Employee Retention and Mentoring

Employee retention is a red-alert issue for businesses and industries of all kinds as the global pandemic continues to grip society. According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall turnover rate stands above 57%., with 25% of that figure being voluntary turnover. Additionally, other statistics show that a 19% turnover rate should be expected by most industries, with the average cost per hire for new employees being $4,129. Losing employees hurts productivity for businesses and costs them significant financial losses, necessitating more robust solutions to convince employees to stay on the job longer. 

There are multiple factors influencing turnover for businesses across the board. Many employees reevaluate their work-life balance due to the pandemic, worrying about their futures, health, and preparations for retirement. In other cases, companies aren’t providing sufficient incentive for employees to stay, whether due to pay or the absence of a reward program. However, one main issue that deserves increased attention is the lack of mentorship in workplaces and how good mentorship boosts employee retention for companies. 

Retention rates for mentored employees are more than 50% higher than those that aren’t and arguably have a bigger impact on retention than salary raises. Mentorship is more than just giving someone the best possible advice on what can be done next. It is a talent management practice that more organizations need to utilize to keep their employees happy. Through effective talent development and training programs, companies can reassure their employees about their respective skill sets while also providing guidance amid concerns over their financial futures. With more employees set to quit their jobs in the foreseeable future due to the Great Resignation and other pertinent factors affecting employee retention, mentoring should be a priority for more organizations. 

The Great Resignation

Throughout 2021, the Great Resignation has been affecting the larger workforce. Some have also called the Great Resignation the Great Reshuffle, Great Reprioritization, or the Great Re-Invention, among many other names. However, the common theme is that more people willingly leave their jobs en masse, whether due to taking on better-paying jobs or getting away from jobs that simply aren’t providing the kind of security and benefits they’re looking for.

While the Great Resignation is also known as the ‘Big Quit,’ quitting a job isn’t the only thing at the forefront of this workforce phenomenon. Many people who left jobs during the Great Resignation went elsewhere for better pay, particularly those on low wages in the service sector. Job openings have also increased during the Great Resignation, particularly in the accommodation and food services sector, creating one out of every three new net jobs in 2021, despite being among the hardest hit by the pandemic. 

The issue is not that people don’t want to work. They want better, whether improved pay or a more welcoming work culture. Employees increasingly feel that they aren't receiving enough support from leadership or being invested in. Especially in skilled labor and knowledge segments, employees switch jobs because they feel the professional landscape cares little about promoting strong professional development and harmonious work culture. Millennials especially prioritize cultural fits above all else, and 86% of job seekers avoid companies with poor reputations due to their company cultures. Regarding development, nearly 70% of employees would work harder at their respective jobs if they received increased recognition at work. 

People in the 30-45 age group have seen the sharpest increases in resignation rates during the Great Resignation, with an average increase topping the 20% mark. Those in the 20-25 age bracket, by contrast, saw decreased resignations due to greater financial insecurity and the lessening demand for entry-level workers. Many of these employees are delaying their job transitions due to pandemic-related uncertainty or reaching a breaking point due to excessive workloads. Alternatively, a greater demand for mid-level employees and the increasing shift to remote work has diminished the need for entry-level workers. Concerns over a lack of in-person training and diverse skill sets have caused employers to look elsewhere during the hiring process.
Resignations are most notable in the healthcare and tech industries, with 3.6% and 4.5% increases respectively compared to 2020. In those industries, and across workplaces as a whole, there is high demand for improved employee retention practices, with 87% of people expressing as much in one study. The need for retention strategies like mentorship is there. But, how can mentorship help employee retention? 

Why Mentoring is Important for Employee Retention

Mentoring enhances the individual skill development of employees as well as organizational productivity. However, companies are still learning the intricacies and benefits of implementing a steady mentoring program, with increasing turnover rates, disengaged workers, and unfulfilled potential among the casualties caused by not having a program in place. 

Firstly, organizations need to understand what mentoring is before relying on their training, learning, and development departments to implement successful mentoring programs to drive increased morale and engagement in the workplace. 

What Mentoring Means

Mentoring is a skill that taps into people's existing skills, knowledge, and experience in senior positions (or high-performing employees). Their skills and knowledge are transferred to the people being mentored. Mentoring can be done in any of the following three ways:
  • Individual Mentoring - One-on-one mentoring where a mentee and a mentor are paired together, with each party determining the appropriate timing and structure to meet. 
  • Distance Mentoring - A mentor and mentee meet from remote locations, particularly helpful as many employees work from home or work in hybrid models. 
  • Group Mentoring - One mentor works with several mentees, directing the activities, structure, and pace involved throughout the mentorship program.
Mentorship presents better alternatives and opportunities for employees, whether by assisting employees with their decision-making or refining one's point of view, helping employees change their work and life perspectives. Mentors leverage their work and life experiences to offer as much career guidance as possible to employees, providing short and long-term advice. A mentor acts as a sounding board for employees who have overarching concerns about their job security, financial goals, and ability to make a seamless job transition, among other issues. 

