Learning and development programs are as varied as companies themselves, but there’s one feature that’s constant across the most effective L&D programs: mentoring.
Across industries, mentoring has been shown to produce solid business outcomes. In fact, a 2019 survey of American workers by SurveyMonkey found that 91% of individuals who have a mentor are satisfied with their job. When implementing or modifying your company’s L&D program, mentoring is one of the best ways to boost employee engagement, create strong leaders for your company, and even keep turnover costs in check.
Incorporating mentors into your long-term learning and development strategy is a great way to ensure you’re receiving a high return on your investment. We explore the 5 most common role mentors play in effective learning and development programs below.
1. Mentors strengthen your company’s culture
What does your company stand for? Whatever your values, they have to be embedded into how your organization acts and makes decisions. Mentoring relationships are a great way to help your employees feel the impact of your company’s values.
For example, let’s say one of your company values is “Collaboration: Working together for the good of the group.” People who participate in mentoring get the chance to collaborate with people they might not usually work with. This 1:1 relationship allows employees to live the value of collaboration every time they meet with their mentor or mentee.
We admit collaboration is a prime example, but we promise, you can input any value here and the example still works. Why? Because mentoring is about growth, and what company doesn’t value that?
2. Mentors boost employee engagement
Employee engagement, how motivated people are to put in extra effort and stay with an organization, is crucial to business success. One of the most consistent drivers of employee engagement is whether or not employees have learning and development opportunities.
Mentorship is one of the most personalized development opportunities you can provide to employees. Whether internal or external, mentors can help mentees feel more confident about their performance by supporting their developmental goals. When employees are confident in their skills, they’re more likely to put in extra effort.
Studies have shown that the benefit for mentors is just as apparent as the benefits for mentees. A study in the Journal of Vocational Behavior showed that mentors (versus non-mentors) were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization.
3. Mentors help cultivate your company’s next generation of leaders
To be successful, you must invest in development, especially when it comes to cultivating company leaders. Mentoring can aid in succession planning and leadership development by cultivating a path for high potential employees.
Promoting employees from within has plenty of benefits: lower training costs, improved employee retention, and better morale. Leadership development and internal promotion also sends a good message to employees; they know that their efforts will be recognized and rewarded.
4. Mentors provide personalized learning strategies
Highly structured, one-size-fits-all learning programs don’t work for everyone. Mentoring works because it can be personalized and customized for what an individual needs.
Mentoring allows employees to engage in learning and development at a time that works during their schedule; this is especially valuable during times when the workload is heavy. It makes learning readily accessible and minimizes stress by giving employees the freedom to set up regular meetings whenever they choose.
As flexible, remote working arrangements become the norm, providing flexibility in your learning and development program becomes even more important.
5. Mentors protect your bottom line by retaining employees
In addition to cultivating benefits within your organization, mentoring has cost-effective advantages, too, especially when HR budgets and resources are constrained.
One of the main benefits of mentoring programs is that mentors help their mentees feel supported. This can play a major role in reducing employee turnover — you won’t have to invest as much in costs to hire, on-board and train new employees. Expenses related to turnover are significant. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management suggests that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50% to 60% of an employee’s annual salary.
By providing personalized advice to a mentee, mentors help minimize turnover because they work with employees to manage frustrations and concerns they may have. They also help them build the skills they need for success and increase the chances that employees will want to stay with your company over the long-term.