by Julie Tuggle-Nguyen
If I asked you to name two to three people that have had a positive influence on your career and what they taught you, most of us can quickly relate stories of mentors who have been instrumental in our success and growth. The stories of mentorship include stories of hard conversations, roadblocks removed, introductions made, and laughs shared. The impact of mentorship on our career trajectories is tangible.
According to Gartner, employees who are mentored are promoted five times more often than those who are not in any type of mentorship program. Mentors are promoted six times more often. Retention rates for mentees are 72 percent compared to 49 percent for employees who do not participate in a mentorship program. These numbers are real and make a strong argument for the value of a mentorship program.
In many of my articles over the last year, I have talked about retaining employees in a painfully tight labor market. Retention is directly tied to employee engagement. Engaged employees don’t leave. The challenge is how to engage in ways that are meaningful at a cost that is sustainable for the business. The bottom line impacts are significant, as a recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management shows that the cost today to replace an employee is the equivalent of up to 9 months of an employee’s salary.
The pandemic-fueled adoption of remote and hybrid work has impacted everything, including mentorship programs. Particularly for early-career employees, remote and hybrid work has hindered their ability to build the professional relationships that are critical for their advancement. Given the positive impacts of mentorship on retention, promotion, and engagement at a nominal cost to the organization, how might we be more intentional with these efforts?
Midwest BankCentre has a strong focus on employee development and mentoring. One formal mentoring program that has been in place for 5 years has yielded results that really can’t be argued. Over the last 5 years, we have had over 60 employees participate in this program, of those employees, we have promoted 48% of them into positions with greater responsibility at least once. Some are more. This program has a small cost in comparison to the impact this has had on the business.
Keys to success for this program have included:
Buy-in from Senior Leadership – Our executive team has committed to mentoring as part of our overall engagement strategy. They are the primary sponsors and mentors of this program. Each mentee gets paired with an executive and has the opportunity to learn from a senior leader over the course of a year.
Selection – A formal application and manager feedback are required for all participants to be considered. A panel of leaders executes a blind review of the applications to ensure that any personal bias that might exist is reduced as much as possible. This creates an equal opportunity for all that are interested.
Pairing – There is a formalized pairing process where potential mentors and mentees get to meet and select each other. This pairing process resembles speed dating, where each mentee gets to speak with each potential mentor for approximately 5 minutes. Afterward, each mentee and mentor rank order the top candidates with whom they would like to be paired.
Structure – The mentees are responsible for driving the relationship and they have set goals and objectives to achieve over the course of the year.
This program was originally focused exclusively on women. It has had such impactful outcomes on our business that we have recently broadened this offering to provide opportunities to more of our employees, providing greater access to executive and senior leadership through an expanded formal 1 on 1 mentoring program.
In 2023, we are also introducing mentoring circles. Mentoring circles provide a unique opportunity for team members to participate in monthly sessions centered on various growth topics deemed critical for professional success.
Sessions are facilitated by senior leaders, providing recognition and opportunity for the senior leader in addition to giving everyone in the company access to mentoring on multiple topics throughout the year. Participants build a broader network in the organization and get to engage with leaders in a relaxed learning environment. This program only costs time.
Mentoring programs ensure that people who want to learn have opportunities to learn. They ensure that people who want to contribute more have the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas, be challenged to think differently, and be able to uncover new avenues to add value. That is the beauty of a mentoring program. For many organizations, this can become an important part of the development of your key talent that you see growing into leadership roles in the future.
As you reflect on people who have had influence on your development and have mentored you along the way, you likely already know what a great mentor looks like. While I can’t tell you the exact approach for your organization, I encourage you to take some time this year to help your team create space and opportunity for mentorship. It can make a difference not only in people’s lives and careers, but also to the bottom line.
Julie Tuggle-Nguyen is EVP of Human Resources, Midwest BankCentre.