Why Mentors Help Improve Employee Performance
In the late 1990s, bestselling-authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman partnered with Gallup to figure out what makes great managers great. Twenty-five years of cumulative data and more than 80,000 manager interviews later, they found that while great managers differed in everything from rank to gender, age, race, location and more, they also had a common thread: Every single one excelled at transforming employee talent into employee performance.
The mentorship great managers provide doesn't only benefit employees, however — higher employee performance naturally translates to better bottom line results. In addition, Buckingham and Coffman found that the quality of managers can make or break employee retention (a major business concern, considering that turnover can cost you up to 400 percent of the lost employee's annual salary). While great managers nourish talent to success, bad managers have an opposite effect: they drive talent away. As Buckingham and Coffman wrote in their book on the study, First, Break All the Rules, "People join companies, but leave managers."
More than fifteen years later, companies continue to face the challenge of identifying great managers (and, subsequently, developing and retaining top talent) — but that doesn't mean your organization has to lack the benefits that great managers provide. A mentorship program can provide your employees with similar encouragement and opportunities to thrive.
Here's how your organization can provide the necessary mentorship your employees, and your business, need to succeed:
Building a Mentorship Program
An effective mentorship doesn't require the latest talent management tools, but it does require commitment and executive buy-in. Before trying to launch a formal mentorship program, gather insight from employees across the company to gauge interest and understand their needs, then create a business plan that describes the different components, costs, outcomes and, most importantly, business benefits of the initiative.
An effective mentorship program mirrors the bottom line impact of the great managers Buckingham and Coffman highlighted in their book. According to Performance Coaching International, companies that offer formal growth or development programs report a 48 percent increase in organizational strength, a 22 percent increase in bottom line profitability and a 53 percent increase in productivity.
What Makes a "Mentor"?
Many times, companies assume managers will take on role of mentor, but this isn't always in the case. Instead of assuming mentorship will happen naturally, actively identify mentors for each of your employees. A mentor can be an employee's teammate, someone from a different department, or even someone from outside of your company. A mentor doesn't always need to have more seniority, either — 25 percent of companies have peer mentoring programs. Anyone who can foster insight, identify needed knowledge and expand career growth opportunities is a valuable guide for an employee.
Matching Mentors and Mentees
When you're pairing your employees with a mentor, pay close attention to their goals and career path thus far. Is Sarah in marketing, but interested in design? The creative director could be a great mentor for her. Did Charlie just switch career paths? Pair him with someone who has gone through a similar change. Did Jasmine move cross-country? Find someone who was new to the city when he or she started, too. Mentoring can have a profound impact on performance and engagement, but it has to be aligned to the employees' aspirations first and foremost.
To learn more about building a mentorship program, download Cornerstone's brief on How Mentors Drive Employee Performance.