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May 1, 2017

The Business Case For Mentoring

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - University of North Carolina Wilmington

This Insights article was contributed by Laura Gail Lunsford, PhD, Director of the UNCW Swain Center.

Mentoring never hurt anyone.
People don't really need training to mentor someone else.
“Programming” mentoring seems fake.
"Assigning" people to relationships doesn't work well.
Statements like these have been made to me over the years and none of them are true. It is easy to think that mentoring will occur naturally and well, and that it is always beneficial. However, formal mentoring programs have an important place in organizational life and are key tools for leaders who wish to develop their human resources and retain talented employees.

Mentoring = Money

Effective mentoring programs reduce employee turnover and increase employee satisfaction – both of which add to the bottom line. Estimates are that employee replacement costs are 50 percent of their annual salary. A recent Pew Report found over a third of millennials value mentoring as an important professional development activity. Over half of the workforce is now made of employees from the millennial generation, so this is a significant proportion of the workforce that values mentoring.

Dark Side Of Mentoring

The dark side of mentoring – truly dysfunctional relationships – is infrequent but does occur 10 to 15 percent of the time. Thus, in a mentoring program with 50 pairs, there may be 10 to 15 people who have bad experiences. Dysfunction can be derailing and demotivating for employees but can be recognized and reduced with a well-designed mentoring program.

Value Of Mentoring Training

It is true that some individuals are more gifted than others at workplace mentoring and coaching. However, most of us learn from our own experiences, which vary from poor to mediocre to great. The opportunity to learn how to effectively engage in learning conversations, mentor and coach others while avoiding demotivating and ineffective conversations is a worthwhile investment. Research shows that all participants in mentoring benefit from high-quality training that emphasizes the program's purpose, ethics and effective learning conversations. Mentored individuals have greater job satisfaction and are promoted more often.

The Right ‘Match’

Formal mentoring programs connect people who would not otherwise engage with one another. Proximity is one of the most important predictors of relationships, and formal mentoring programs help bring people together. Fast-growing organizations or companies who have a desire to develop emerging leaders will benefit from formal mentoring programs to accelerate employee learning. Effective mentoring develops future organizational leaders.
People worry a lot about how to "assign" people to mentoring relationships. Effective programs select one or two key characteristics on which to match individuals. One of the most important factors is that the mentor has skills and experience in an area the mentee desires to develop. A mismatch on needs and skills is one of the more common errors made in planning formal mentoring efforts.
Diversity matters most at the beginning of the relationship, when people are unsure how to address differences in background, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. A great mentoring program coordinator can help individuals identify areas of commonality to quickly develop rapport.

Effective Programs

The evidence is in that effective mentoring programs are just as effective as "naturally occurring" mentoring relationships. Effective mentoring programs have a program coordinator, clear program objectives and support for participants to interact frequently and effectively.
If you would like to re-design or design an effective mentoring program, think about attending one of the Swain Center’s programs on ‘Mentoring Programs that Work’ on May 12 or September 15. To learn more, click here.

Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].

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