Learning & Development, Recruiting

Mentorship Programs: A Talent Retention Silver Bullet for HR Leaders

The Great Resignation saw a record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022. While there are a multitude of reasons for this widespread movement, including residual effects of the pandemic and new job opportunities, one surefire way to turn employees away is the lack of a robust company culture.

And while offering office perks like comfy chairs and fun outings can boost immediate employee satisfaction, providing employees with opportunities to further their professional development will create long-term happiness and a higher retention rate.

To retain top talent in this era of high employee volatility, HR leaders should install mentorship programs as a cornerstone of their company culture.

Mentorship is Essential to Talent Retention

Employees involved in mentorship programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved, and unsurprisingly, all the Fortune 50 companies have mentorship tracks. However, mentorship is essential for businesses of any size because it fosters employee excitement about the skills and insights they can learn from others outside of their daily tasks.

If employees feel they have a framework to more effectively use their job to grow professionally and learn skills beyond that from trusted colleagues, they’ll be more invested in their work and loyal to the company creating this environment.

As an HR leader, it is important to not only make one’s employees feel like they have a path for professional growth from day 1 but also quickly involve them in mentorship efforts to immediately integrate them in team growth beyond operational tasks.

Building a Mentorship Program

To build a solid mentorship program, HR leaders should set clear goals for the program; create structures for enrollment, check-ins, and progress tracking; and determine how best to match mentors and mentees.

For the planning stage, don’t solidify the program without first turning to the people within the company. Ask employees what kinds of mentorship opportunities they are looking for, and mine any naturally occurring mentorship relationships to see what is already thriving.

Next, start to define the practical aspects of the program. Will mentees be chosen, or can anyone apply? Will sessions be one-on-one or conducted in groups? What formalized commitments are expected from participants? At this stage, HR leaders can use their vantage point to identify the largest knowledge gaps for new employees and craft the mentorship program to fill those in, as well.

HR leaders should also create a selection process for mentors to ensure they espouse and can teach the core values of the organization. Mentors who march to the beat of their own drum may detract from the positive culture of the organization.

Once program details have been solidified, the most crucial step of the entire process is to determine how mentors and mentees will be paired. The right pairing can fast-track a mentee to success, so investigate what factors make for the best teams; similar work history, areas of specialization, or work styles can all be determining factors.

Finally, no formalized program is effective without a system to track and report progress, and the initial goals set for the program will help determine the right method. There are numerous tracking methods to assess mentees’ feelings about all aspects of their job; numerical rating systems, qualitative questions, and performance reviews are all great options.

Enhancing the Program with Tailored Pairings and Extended Education

With the structure of a mentorship program in place, there are various tactics HR leaders can use to make it even more effective.

Start by focusing on mentorship pairings that go beyond the obvious. Is there an opportunity for a group mentorship session by department or seniority level? How about shared interests (that are aligned with the organization’s core values, of course)? Some companies offer employees paid time to invest their efforts in a worthy charity, which can be an opportunity to connect like-minded mentors and mentees around a shared passion.

To make the program more forward-looking, create opportunities for learning at all levels. Have someone deeply interested in communications? Perhaps that person’s mentor can help find and connect him or her to an internal expert. Noticing employees are confused about new technology in the industry? Organize a lunch-and-learn or weekly office hour session during which all questions are fair game.

Mentors can also create space for extended education, advocating for their mentees to attend workshops or online classes to learn skills that will benefit them and the company. These opportunities offered outside of codified mentor relationships will create space for organic mentorship, as well.

The most crucial element for program success is buy-in from company leadership. Not only will endorsement from the C-suite help funnel additional funds to building out a mentorship program, but it will also create more open connections between top company executives and junior staff. The program will bridge the gap between those choosing the direction of the company and those implementing it.

Putting It All Together

HR professionals are facing more talent retention challenges than ever before, but mentorship programs can provide a targeted way to keep employees engaged and provide an atmosphere for growth.

The right goals and framework provide an essential foundation while zeroing in on meaningful mentorship pairings, and providing ample opportunities for continued learning will make the program a true success.

With a robust mentorship program, a company can boost retention to build a foundation of employees excited to grow with it, not out of it.

Myron Moser is a Strategic Advisory Board Member for business consultancy alliantgroup and Chairman Emeritus of Hartfiel Automation in Minnesota. He is also Chairman of Hennepin Technical College Foundation Board, which is the largest Technical College in the State of Minnesota. The Hennepin Technical College Foundation Board raises funds for grants and scholarships for students in need. Myron joined Hartfiel Automation in 1990 and quickly rose through the ranks to the executive level in 1995. Myron is recognized as one of the top executives in the U.S. Automation Industry. Under his leadership, Hartfiel Automation experienced incredible growth as it continued to diversify its product offerings in robotics and automation solutions. For more than 60 years, his company helped strengthen the American manufacturing industry through innovative solutions. Myron leverages his decades of experience as a top executive in the world of automation for the strategic benefit of alliantgroup’s clients and CPA partners.