May 28, 2023

Mentoring is effective in improving engagement - we are just not having enough of it

If you analyze exit interviews of younger employees leaving your organization, you will identify many instances where the employee left since they did not understand how promotion and compensation decisions are made in your organization. Having access to a mentor during their time at your organization could have prevented some of them from leaving for the wrong reason. In this article, we talk about why strengthening your internal talent network by democratizing mentoring can help increase retention.

Important organizational processes remain mysterious to young employees. Many of them do not understand:

  • how promotion decisions are made
  • how compensation increases are determined
  • how hiring decisions are made

As employees progress through their careers, their own experience as well as the experience of their peers shapes their expectations. And when employees think they are not able address their expectations, they become frustrated. Additionally, this lack of understanding confuses them on the actions they need to take, makes them feel helpless and even more frustrated. Often, their response is to leave the organization.

This is a well known topic and many organizations take measures to try and address it. However, the state of many large and market leading organizations indicates current measures are not effective.

One aspect that is effective at addressing this frustration and disengagement is mentoring.

When employees work with mentors, one or more of the following takes place:

  1. Employees can better understand how organizational processes related to compensation decisions and promotions work especially if the mentor has had hands-on experience in these areas. This helps them re-align their expectations if needed or prepare better to address their expectations
  2. Employees are able to discuss their career aspirations and / or any challenges related to their team members or manager with someone outside of their team enabling a more objective and open discussion. They can also get guidance on leveraging internal mobility options and increase their internal network within the firm

There are other benefits but the key result for many employees is reduced frustration and improved engagement

So a big question is whether there are enough mentoring conversations happening within your organization. In many organizations the answer is unfortunately disappointing.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but one reason for this is that we are trying to do too much in the space of mentoring. Each department tries to manage a mentoring program within itself. Additionally, there is an orchestrated approach. Typically some team within HR or COO will try to enlist volunteers as mentors and then assign these mentors to employees. As a result, just a selected few employees within the department end up being part of the mentoring conversations. This approach often results in insufficient mentoring conversations across the organization.

A better approach would be try and do less in terms of orchestrating the mentoring connections and conversations. Democratize mentoring and let it operate like a free market. Enable employees across the organization to communicate if they are interested in being a mentor at a point in time. Create transparency on this interest to the rest of the organization. Employees can then review the list of mentors and reach out and connect to them.

Good talent marketplace solutions enable this and you can go further in terms of analytics, feedback and workflows to support mentoring connections. They even help make recommendations on mentors who may be anywhere within the organization but who may be more aligned with the aspirations of a particular employee. Additionally, employees and mentors can collectively review and take specific actions relating to skills improvement, role experimentation and internal mobility since these are integrated seamlessly within the same talent marketplace platform.

Leverage the power of mentoring to increase engagement. Start by making small changes to your approach to mentoring and letting the connections / conversations grow.

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