Increasing Employee Engagement this New Year with Corporate Mentorship
The age of personal development
It’s a New Year, and for the next few weeks, we have another round of New Year’s resolutions. Today, more than ever, we live in a society where the allure to seek personal growth and maximize personal potential stands paramount in every facet of life. We call this self-activation.
Why New Years Resolutions fizzle
New Years provides an over-exaggerated example that trends toward self-activation. Fitness gyms experience peak visitation, grocery store clerks see healthier items at checkout and teachers at all levels see a sudden increase in class assignment productivity.
At the same time, you and I both are in tune with real life. We know that the majority of these New Year’s resolutions will fizzle out by the end of the week or month.
That's because people very rarely sustainably self-activate on their own. The desire to self-activate is present, but the motivation to follow-through fluctuates constantly.
The same is true at work
Our work culture is no longer a place where employees spend decades with the same company. Employees today, especially Millennial employees, change jobs every few years—or even every few months. This constant shuffle makes talent retention as difficult as talent attraction.
The chief assets companies possess in this knowledge-based workforce are its people. Companies with strong learning and development cultures, cultures based in corporate mentorship, tend to enjoy industry leading retention rates and as a result an increased competitive advantage.
Contrary to the impulse of our individualistic culture, the key to long term employee self-activation is actually not by sending them off to work it all alone. Instead, surround employees with a team of mentors who provide the external help critical for sustainable self-activation and employee growth.
Partners can make all the difference
A teammate at the gym, a partner on the running trail or a dedicated coach can all provide the motivation we need to stay on track when the going gets tough. Likewise, a mentor, trainer, life coach or even a small group of peers provide the external motivation, knowledge and insight that can make all the difference as we strive for sustainable self-activation in personal and professional life.
In the gym and at work
Organization-wide mentorship is not a brand-new concept. A study by the American Society for Training and Development reported that 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer some form of mentorship program. Yet, when you begin to ask around, you may find that these programs exist more in theory than in any sort of helpful practice.
At best, a mentor relationship might interact over coffee twice a month. Typically due to a lack of time and a lack of capacity, it’s highly unlikely that a new employee is able to foster an ongoing relationship with a mentor at a high-touch level.
Everybody needs a Champion
What if we each had someone (or multiple someones) giving experience-based pointers for difficult tasks, encouraging professional advancement and actively providing feedback on a regular basis?
We call this kind of mentor a Champion.
Put simply, a Champion is a person who is heroically dedicated to helping others grow through relationship. This can be your fitness instructor pushing you to do one more rep, a therapist who checks in frequently to motivate you through difficult changes or in the corporate setting, a Champion could be a manager who helps you reach your full potential at work.
At work, these are the people who meet with employees face-to-face in high-touch relationships.
“There are two needs mentoring meets, at least: 1) The more objective. The mentor brings expertise, experience, and know-how. 2) The more subjective. The mentor encourages and affirms. Even when the mentor does critique, there is an affirming going on because the very relationship communicates the importance of the leader’s [message].” —Tim Keller
Now, you may think a robust corporate mentorship program sounds like a nice idea. But at the end of the day, you really only have capacity to focus on the things that directly attribute to your life and your business.
Why workplace mentorship is important
We’ve already established that the greatest assets of your company are your people. To maximize impact, your organization needs to maximize the investment made in each employee. That doesn't always mean a financial investment. Even the simplest mentorship program (which may cost next to nothing) can drive sustained self-activation and maximize production.
According to two formal studies into the matter:
- People who have a mentor or champion are 88% more productive than those who don’t
- 95% of mentoring participants indicate their experience motivated them to do their best
Through strong connections with leaders, top performers and peers across the company, everyone learns faster and high potentials are ready to take on leadership positions sooner. This results in increased engagement and productivity.
Practical Application Tip: Assign your direct reports a monthly task of capturing a single process that they’ve implemented and the step-by-step guide on how to do it.
Employee engagement is not a number. It is much more literal than that. Employee engagement is the literal act of engaging with employees. What employee engagement looks like is increased discretionary effort. A mentorship style relationship is the perfect way to do that.
Employees in mentoring relationships tend to have greater job satisfaction, which leads to a more positive culture and higher levels of discretionary effort. Mentors can teach and inspire mentees to become more efficient with time and less bogged down by stress, creating more balance and satisfaction.
Even in our busy lives, we still manage to find the time to respond to text messages, catch up on our team’s scores, check social media and make a quick coffee run. Managers need to take 30-90 seconds throughout the day to check in on employees and engage in frequent two-way communication.
The collaborative nature of a mentorship relationship develops individuals and creates interpersonal links. Both of which are major drivers of engagement.
Practical Application Tip: Set up a daily reminder to check in with your direct reports for 5 minutes at the end of each day. Even sending a simple “How’d things go today?” text can go a long way to engage your employees and champion their growth.
Increase Retention & Promotion
Champions build emotional connections, enhance relationships and give employees a sense of belonging—all important factors that motivate employees to stay with a company.
According to a study at the Wharton School of Business:
- Retention rates have been shown to be higher for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program (49%)
- Mentors are promoted 6x more frequently as non-mentors
- Mentees are promoted 5x more frequently than their non-mentored peers
A mentorship culture correlates with a statistical increase in retention rates and promotion rates.
Practical Application Tip: Before you promote your next employee, challenge them to create an SOP around a task or project they’ve completed successfully and then pass this along to a coworker to see if a similar task or project can be repeated without the help of this employee.
Promote Co-Learning & Co-Creation
Next generation leaders thrive on feedback and team-based models. In symbiotic relationships, both mentors and mentees learn from each other.
People possess a huge amount of untapped desire to help others grow. If you give them a platform to share knowledge and insight you will find that your employees rise to the occasion. According to research from the Harvard Business Review, 78% of employees actually preferred to learn from peers.
The goal is to create an environment where the newest employees are championed (mentored) by older employees until they reach a point where they can turn around to champion even newer employees down the road.
This cyclical model creates the opportunity for every employee to feel engaged at work and reach their full potential.
The Learning Triangle Model
George Kembel, entrepreneur and co-founder of the d.school, Stanford University, stopped by Gloo to explain how the Learning Triangle offers a model that increases engagement and learning.
To summarize, the d.school builds on methods from across the field of design to create learning experiences that help people lead organizations and solve world problems. Although not everyone is an ivy league professor, the Learning Triangle anchors us in a different way of learning. Kembel defines this as situated learning. It’s similar to the way the team-centric models from “the organization of the future” function. Once a skill is learned, it is practiced. Once practiced, it is taught. Then a new skill is learned, etc.
This allows you to get your message out in the world by giving your people the practical experience necessary to master your message and experience the personal growth they need to stay engaged and innovate. Kembel Takes It Global, May 2017
Learn more about the Learning Triangle in this blog, "Boost Employee Engagement with the Learning Triangle."
Practical Application Tip: Have your newest employees create a list of helpful information they know now that they wished they could have learned during their onboarding. Provide them with the opportunity to champion the next newest employee by sharing this resource.