Around 94% of employees say they would stay longer at their current job if their employer afforded more opportunities to learn and grow. Mentorship facilitates growth, and the results are beneficial to employee self-esteem and organizational culture and output. 

When Mentoring Works

Mentoring has profound effects on the operational efficiency of an organization. 
For one, mentorship programs help organizations hoping to attract talent to promote and provide the kind of social links that employees seek. Mentors have strong links to people and/or groups within the organization. Additionally, mentoring rewards employees professional development and growth while also providing a sense of belonging, helping employees understand how integral their roles are. Organizations improve their ability to retain talent by providing the skills development employees need to be coupled with social ties to accommodate new talent trying to fit into a working environment. 

When mentoring works, it spearheads a paradigm shift within the organization, with more of a focus on modern mentoring and mentoring software than more traditional mentoring styles. Traditional styles rely on senior officials relaying their experiences and their best advice to younger employees. Today’s mentoring focuses on trusted two-way relationships between mentor and mentee where both parties learn and grow during their interactions, both on a professional and personal level. Because of the modern style of mentoring in the workplace, the skill sets required to be a mentor have changed as well as the business value attached to mentoring. 

Successful mentorship initiatives close generational and engagement gaps within companies. And, it shapes employees into more efficient workers, willing change agents, and leaders.

How Mentoring Helps Employees

Mentoring in the workplace improves goal setting for employees, making them more driven to work and produce the best possible results with every project. Goal setting is important to performance for employees. However, many workers never get the chance to have goal-related conversations with their managers.

Additionally, mentorship creates more diversity within workplaces, prioritizing performance and skill quality, regardless of someone’s background or orientation. Compared to other organizational tactics like mandatory diversity training, job tests, and grievance systems, mentorship facilitates more diversity among employees and managers. More diversity within an organization encourages diverse employees to stay, given that there is a representation of people who can relate to them on social and human levels, not just a professional level. 

Statistics in recent years have shown that the retention rates for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) were significantly higher than for employees who didn’t participate in a mentorship program. They reduce retention costs, and there are various means employees can turn to when implementing mentorship programs.
When starting a mentorship initiative, organizations should set actionable objectives that can easily be measured and tracked to judge their true impact on employee retention. There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to measure the success of mentoring programs. The KPIs business leaders can use to judge mentorship success include: 
  • A Satisfaction Score - Communicating with all parties involved with the mentorship program, asking whether they are satisfied with the program’s objectives and activities. If any negative feedback is communicated, then changes can be made accordingly. 
  • Engagement Activities - Proof of success with a mentorship program is visible via increased engagement. If employees consistently engage with each other and are proactive with their participation, then the mentorship program has its desired effect.
  • Development Targets - Pairing the right mentors and mentees boosts learning and increases employee skill development. The program works when learning and development are achieved.
  • Retention Rates - Should employee satisfaction with the mentorship program be high, the mentorship program increases retention rates and improves workplace morale. 
Strong buy-in from leadership is crucial to the success of mentoring for employee retention. Learning and development professionals will delve into meaningful conversations about mentorship and the pillars involved in a mentorship program with executives. By stressing the importance of mentorship when retaining employees, company executives and stakeholders will see the benefits of mentorship and suggest initiatives to further enhance the effectiveness of mentorship programs. 

When pairing mentors and mentees for mentorship initiatives, they should meet as much as possible to get familiar with each other’s personalities and tendencies. Cross-functional pairings are a good way to encourage collaboration and teamwork between mentors and mentees from different departments. They also form a relationship outside of people they engage with daily within their departments, building trust. The mentor and mentee should preferably have similar personalities with matching values and communication styles, fostering a relatability between the parties, knowing they have someone else with similar traits that they can talk to regularly. In case there is a breakdown within the mentorship, the leadership and development professional must involve him or herself immediately, either helping to resolve the pertinent issue between the mentee and mentor or making a switch. 

Employees benefit from mentorship as they receive increased knowledge transfer to sharpen their abilities. And, they receive the type of reinforcement that helps them feel their work receives the recognition and highlights that it deserves. 

Mentorship benefits take time to fully take shape as company culture takes years to truly change and develop properly. Exactly how long the positive shift in company culture takes depends on how committed leaders are to changing it. 

How Mentoring Software Programs Can Help

With technological transformation sweeping various industries, as necessitated by the pandemic, companies are gradually investing in mentoring software to better implement mentorship programs to aid employee retention. 

Mentoring software is a digital platform used by companies of all sizes to execute and manage successful mentorship programs in organizations. The software matches mentors and mentees, schedules mentorship sessions, and tracks the progress of mentoring relationships. Mentoring software also scales mentorship, making activities clear and adding more effectiveness to personal and career development practices.
The software helps everyone, from emerging companies to more established ones. Around 71% of Fortune 500 companies have formal mentorship programs in place, with some using mentoring software to improve implementation. 

