3 companies showcasing successful mentorship programs

From construction to consulting, these 3 companies prove that mentoring is at the core of talent development and retention.

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

When it comes to employee development, mentoring has been a mainstay for decades. Many organizations recognize that mentorship programs are a powerful way to drive skill-building and collaboration simultaneously.

Yet, too many businesses rely on obsolete mentoring tactics. Oftentimes, mentoring programs are only available to a small subset of employees, and mentees are restricted to working with colleagues in the same business function—regardless of where their interests lie.

While any mentorship initiative is a step in the right direction, not all approaches are created equal. Top-performing programs match mentees to mentors based on the skills they’re looking to build, their long-term career goals, and the overarching needs of the business.

What are mentorship programs?

A mentorship program describes a structured initiative that pairs experienced individuals (mentors) with less experienced colleagues (mentees) to help them build new skills and share existing knowledge. Mentors and mentees typically meet regularly, either in person or virtually, to review what the mentee is learning, any challenges they’re facing, and steps they can take to help overcome them.

Traditional mentoring programs typically match more junior employees with colleagues who are further along in their careers to help mentees expand their networks and build new skills. However, now that companies are increasingly shifting from strict job hierarchies to skills-based work approaches, a few newer forms of mentoring are gaining popularity, such as:

  • Group mentoring programs: A single mentor is matched with a cohort of mentees as part of a program that is structured to provide each mentee with individualized guidance from the same mentor.
  • Reverse mentoring programs: In reverse mentoring, a junior team member exchanges skills, knowledge, and understanding with a colleague who is more senior but is looking to build capabilities in fields that the junior peer has more experience with.

3 steps to create a successful mentorship program

While every mentoring program is unique to the organizations it’s designed for, a few commonalities between top-performing initiatives include:

#1. Take stock of skills

The most impactful mentoring programs are rooted in skills. As the half-life of skills shrinks and the rise of AI shifts the capabilities that jobs will require, all employees must continuously reskill and upskill in order to stay relevant.

Before launching a mentoring program leaders should have an in-depth understanding of the skills their workforce has as well as any emerging knowledge gaps. Since skills information is often siloed among a few different HR systems, executives typically struggle to get a single source of truth.

Fortunately, the rise of skills intelligence tools like Gloat’s Skills Foundation equips leaders with complete visibility into all of their people’s capabilities. These systems are updated in real-time and pull from a worker’s LinkedIn profile or CV, in turn capturing the full range of expertise they’re bringing to the table.

#2. Look beyond vertical progression

Career progression isn’t one-size-fits-all. Rather than telling your employees what their next steps at your organization should look like, empower them to begin exploring opportunities themselves. To provide people with complete visibility into the potential directions their careers can take, companies are introducing talent marketplaces with built-in career pathing. Employees can explore various ways to develop their skills and identify roles they may wish to move into once they’ve expanded their expertise.

#3. Supplement with content & hands-on learning

To maximize the results of your mentoring scheme, it’s important to pair peer-to-peer learning initiatives with a content-based L&D curriculum and hands-on experiences like projects and gigs. By combining different learning modalities, employees can not only hone new skills but also put them into practice by pitching in on projects across your organization. Many companies use talent marketplaces to help employees identify open opportunities to hone the skills they’re looking to build.

The top mentoring program benefits

With the right approach, mentoring can unlock a host of benefits that will impact everything from employee engagement to revenue growth. Here are some of the most important advantages:

Break down silos

Whether you experiment with reverse mentoring or stick with a traditional approach, every type of co-learning will promote knowledge sharing within your organization. Rather than relying on a small group of employees for critical expertise, why not encourage these highly skilled workers to share their competencies so that everyone can take advantage of them?

Boost employee retention

Mentoring has the potential to move the needle on turnover rates, with Harvard Business Review reporting that young managers recognize the importance of co-learning programs. These employees rate mentoring as more than a 4 out of 5 when ranking the importance of career development opportunities. Unfortunately, the majority of these workers think their employers are currently falling short, given that they ranked accessibility to mentorship at just 2.5 out of 5.

Strengthen corporate culture

Launching a mentoring program can also be a game-changer when it comes to workplace culture. Mentoring empowers employees to build relationships with peers they may not normally have a chance to work with, cultivating a sense of connectivity that can span your entire organization.

Promote diversity and inclusion

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion now sits at the top of the C-suite’s priority list, with 43% of CEOs noting that it’s high on their list of challenges. Yet, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what it takes to level the playing field. Mentoring can be a powerful tool since programs increase the representation of typically underrepresented groups and ensure opportunities are visible to all employees so that no one gets overlooked.

3 examples of top-notch mentoring programs

If you’re looking for inspiration to help you take your mentoring program to the next level, here are a few companies with peer-to-peer learning initiatives that are making an impact:

#1. Mastercard

Mastercard looked to mentoring as a means to break down silos and help employees connect with coworkers across the business who have similar ambitions and interests. The leading global payments technology company leveraged its talent marketplace to generate mentor pairings based on capabilities and ambitions, instead of making matches based solely on seniority.

As their Chief Talent and Organizational Effectiveness Officer, Lucrecria Borgonovo, notes, “We’ve had a number of really interesting mentoring experiences. We have been trying to demystify mentoring through our opportunity marketplace. We’re telling people that mentoring isn’t just about career advancement, we’re trying to position mentoring as more skill-based and domain knowledge-based.”

Mastercard’s mentoring program has proven to be particularly beneficial for welcoming newly acquired talent into their organization. Heather Yurko,  Vice President of Digital Talent, explains, “It was a key question for our mergers and acquisitions coming in: how can we bring new employees into Mastercard’s culture and introduce them to buddies in a meaningful way, one that’s going to match what they’re looking for?”.

#2. Novartis

With a headcount that surpasses 100,000, breaking down silos is a priority for Novartis. In the past, associates struggled to gain visibility into opportunities outside of their region and function, so leaders decided to launch a mentoring program with an emphasis on cross-functional and cross-country pairings.

The company turned to its talent marketplace to generate mentee-mentor pairs based on relevant expertise. The initiative gives associates the opportunity to build new connections and work closely with team members they may not have had a chance to meet otherwise. In fact, 75% of all mentoring assignments are cross-functional, in turn opening employees’ eyes to how different parts of the business work.

#3. Schneider Electric

When surveys revealed that nearly 50% of exiting employees cited subpar growth opportunities as their primary reason for leaving the business, Schneider Electric decided to take action. The leading energy enterprise launched a talent marketplace to transform internal mobility and empower its employees to take charge of their professional development.

Mentoring is a core component of internal mobility at Schneider Electric. To date, more than 7,500 workers have found mentors within the business through their talent marketplace, in turn enabling employees to build stronger connections with colleagues across the globe.

As the race to build skills continues and the hiring landscape gets more competitive, every business is vying to launch impactful initiatives that will enhance engagement and skill-building. With the right approach, mentoring can check off both of these priorities simultaneously. To learn more about one enterprise’s game-changing mentorship strategy, check out Schneider Electric’s case study.

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