With many companies today struggling to attract and retain talent, a culture of mentorship will put your company ahead of the competition.
Nearly 50 million workers resigned in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including a record-breaking 4.5 million quitting last November. Even before The Great Resignation, an estimated 33 percent of new hires quit within the first three months, costing businesses one-half to two times each employee’s annual salary to replace them.
The message is clear: a revolving door of employees adds up to big losses in time, money and talent. As a business leader, you can’t afford not to invest in your people.
However, that investment doesn’t have to cause a huge dent in your budget. While competitive compensation is still important, many workers are increasingly motivated by career development opportunities and a positive company culture.
That’s why establishing a culture of mentorship is so beneficial for entrepreneurs growing their businesses.
Why a culture of mentorship supports business success
I am a product of mentors who encouraged and supported me, from my beginnings in a Welfare-to-Work program to where I am today as a successful entrepreneur. When I founded my company, I built it around a vision of loving and investing in people. A huge part of that is mentoring them.
We’ve found that cultivating a culture of mentorship sets you apart from other employers, increases employee engagement, drives loyalty and ultimately encourages retention. This continues to put us ahead of the competition to this day.
Why is it so effective? A culture of mentorship not only provides employees ongoing support and career development opportunities, it also creates an environment of caring and connection.
When we help one another succeed, we all succeed. People grow and achieve high performance. They superserve customers and drive the organization forward. Over time, they mentor others, creating a chain reaction of growth.
And the good news? Businesses at any size or stage can implement this strategy.
Here are the top five things you should know about building a culture of mentorship, based on my experience developing and retaining exceptional employees.
Five ways to cultivate a culture of mentorship
1. Establish a value system
A true culture of mentorship is more than just a formal mentoring program. It’s a value system built on a philosophy of continuous learning, a focus on relationships and investing in people at all levels of an organization.
Employees you mentor will embrace the value system and pay it forward by mentoring others. It creates a domino effect of long-term positive results.
2. Pair new hires with trusted team members
Set new hires up for success by pairing them with senior team members.
These top performers should communicate your organizational norms, set expectations and provide ongoing mentorship during the critical onboarding period.
This will not only help new hires get up to speed faster, but also allow them to fully integrate into your company culture and develop the habits of your best employees.
3. Invest your own time
Employees have to spend time with top company leadership—especially the CEO—in order to learn the most successful behaviors.
Start with mentoring just one person you really believe in and replicate yourself in that individual. Spend quality personal time with them to support their growth.
This might seem like a hefty commitment when you’re running a growing business, but it’s a minimal investment that will pay off in dividends down the road.
4. Create individual development plans
While mentorship is the foundation, tangible training and professional development opportunities are essential for attracting and retaining talent.
But don’t just send employees to occasional seminars and workshops—dig deeper to create a roadmap for their success.
Have a discussion about what they really want to accomplish in their career, and help them build a plan to get there. Then, schedule regular check-ins to measure progress toward their goals so you can determine what additional training or support they may need.
5. Get buy-in from your team
Even the most successful professionals benefit from mentorship. Unfortunately, some have the perception that it’s a sign of weakness or inexperience.
If members of your organization have a problem with being mentored, get creative with your terminology. For example, some might resist mentorship but embrace “executive coaching.”
It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as it’s rooted in your value system.
At the end of the day, companies are built with people—and if your people don’t like you, they’ll go work for someone else.
A focus on the value of each individual is what makes the difference.
Showing people you genuinely care enough to spend time lifting them up on their career journey will put you ahead in this competitive job market.
Rebecca Contreras is an author, philanthropist and president and CEO of AvantGarde LLC. Her book, Lost Girl – From the Hood to the White House to Millionaire Entrepreneur, recounts her journey from becoming a welfare-dependent teenage mother to advising a sitting president, to leading a successful 100-person company.