Additionally, mentoring software programs take away some of the manual stresses involved when setting up mentorship initiatives. Some of the manual challenges involved when creating and executing mentorship programs include: 
  • Matching bias 
  • Assessing and measuring success 
  • Communication management 
Using mentoring software takes away the challenges mentioned above, improving the effectiveness of mentorship programs. They remove matching bias by establishing data-based smart mentor matches to determine which mentors and mentees work best together.

Additionally, the software platform allows mentors and mentees to communicate consistently, including from remote locations. And, mentoring software includes key performance indicators and other trackable metrics that help employers measure success and ROI. By doing virtual mentoring, employees have access to mentors and leadership professionals while working remotely, a particular attribute considering that remote working will be around for the foreseeable future.
Mentoring software establishes connection plans and targeted campaigns to provide personalized guidance for employees while advising best practices for mentoring relationships. Employees and their mentors can access mentoring software on their personal computers or phones.

Leadership and development experts in charge of mentoring software can read insightful data such as how many matches and mentoring sessions have taken place and how many goals set throughout the employee mentoring program have been set/completed. Some cloud-based software programs allow businesses to filter by job roles, locations, and departments. With these filters and the overall features of cloud-based mentoring software, employers can quickly identify skill gaps and improvement areas within the organization, becoming more resourceful by improving the staffers' skills.

The pandemic has been accelerating the enterprise adoption of remote-hybrid operational structures. As employers and employees become accustomed to working across geographic barriers, cultural differences, and opposing time zones, mentoring software programs are becoming a foundational component of stable, efficient operations. 

Employee Retention and Satisfaction Strategies That Transcend Businesses

Employee retention and satisfaction strategies should prioritize mentorship to try and inspire confidence among employees. Especially in today’s age, employees need career guidance and the kind of knowledge that promotes skill enhancement. Millennial employees have been especially vocal about needing mentorship to improve their chances of career success. Around 79% of millennials say that mentorship is a huge factor in career advancement. Young people want guidance to help them prosper in organizations and aren’t afraid to let their employers know they need the support. 

Organizational executives and leaders must realize the importance of employees, knowing that they are the biggest asset to their workforce. By connecting employees in a mentorship program, they are more committed to boosting organizational productivity and improving their respective work performances and their individual perspectives of their work lives. 

Mentors expand support circles for mentees, exposing them to tight-knit networks to help them feel more comfortable in their surroundings and improve their communication skills. Thanks to mentorships, the mentored employees don’t feel isolated or pressured to try and force relationships with co-workers. Mentorships create one-on-one relationships that provide space for their peers to connect, establish concrete professional goals and determine if their objectives match the organization's goals. 

More than 57% of employees who participate in mentorship programs have expressed that the program has been highly effective at helping them improve their learning and achieve their professional goals. Mentorships actively invest in employees' careers, improving the chances that employees will stay on because they believe more in their abilities and that their work is regularly being commended and credited by their superiors. Even company executives have expressed how much mentorship has helped them accelerate their career growth, with 75% of executives citing mentorship as a key element in their career development. 

How to Retain Employees Without Cash Compensation or Money

Though salary is among the major concerns for employees when deciding whether they should stay in an organization, increasing compensation doesn’t guarantee employee retention. 
Statistics show that most people who ask for raises are still unhappy with their compensation because the pay increase didn’t match their expectations. Additionally, many employees don’t feel comfortable asking their managers for raises because of communication breakdowns, fear of negative perception, or fear of losing their jobs. 

Retaining employees will take more than financial satisfaction. Organizations must use the tools available to them, implementing mentoring software and platforms to promote employee engagement. By implementing mentoring software, organizational leaders can better gauge which employees best exemplify their vision and match the intangibles they’re seeking in their talent. Workers will stay longer at organizations as long as they match the core values and mission of the company in question. With cloud-based mentoring software, it’s easier for organizations to determine which employees are best to pair with each other to improve development. 

Also, an increased focus on mentorship and mentoring software allows companies to invest more in education for their employees. Mentorship within an organization provides valuable coaching, feedback, and assessment, allowing employees to realize their strengths and weaknesses and risk factors. Individuals involved in mentoring develop more self-awareness, filling the need for evolving roles and diverse skill sets, helping employees in-person, and working from home. 
The lack of mentoring initiatives pushes employees to look elsewhere. According to one survey, 35% of employees who didn’t receive consistent mentoring planned to look for work. It’s imperative that businesses proactively implement mentoring software and platforms to prevent employees from considering going elsewhere. 

Employees must prioritize tools that improve employee retention in a time when turnover rates have skyrocketed in several industries due to the Great Resignation. While improving pay, benefits and providing more comprehensive total reward programs help, HR stakeholders must create a productive, engaged, and efficient operation with mentoring software programs. 

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