Engagement

Workplace mentoring was once an informal luxury for savvy and extroverted career professionals. Times have changed. A combination of alternative educational paths and sustained remote and hybrid work means mentoring is now imperative engagement and retention strategy. Is mentoring about learning and development? Yes, of course! But learning and development opportunities are only part of the puzzle. Employees also need authentic connections, and that’s formed only when that learning is social.

And yes, we’ll acknowledge the obvious here: Most employees like getting raises, and more money in their wallet can bump up retention. But there’s only so much you can do on that end. Budgets aren’t endless (what a world if they were, though!). Instead, companies need to spend strategically on employee engagement and retention strategies and focus on programs with higher ROI. And that’s exactly why you’re here right now.

The biggest winner of workplace mentoring are both employers, who retain more employees, and employees, who get social engagement and learning through a combined approach. It’s a huge win-win that can be effectively structured to the benefit of everyone involved.

What Are Workplace Mentoring Programs?

Your starting point is to understand what a workplace mentoring program is, and how it’s different from something like a training program. A workplace mentoring program is one where your employees have the opportunity to enter multi-lateral and sometimes cross-functional mentoring relationships for specific business objectives.

Two people sitting down for workplace mentoring.

Even when created for a distinct purpose and following set structures, these relationships are often mentee-led, giving the mentee the opportunity to determine where their biggest learning needs are, and using the experience of the mentor to help problem solve and move forward. 

Let’s take a sales team for example. In the US, the attrition rate of salespeople is often twice that of other workers. That may be true at your company, too. To solve the problem, you may decide to try offering new sales hires mentoring at work from the first day they’re hired. Your program could focus on pairing new sales hires with more experienced members of the sales team for 1:1 engagement and problem-solving.

New hires will know that when they run into issues, need to improve a skill critical for their role, or just need to vent frustrations, they have someone readily available to turn to as a resource beyond just standard training materials and guides.

Adding that human element to talent development is invaluable, and there’s plenty of data to show that those kinds of workplace friendships also help reduce turnover rates.

Mentoring at work can streamline training, but is not a traditional training program

A workplace mentoring program is uniquely different from traditional training — in a good way!

Traditional workplace training programs are usually:

  • Tied to an inflexible curriculum
  • Self-led or taught classroom style
  • Leave little room for questioning and problem solving by the learner

With a traditional training program, those enrolled are often handed a large binder of training material or a link to learning resources. They may get to ask questions here or there but are otherwise left alone to muddle through areas they don’t understand. That’s a strategy that puts new employee retention at risk.   Meanwhile, mentorship programs offer several benefits: Learning becomes far more learner-centric as well as people-centric.

Streamline cross-functional cross-tenure engagements Combines networking with learning and growth Both mentees and mentors benefit from the mentoring relationship Even as a supplement to traditional training programs, offering mentoring engagements allows employees to see what success looks like directly from someone who is more experienced in the skills they’re hoping to acquire.

How Does a Workplace Mentoring Program Help?

The employment market is heavily in favor of workers right now. US job openings hit record numbers in 2021, for example, and in August, there were a million more job openings than there were people looking to fill positions.

People are leaving because they’re disengaged, lack a real connection and feeling of belonging, aren’t offered the options to grow their skills when they need them, and don’t have clear career pathways. Mentoring at work can solve these problems. 90% of workers with a career mentor are happy with their job (and are therefore less likely to quit). Yet only 37% of workers claim to currently have a professional mentor.

Workplace mentoring with women at work.

Meanwhile, our own customer data shows that just 8% of workers employed for 2 years or less quit during that time period if they had a mentor compared to 26% for those without a mentor. (We should note that BLS data shows the average quit rate in the US in 2020 was 25.5%, close to our own clients’ data.)

A structured mentoring program solves some of the largest issues riding under high employee retention rates.  A formal mentoring program effectively leverages your existing employee base to do it, as well, all while creating an environment where collaboration and sharing become normalized. In that way, mentoring at work not only builds your people’s skills and interpersonal connections but also strengthens your workplace culture.

Who Can Mentor at Work

Every individual at your organization likely has something to offer. Both junior- and senior-level employees can serve as mentors or mentees. It depends on the type of mentoring program you’re offering. With workplace mentoring, it’s important to think both strategically and broadly.

The type of mentoring programs you offer need to solve critical business problems, whether that’s reducing turnover, improving engagement, or creating a pathway to help improve diversity metrics for your organization’s leadership.

Every individual at your organization likely has something to offer. Both junior- and senior-level employees can serve as mentors or mentees. It depends on the type of mentoring program you’re offering. With workplace mentoring, it’s important to think both strategically and broadly.

The type of mentoring programs you offer need to solve critical business problems, whether that’s reducing turnover, improving engagement, or creating a pathway to help improve diversity metrics for your organization’s leadership.

