The former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, spent 25 years at the company and stepped down in 2019. Indra is clear about the importance of mentors in her career: “I was blessed with incredible mentors”, she said. “They pushed me along.” Other corporate high achievers, such as Ilana Atlas, who stood down as chairman of Coca-Cola Amatil in 2021, credit much of their success to their mentors. “He was prepared to introduce me to other people,” she said of her mentor David Gonski, the former chairman of the Future Fund and ANZ Bank, and the current chairman of Sydney Airport. But the days of mentoring being reserved for C-suite executives are gone. With the emergence of online platforms such as MentorKey, mentoring programs have become democratised, allowing organisations to offer mentoring to all staff, regardless of seniority.
Mentoring programs are especially powerful in the current business environment: recent Australian data suggests that 2023 is the year of the career change, with 59 per cent of workers considering a switch from their current job this year. And with unemployment in Australia at just 3.5 per cent (as at March 2023), savvy employers are using mentoring programs to attract, develop and retain talent at all levels of their organisation. Beyond talent retention, mentoring has a range of benefits – for organisations and their people.
Mentoring in the workplace: how organisations benefit
Organisations that implement mentoring programs experience benefits including:
- Increased staff retention.
- Improved diversity and inclusion.
- Increased connection and engagement in hybrid working environments.
Increased staff retention
By supporting employees’ career development and progression, mentoring improves employee satisfaction, which in turn leads to better staff retention. According to 2019 CNBC/Survey Monkey data (carried out in June 2019 across almost 8,000 workers in the US), more than 91 per cent of workers who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs. At the same time, the survey found that more than 40 per cent of workers without a mentor said they’d considered quitting their job in the previous three months, compared with just 25 per cent of those with a mentor.
Improved diversity and inclusion
The evidence is clear that diversity and inclusion is good for organisations, leading to improved company culture, innovation and profitability. And mentoring is a powerful strategy to promote D&I within companies.
Research published by the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2021 has identified the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Chairs’ Mentoring Program – which connects experienced female leaders with ASX200 chairs and directors in a year-long mentoring program – as one of the influencers which has helped increase the proportion of women on the boards of ASX200 companies to over 30 per cent. To move closer to gender parity on boards, the UQ report recommends that existing mentoring programs for women be “renewed and prioritised”. But mentoring programs aren’t just for women in leadership roles.
It turns out that the key to diversity and inclusion is mentorship, with research suggesting that companies wanting to better attract, retain and engage diverse talent should consider introducing a formal mentoring program, if they don’t already have one. Indeed, women and people of colour are more likely than others to report mentoring as very important to their career development.
Increased connection and engagement while hybrid working
Hybrid working has become a permanent feature of corporate Australia. Yet one of the findings of Adaptavist’s ‘Reinventing Work Report’, published in September 2022, was that a lack of face-to-face communication has left many people feeling disconnected: almost one-third of workers surveyed felt lonely every day.
An online mentoring platform such as MentorKey, which uses a matching algorithm to pair mentees and mentors – across locations, backgrounds and job levels, to ensure the best fit in an organisation – can give every employee access to a mentor. This helps workers feel more connected and engaged while working remotely, which in turn benefits their organisation. In fact, individual workers have a lot to gain by participating in a mentoring program. We’ll explore the benefits of mentoring for individuals in Part 2 of this article.