Half of Employees Want Mentorship — Too Bad They Aren’t Getting It

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Nov 6, 2020

When a crisis hits, fear and panic are two emotions that tend to run high in workplaces. It makes sense. Between budget cuts, hiring freezes, furloughs, and layoffs, no one wants to bring up the topic of career development and growth because, heaven forbid, you’re seen as being ungrateful or insensitive to the current situation.

That’s why career development and a crisis can seem to go together like, as the British say, chalk and cheese. 

But here’s the thing: Mentorship is a massive opportunity for organizations to retain top talent during the pandemic. It helps employees form stronger emotional bonds to the organization, feel more satisfied in their roles, and perceive greater support from the organization. Mentorship is also an effective way to help employees reach their professional development goals, become contenders for promotions, and advance in their careers.

new study from Doodle proves this point, with 50% of employees saying mentorship from their manager has become more important to them during the pandemic.

A Massive Mentorship Opportunity

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I saw that 49% of employees in the study said that they aren’t getting enough coaching, training, and mentoring to advance their careers right now. All of which can easily be to the detriment of organizations that are constantly struggling with high employee turnover rates — it typically costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement, so ignoring employee development can add tens of thousands of dollars in costs.

What’s more, every company is focused on stabilizing their business, and for many, this has required an uncountable number of difficult choices. What we found in our survey is that organizations that can use this opportunity to double-down on providing employees with career development and mentorship opportunities right now can ensure that they keep valuable, top-performing people who will contribute to the company’s growth and success as we emerge from the current crisis.

Indeed, it was a pleasant surprise to see what employees actually hope to get out of these one-to-one meetings with their bosses: 32% want clear direction on their role and responsibilities, while 15% want guidance and support for their career development goals. 

In other words, 47% of employees value the role their boss plays in their individual growth. 

Mentorship Does Not Happen By Email

Thing is, mentorship does not happen best over email. Yet the study shows that email is still the primary way people communicate with their managers. Given how many ways there are to communicate (Slack, Microsoft Teams, videoconference, text), it’s interesting to see that people tend to fall back to email. This is especially surprising since videoconferencing allows for that face-to-face time that so many employees crave, while tools like Slack allow for immediacy in ways you don’t get with email.  

This shows that the long-predicted “death of email” isn’t happening any time soon. But it also serves as a powerful reminder that email isn’t always the best way for managers and their employees to communicate with each other, especially when the topic is sensitive. Tone of voice and intent can easily be misinterpreted, which can lead to tension, conflict, and stress between employees and their managers. 

So when it’s time to discuss career development, raises, or promotion, doing so over email isn’t the best approach. One-to-one meetings are a much better alternative for sensitive career development discussions — be they virtual or in-person discussion.

Mentorship As Part of a Broader Talent Strategy

Ultimately, mentorship is vital to helping employees feel a sense of belonging, fulfillment, engagement, and trust with their employers. Not making it a priority can directly affect your organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent — and thus, ensure long-term growth and success. 

And so it’s not that mentorship is important because of the pandemic. It’s always been important. It’s just that the pandemic has made employees more acutely aware of how much they need and want mentorship. It’s also made them less accepting and tolerant of an environment where their career-development goals aren’t valued and supported. Organizations need to take note of this and bring mentorship and career development to the forefront of their corporate strategy, mission, values, and culture.