Whether by encouraging line managers to take a more proactive interest in developing their team or setting up a formal mentoring program, fostering mentor-mentee relationships at your company can come with many benefits.
Some of these positives are relatively obvious. For example, mentors can give mentees the skills and knowledge they need to progress while developing their own leadership skills.
However, many benefits of mentoring are more surprising. Below, we talk about five of our favourites…
1. They can improve employee stress and anxiety levels
Studies show that mentor-mentee relationships can improve employees’ mental health for several reasons – but one of the most significant is its impact on stress levels.
For mentees, having someone to lend a listening ear and offer guidance (on both personal and professional issues) can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety. However, it can be similarly beneficial for mentors.
This study, which looked at a formal mentoring program in the English police force, found that officers who acted as mentors experienced lower anxiety levels than those who didn’t. Further analysis revealed that hearing about their mentees’ troubles and concerns allowed the mentors to reflect on and discuss their own. The researchers who conducted the study explained in the Harvard Business Review…
“Mentors heard their mentees’ accounts of anxiety and realised these feelings — which they also shared — were commonplace. By acknowledging that these anxieties were common, both mentees and mentors grew more comfortable in discussing them and in sharing different coping mechanisms. Mentors often found their interactions with junior colleagues therapeutic.”
2. They can make employees’ work feel more meaningful
In the field of organisational psychology (which studies the science of human behaviour in the workplace), more and more research indicates that engaging in meaningful work is one of our biggest motivators. Doing work that people perceive to affect the world positively can boost job performance and reduce turnover.
So, how can we make our employees’ work life more meaningful? The police force study mentioned above found that establishing mentor-mentee relationships can help. Officers who acted as mentors reported an increased sense of meaningfulness in their work after participating in the program.
Mentor-mentee relationships not only give people the opportunity to help one other but also to see the positive impacts of their actions firsthand. For example, if a mentee takes a mentor’s advice and it positively impacts their lives, the mentor is more likely to see their time at work as more meaningful.
Plus, lending a helping hand to others increases the production of happy hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – so mentoring can contribute to employee wellbeing too.
3. They can boost employee retention rates
Recruiting is often laborious and expensive, so increasing employee retention rates should be a key concern for any business striving for sustained success. Research tells us that business leaders can do this by fostering mentor-mentee relationships.
This study of a U.S-based tech company, Sun Microsystems, found that retention rates were a lot higher for employees who participated in mentoring programs: 72% for mentees and 69% for mentors, compared to 49% for employees who didn’t participate. Other studies, such as this one, have come up with similar results.
Two of the main reasons why people leave their jobs are that they feel undervalued and don’t see enough opportunities for career development and progression. Setting up a mentoring program at your workplace demonstrates to mentees that you’re invested in their career development and wellbeing, and to mentors that their knowledge and experience are valued.
Plus, having someone to talk to about their issues might help mentees to feel less friction at work. If they’re frustrated, mentors can offer solutions before the problem becomes so big that they consider moving elsewhere.
4. They can nurture diversity and inclusion
In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies take proactive steps to improve their company’s diversity, equality, and inclusion (for example, by reexamining their hiring procedures to make them more age-inclusive).
However, genuine inclusion isn’t just about hiring a diverse range of people. It also involves developing talent from underrepresented groups and ensuring that all employees feel like they belong – and setting up a formal mentoring program can have a massive effect in these areas.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review conducted a comprehensive analysis of data spanning three decades. Their findings revealed that in the United States, mentoring programs lead to a notable increase of 9-24% of Black women, Hispanic women and men, and Asian American women and men in managerial roles.
The reason for these results may be about more than the mentoring programs’ ability to nurture talent from underrepresented backgrounds. It may also be because pairing individuals in a mentor-mentee relationship encourages them to challenge and overcome negative biases – whether they hold them consciously or unconsciously.
Say someone with age bias is asked to mentor an older adult who’s just started at the company. This situation offers the mentor the chance to become acquainted with their mentee, directly witness that age is not a barrier to success, and potentially learn something from their mentee, who has a wealth of life experience.
5. They can encourage intergenerational interactions
The benefits of multigenerational workforces are immense. Research shows they’re more productive and innovative, have improved decision-making capabilities, and generally lead to a more successful business.
In fact, according to this survey from the Living, Learning, and Earning Longer Collaborative Initiative, 83% of world leaders recognise that a multigenerational workforce is critical to business growth.
However, to get the most out of your employees, it’s essential that people of different ages not only work at the same company but interact with each other – and one way to do this is by encouraging intergenerational mentor-mentee relationships.
In larger companies, people in leadership roles are frequently isolated from junior employees, and remote working has reduced spontaneous interactions – such as casual conversations in the lift. By promoting mentor-mentee relationships, you can facilitate regular meetings between employees of different ages, fostering the dynamic and innovative synergy of a multigenerational workforce.
For more tips on unlocking the advantages of a multigenerational team, take a look at our articles; 12 leadership tips for supporting a multigenerational workforce and 5 tips for creating age-inclusive job adverts.
As we hope this article has shown, mentor-mentee relationships in the workplace offer a wealth of unexpected advantages that extend far beyond what you might expect.
From improving employee stress levels to encouraging intergenerational interactions, these connections can foster growth and success for mentees, mentors, and your organisation as a whole.
If you’d like more advice on creating age-inclusive mentoring opportunities, you can email [email protected].
Have you got an intergenerational mentoring programme in place at your firm? Or do you encourage mentor-mentee relationships in some way? If so, what are some of the benefits you’ve noticed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.