Strategic Mentoring – can you afford NOT to do it?

In 2022, one of the most pressing people issues is a shortage of talent. There is no question that retaining people – whether they are defined as high performing talent or not, is critical. Getting the employee value proposition right is the key. So where does mentoring fit in with what employees are looking for?

In Josh Bersin’s HR Predictions for 2022 report, he describes succinctly how the employee value proposition has changed. He says “Learning, skills, and career pathways will become business-critical”.

Mentoring has long been proven in practice and research to strongly influence engagement and retention of both mentors and mentees.  In a study conducted by Sun Microsystems, retention of mentors and mentees was compared with non-mentored people in a control group. They found that the difference in retention alone saved an incredible $6.7M.

But how does mentoring affect engagement and retention?  At Art of Mentoring, we make it our mission to deliver research and evidence-based mentoring, so we’ve spent some time looking at why mentoring programs positively influence employees’ attitudes to and satisfaction with, their work and their employers. We believe that mentoring contributes to each of the six pillars in the model above.

Let’s start with the obvious. Developmental mentoring is more than transactional. It’s a journey of learning. Good developmental mentoring builds capability in both the mentee and mentor. Mentees can focus on skills gaps, and mentors can enhance their own skills in offering developmental dialogue which is so crucial for a successful mentoring relationship. As shown in the chart above, providing Growth Opportunity through capability-building enhances job performance, satisfaction and builds a strong bench for future roles.

Mentoring also contributes to Health & Wellbeing, another of the key pillars. Mentoring increases affective wellbeing for both mentors and mentees and is widely acknowledged to have a psychosocial aspect. Mentors provide emotional support and help to normalize workplace struggles and concerns.

Cohort-based mentoring programs (where participants are exposed to more than just their own partner) help break down silos within organizations and enhance understanding and trust, which contributes to a more Positive Workplace.

Mentoring can connect or re-connect mentors and mentees with the Meaning in their Work. In our 2020 research project, we pulled aggregate data from 13,000 participants in our programs to find that that 46% of the mentee respondents said that the Art of Mentoring programs were one of the best things they had done in their career. The biggest program impacts on mentees were on personal learning and growth, self-awareness and confidence, more meaning and purpose and increased likelihood of staying in their organization, profession, or industry. Mentors in our programs often report that the reflective dialogue with their mentees reminds the mentors of why they embarked on their careers or chosen professions in the first place.

There are brand-enhancing benefits of running formal mentoring programs. Mentees are grateful to their organization for the mentoring opportunity, and mentors see the benefits too. In our research, 85% of mentees and almost 80% of mentors said that the mentoring experience had a positive impact on their impression of the organization that offered it to them. This investment in people builds Trust in the Organization.

Mentoring is a common intervention to build Strong Management and leadership strength. A mentor can help a manager develop an authentic leadership style and presence and help equip them for future challenges.


Can you afford NOT to have mentoring in your organization?

Not if you want to compete for and retain the best talent. Today, remote work and virtual connections are the norm, and mentoring is an important tool to maintain human connection. People are longing for meaningful connections that are removed from specific outcomes in the day-to-day activity of their role. Combined with the power of being able to focus on oneself and externalize inner dialogue, mentoring is a powerful tool for improving wellbeing and self-confidence.

Mentoring is not just a feel-good exercise but rather it can be a powerful tool in reframing engagement and retention activities within the workplace. It creates a competitive edge against other employers trying to attract the same candidates and it improves staying power for those involved as they create more meaning in their role now, and into the future.


A Strategic Mentoring approach guarantees successful ROI

Strategic Mentoring takes a purpose-led approach to design and implementation of organizational mentoring initiatives, linking mentoring back to business goals. Program objectives are established and measured during and after the program to prove return-on-investment. Organizations that follow this approach often have several mentoring programs on offer, with a blend of formal and informal offerings. For example, they may offer mentoring to increase diversity, increase engagement in middle management, or develop a stronger leadership bench.

For targeted mentoring programs, a cohort learning approach makes sense. Whilst criticized for being administratively onerous, some of the benefits of cohort-based learning far outweigh the disadvantages, especially if the organization uses mentoring software to automate as much as possible. Cohort programs enhance the learning experience through collaboration, provide structure for the mentoring pairs in the form of milestone dates and group events, and both mentors and mentees benefit from different perspectives and networking opportunities with their peers.

But not everyone may be able to join a cohort program, because they may not be eligible. A less formal organization-wide program that caters for people who are not covered in the cohort programs can fill this gap, operating on a ‘mentoring-on-demand’ model, where mentees seek their own mentors.

We know that where formal cohort mentoring programs have been implemented, informal and on-demand mentoring flourishes, because there is a ready pool of mentors trained in the cohort programs. Formal, cohort-based programs play an important role in training and preparing people for effective mentoring relationships that can emerge organically without any administrative effort.

If you’re not taking a strategic approach to mentoring, we can assure you, the organizations that have, are already attracting, developing and retaining the talent you want for your future success. Is it time to catch up? Absolutely, or you will be left way behind.

Read more about the process steps involved in strategic mentoring or contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your mentoring strategy and implement cohort or on-demand programs that deliver a positive ROI.


© Melissa Richardson 2022

A photograph looking over the shoulder of a businessman looking at stats and information on a clipboard.


A guide to unleashing the hidden value in your organisation through high impact strategic mentoring programs.

Most human beings and organisations have one thing in common – they both want to do better. But it’s hard for one to achieve without the other. When you can harness both you can achieve great things.

Unfortunately, most organisational structures are hierarchical, which may aid efficiency but not necessarily “real” human interaction.

Solving the human equation is the cornerstone of great culture and the larger and more diverse the workforce, the more challenging it becomes, even before we factor in things like location, technology and pay rates.

Well designed and managed mentoring programs can have a dramatic impact on workplace culture and people engagement. A strategic mentoring program transcends hierarchy, creating relationships and interactions to build individual and hence organisational value.

In this guide we present you with proven practical insights on how to design, build, implement and automate a high influence mentoring program and create your own ripple effect.

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the ripple effect