Common senior-led workplace mentoring programs include:

Common junior-led workplace mentoring programs include:

Who Benefits from Workplace Mentoring?

The simple answer is this: both mentors and mentees benefit from engaging in workplace mentoring relationships. Mentoring programs tend to improve retention and job satisfaction rates for everyone involved — including the mentors.  “You get out what you put in” as the saying goes.

Although, with mentoring programs, you’ll usually get out far more than you put in. With increased employee engagement, upskilled and reskilled workers, and an improved and more cohesive company culture, getting as many employees involved in mentoring programs as possible tends to produce a huge payoff. 

For mentees, the benefits of mentoring programs often includes:

  • Increasing social and professional networks
  • Building skills or improving on existing ones
  • Increasing confidence
  • Personalized professional development
  • Practicing workplace communication
  • Clarifying career paths
  • Establishing a greater sense of belonging within the organization

For mentors, the benefits of workplace mentoring often includes:

  • The feeling of “giving back”
  • Helping the increase employee retention
  • Supporting career development goals for junior-level team members
  • Expanding networks (especially with reverse mentoring)
  • Strengthening the skills of team members
  • Championing positive company cultures

Workplace Mentoring in Remote and Hybrid Offices

Remote and hybrid work is now the new normal. Although some companies are pushing for a return to office over the coming months and years, it’s unlikely that this will be sustained long-term. As a CNBC report noted in May 2023, “CEOs thought the return to office debate was over. They were wrong”.

This report came away with a few important observations relevant to remote workplace mentoring:

Workplace mentoring at MentorcliQ.
  • Many companies are mandating return-to-office without proper rationale. That’s generating bitterness from employees
  • Return-to-office rates have stalled, indicating that many employees are simply refusing to go back
  • If “collaboration and culture” is the reason employers are mandating a return to office, they’re not making a convincing case

That last point is important, especially. Collaboration and culture building can absolutely be done in remote and hybrid work environments.

Top 5 ways to make remote workplace mentoring successful

Many employers think too rigidly about remote and hybrid work. This format requires a different approach in many respects. This is why some remote and hybrid companies seem to work more effectively than others. Thinking beyond the traditional office helps companies make it work.

If you’re trying to mentor at work remotely, consider the following strategies:

Leverage technology

In a remote or hybrid workplace, technology is critical to effective mentoring. This includes mentoring software (we’ve got you covered on that front), as well as collaboration and communication tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These tools not only facilitate communication but also allow for screen sharing, which can be helpful when explaining complex ideas or processes.

Set clear goals and expectations

Both mentors and mentees should have a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve from the mentoring relationship. This might involve setting specific professional development goals for the mentee, or broader organizational goals. Clear goals and expectations can help keep the mentoring relationship focused and productive, even if the interactions are virtual.

Regular check-ins

Regular check-ins are crucial in a remote or hybrid work setting to make sure that the mentee is on track and that the mentoring relationship is working for both parties. These could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, depending on the needs and preferences of both the mentor and mentee.

Mentoring software will help you automate this. With MentorcliQ software, you can use QuickCliQs to send these check-ins for you. These are also designed to improve response rates, which is a common issue with this type of communication. They can even be completed direction from the mentoring app.

Encourage open communication

In a remote or hybrid setting, it’s easy for misunderstandings to arise due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. You can overcome this by encouraging open, honest communication between your mentors and mentees. This might involve providing feedback in a constructive, supportive manner, and being open to receiving feedback in return.

Create a safe and supportive environment

A mentor should strive to create a safe and supportive environment to make workplace mentoring effective., where they feel comfortable asking questions, expressing concerns, and sharing their thoughts. This involves fostering a relationship of trust, respect, and mutual understanding, which can be more challenging in a remote or hybrid setting, but is no less important.

Don’t limit yourself to these strategies. Find what works best for your program by asking your employees what workplace mentoring strategies might work best for them and aligning around those needs.

How to Start a Mentoring Program and Improve Employee Retention

Ready to get started with workplace mentoring programs? The good news is that we have a detailed guide covering how to start a mentoring program at work. Your biggest considerations once you’re in the planning phase will include (but are not limited to):

  • The strategic business problem you want to solve
  • How your mentoring program will solve that problem
  • The number of participants
  • Who will serve as mentors
  • Who will serve as mentees
  • Which executive leaders can help you launch your program
  • The tools you’ll need to launch the program effectively, match participants, and monitor the program for success

That last point is often the biggest reason why mentoring programs fail. When you can’t properly match participants or scale your program, you get ineffective matches or no matches at all. Yikes.

MentorcliQ’s mentoring software utilizes research-based matching algorithms that create automated best matches for all mentor and mentee participants. Once matched, the platform can also help you track engagement, get satisfaction feedback, and measure the success and ROI of your workplace mentoring program.

Book a demo now to learn more about MentorcliQ’s award-winning mentoring software.

Sam Cook