Mentoring Programs – Do They Improve Employee Engagement?

According to the latest Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report from SHRM, 55 percent of employees feel that ownership of their work (i.e. the ability to apply their skills and abilities) is an important factor contributing to how engaged they feel at work. 47 percent also feel that career development and opportunities for training is just as important.

Whilst it’s all very well for employees to demand these two things – ownership and career development – it can sometimes be difficult to meet these in practice. For one, workplace silos are becoming a thing of the past as more and more work is team-based and collaborative. Additionally, employees often don’t know exactly what their career goals are yet, or else they know, but there is no way for them to gain the experience and guidance necessary to progress.

Mentoring programs are surely one of the most effective ways to meet these two goals. Mentors are able to provide practical workplace advice, whilst at the same time helping to steer a younger employee’s career path, giving it shape and direction above and beyond what they may have considered themselves.

The Mentor’s Perspective

Becoming a mentor can be quite a daunting prospect. It’s an additional commitment on top of general workplace pressures, and, if the benefits of the program are not articulated well by HR, it may not seem particularly worthwhile.

Many executives, for example, are asked to become a mentor simply for organisational benefit, which can be highly demotivating. Personal enrichment and the notion of “giving back” can be a much more powerful and durable motivator. In fact, executives should never feel pressured into becoming a mentor – it should entirely voluntary. Without senior buy-in, mentorship programs rarely take off. And even if they do, they are rarely able to scale effectively.

Building an Effective Mentoring Program with HR Software

There are three things that define good mentoring programs: effective matching, effective goal setting, and ongoing peer feedback.

Mentor matching

Matching protégés to managers is the first big hurdle. Protégés will often want mentors with the most impressive titles, rather than the person who might be best suited to help them in their career path. Whilst intuition plays a part in the matching process, using data for automated matching often proves to be far more successful. Algorithmic approaches to matching range from basic filtering to robust, machine-learning processes, based on people analytics. And beyond matching, good mentoring software can gather information, dynamically survey, track outcomes, and learn to improve future matching.

Goal setting

Protégés may have a few vague ideas about where they see themselves in the future, but they need clear goals and expectations if they want to avoid mentoring sessions becoming nothing more than a talking exercise. HR software and data can come in useful here. For example, talking points could be raised based on common issues people face at similar points in their careers. This clearly will rely on an extensive pool of aggregated learning and development figures (something that vendors like Everwise are able to provide).

Peer feedback

During the mentorship program, protégés shouldn’t only be in touch with their assigned mentor, but should seek council from others, like program managers and colleagues. A good way to encourage this is via 360 feedback surveys – a type of anonymised peer feedback that can provide guidance, and also advance their goal definition. It’s good for employees to get feedback on their progress and to feel like the program is leading them in the right direction.

Making Mentorship About Employee Engagement

Mentoring programs can provide the access to training and ownership that so much of the workforce currently craves, and can also be an important factor that determines whether employees choose to stay on, and continue to perform at their best. Talent retention is key to improving your company bottom line, after all, whilst a mentoring program takes relatively little financial investment to set up.

When set up with the right people and software, mentoring programs can offer an all-round solution to the two employee needs set out in the introduction. Mentors are the guides that facilitate career developments, they are the senior figures that can break down perceived barriers to communication, and they leverage data to make all of this happen successfully. It’s about time more organisations got on board!

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