Why mentoring is
on the rise

Firms are targeting greater employee engagement and performance

January 16, 2024

Socrates mentored Plato. Oprah Winfrey had Maya Angelou. Even Luke Skywalker had Yoda.

While informal mentoring is nothing new, companies are increasingly making it more ingrained in their workplace culture.

At Fortune 500 companies, 92% now offer mentoring programs, up from 84% in 2022, according to MentorcliQ

“Companies are realizing that mentoring allows people to learn from one another, providing a path to skill and knowledge transfer, as well as offering practical support and guidance,” says Anne-Lyse Raoul, EMEA Head of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at JLL.

A big driver behind the shift: today’s workforces are motivated by more than just salary. They’re interested in experimenting with diverse career paths and building networks, JLL research shows. Professional social networking platform LinkedIn says Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2010, are its fastest growing user demographic.

“As younger generations come up through the ranks, they’re looking for connections that enrich their experience - mentoring is that bridge,” says Matthieu Girault, JLL’s Chief Operating Officer for EMEA Work Dynamics.

Another benefit is learning how to navigate large, complex organizations.

“Mentoring helps new employees quickly understand a business and opens doors to colleagues outside their immediate team,” Girault says. “I found it immensely valuable when I first started my career and it creates a virtuous circle, with those who are successfully mentored becoming keen to mentor others.” 

Mentors benefit too

When it comes to learning, mentorship is not a one-way street. Raoul points out that by building relationships with people they may otherwise not encounter, mentors enrich their leadership, listening and empathy skills, while gaining a better understanding of the challenges faced by others. 

Girault agrees. “Hearing about other people’s experiences and difficulties helps mentors gain diversity of thought and new perspectives, which can lead to new ways of approaching challenges,” he says.

For those higher up the ladder, Girault says mentoring helps them keep a finger on the pulse of their organization, highlighting barriers that may be hindering diversity or issues that need addressing.

Mentoring creates thriving workplaces

For companies with a keen eye on their bottom line, mentoring provides low-cost, high-quality learning based on personal experiences.

“Often mentors have already participated in years of learning and development, so can quickly pass practical application of their knowledge on to their mentees,” says Raoul. “It boosts the ROI of formal training schemes, while helping junior employees to upskill faster.”

The financial impact is not to be underestimated. MentorcliQ’s 2023 Mentoring Impact Report found median profits from Fortune 500 companies with mentorship schemes were three times that of those without mentoring strategies.

In part, this could be down to the associated productivity benefits, illustrated by research from the Association for Talent Development, which showed managers who were mentored improved productivity by 88%, compared to just 24% for those who only received training.

Better engagement and higher staff retention are more signs of mentoring success.

There are cost saving attributes to mentoring too. A Gartner study of 1,000 employees in a mentorship scheme at technology firm Sun Microsystems found that over several years, mentored staff retention rates were 20% higher, saving the firm $6.7 million.

Leading by example

When it comes to creating the right foundations for mentoring to thrive, Raoul says leaders are crucial to success.

“By showing commitment to mentorship, leaders encourage others to participate,” she says. “They’re instrumental in shaping a culture where mentorship is not only valued but ingrained in a company's DNA.”

This can extend to designing accessible workplace environments that encourage open communication.

“Collaborative spaces that favor spontaneous interaction help to break down hierarchical barriers and make employees feel more confident when approaching others for advice,” says Raoul.

However, it’s not always that straightforward.

“It’s hard to tell who’s best for your specific challenge and it can be intimidating to approach someone you don’t know,” says Girault.

He believes this is where user friendly digital platforms for mentor-mentee pairings come into their own, allowing willing volunteers to list their expertise and experience.

“The most successful mentoring relationships in my experience are based on mutual choice,” he says. “Simple digital tools help those seeking mentorship to find a match and feel comfortable requesting help.”

Whether people have one mentor, or several, Raoul says people should approach the process with an open mind and not be too prescriptive.

“Mentoring can take many forms. In an ideal world, we’d have such a culture of inclusion that it would happen naturally without formal programs,” she says. “But for practical purposes some kind of mentoring framework can really help kick start the process and hugely benefit all involved.”

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