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Employers: Is now the time for a mentorship program?

Mentorship programs are nothing new, but their popularity tends to wax and wane depending on factors such as industry needs and workforce demographics. One recent survey indicates that these programs may be coming back in style again for some employers — and the interest is coming from both sides of the hiring desk.

In 2023, international staffing agency Express Employment Professionals commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct surveys of 1,010 hiring decision-makers and 1,006 adult jobseekers in the United States. The results were interesting: 82% of hiring managers reported believing that job candidates are more attracted to companies that offer mentorship programs, and an almost equal number of jobseekers (85%) agreed.

Exploring the concept

Under a traditional mentorship program, experienced employees are partnered with new hires or less-experienced staff members in collaborative arrangements that involve teaching sessions, discussions, special projects and assessments. Best-in-class programs are set up to:

  • Appropriately match mentors and mentees,
  • Establish clear objectives for each mentorship, and
  • Use reasonable performance metrics to measure progress and reach completion.

Generally, mentors tend to be older people and mentees are relatively younger ones. But this isn’t always the case. For example, if you’ve recently hired an older worker, this person may benefit from being the mentee of a younger mentor who has more experience with your organization.

There’s also the possibility of adding a reverse mentorship feature to your program. Here, younger employees mentor older staff members on things such as getting more comfortable on social media or using new types of technology.

Identifying the benefits

There are many potential benefits of a well-designed, carefully implemented and consistently maintained mentorship program. First and foremost, mentorships are a good way to guard against the dreaded “brain drain,” whereby employers lose invaluable knowledge and skills when veteran employees retire or leave the organization for other reasons.

That isn’t the only reason, however. Many employers find that creating and supporting mentorships encourages diversity and inclusion. Often, mentors and mentees will come from different walks of life and, naturally, be at different career stages. Their interactions help create a work environment of openness and acceptance.

Mentorships also promote an atmosphere of continuous learning and improvement within an organization. While mentors teach and counsel mentees on various aspects of the position in question, they often find themselves learning new things. It’s not unusual for mentors and mentees to come up with process improvements or even new strategic ideas.

Last, as the aforementioned survey results indicate, mentorship programs can be excellent hiring and retention tools. Employees entering the organization know they’re not going to be shown to cubicles, told what to do, and promptly ignored. Rather, they’re going to have the opportunity to work closely with experienced colleagues and, as a result, have much clearer career paths. Meanwhile, mentors often find the experience quite fulfilling, which gives them a morale and engagement boost as well.

Recognizing the risks

Naturally, mentorship programs have their risks. Before creating one, you’ll need to ensure that everyone involved fully buys into the concept and is prepared for the extra work. The program must be designed with clear policies, training, and supervision to avoid, at least, inefficacy and, at worst, potentially disastrous legal liability. Contact us for help identifying and quantifying all the costs associated with a mentorship program.

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