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Employees in Need of Mentorship Often Don’t Seek It; How Your Company Can Broaden its Approach

  • Study looks at impact of mentorship on productivity and retention of employees
  • Researchers conclude that broader mentoring programs yield better results than efforts targeted at individual employees
  • Optional mentoring programs may have limited reach due to factors such as employees’ shyness or overconfidence

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

A set of academic researchers says businesses can take a simple step to improve the effectiveness of their mentoring programs: make them mandatory.

Professors from the Harvard Business School, Tulane University, Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University, and the University of Utah found that workers are less likely to seek mentorship when it is optional. They said several factors influence this decision, ranging from shyness about attending the programs to overconfidence in one’s abilities.

The study also showed that broader mentoring programs yield better results than efforts to target mentoring at employees that company leaders think would benefit the most from working with a mentor.

  • To scrutinize the issue, researchers made modifications to a mentoring program for newly hired workers at a call center
  • The study created different mentoring versions, with one group receiving broad mentoring support and another giving employees the option to attend or not attend a mentoring program; the latter group was further divided between employees who received a mentor and those who didn’t
  • Employees who received mentoring support from experienced employees outperformed workers who did not receive mentoring by 18 percent, with more than 90 percent of early sales gains sustained over the following six months
  • Mentored employees were also 11 percent more likely to stay at the company for more than one month
  • The study also emphasized the importance of flexibility in mentorship programs, saying the call center already had a robust employee training program in place but that it was modified significantly as part of the research effort

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