Attracting and retaining employees has proved a challenge in the wake of unprecedented levels of employee resignations and an increased desire for hybrid or work-from-home options. Compounding this frustration is the high failure rate of young professionals in many industries, creating more job openings. However, normalizing high failure rates among young professionals is a dire mistake.
Devoting time and effort to ensuring the success of newly minted workers not only alleviates the impact of the “great resignation” by permanently filling job openings. Equipped for success and ready to give back, young pros will have a career lifetime ahead of them to return tenfold to your company what you initially put in. Mentorship is crucial to ensuring the success of newcomers: it provides opportunities for emulation, fosters employee relationships, and encourages integration with company values. But what does successful mentorship look like?
While management implies distance from one’s subordinates, mentorship is built on a foundation of trust and familiarity between mentor and mentee. The most critical element of becoming a mentor is getting to know the mentee on a personal basis. You need to know what makes them tick, which can only be accomplished by devoting the necessary time and effort. Listen, understand their personal and professional aspirations, and provide advice on a path forward. Genuine compassion cannot be faked.
As a mentor, you are tasked with enhancing your mentee’s personal and professional growth. It can be extremely challenging to build a book of business as a younger, less experienced member of the company. Being there to support your mentee in the moments during which they doubt their own abilities is essential to fostering their growth rather than their downfall. It is in these moments that they need support and advice the most. Building trust is key to being approachable during times of personal crisis. Scheduling informal lunches throughout the first few months of their tenure and keeping conversations confidential are great ways to build a trusting relationship.
A hybrid work environment has reduced (or even eliminated) the casual water cooler talk or the “windshield” time you would normally have to chat with people driving to and from a meeting. It’s no longer sufficient for a mentor to simply show up to work — online work atmospheres fall flat in fostering close mentor/mentee relationships. They leave the newcomer feeling alienated from the company. Mentors need to deliberately seek out the younger folks and be available to them.
I teach my mentees the company behaviors of integrity, excellence, empowerment, expertise, and innovation, which were passed down to me by my own mentors. My mentors taught me that our goals, purpose, and values define what the company strives to be as an organization. Making sure your mentee is familiar with company values is essential to their integration into the organization, but the mentor’s work extends beyond verbal explanation. Behaviors are the embodiment of who we are, what we require from ourselves, and what we demand from others. How we behave is what defines us as mentors. Supplement communicating the company values to your mentees by showing them. Being a beacon for newcomers to emulate is a key tenet of mentoring.
Assimilating into a new or first company can be challenging and intimidating for a younger, less experienced employee. Familiarizing new hires with the whole company eases the stress that comes with the initial shock. One of the tools we use to better integrate new hires into company culture is our rotational program, which allows newcomers to experience each of our company’s business units when they first arrive.
This alignment helps each new employee become more comfortable with the whole firm by exposing them to the organization’s overall makeup, strategy, and culture. Ultimately, allowing new employees to rotate through every unit promotes successful assimilation by fostering relationships between veterans and new hires. It also allows newcomers to witness company culture in action and builds a solid foundation from which new employees can springboard their careers.
With the assistance of devoted, talented, and experienced mentors, the high failure rate of new hires can be lowered, making less palpable the challenge of attracting and retaining employees in a post-COVID work environment. Successful mentorship itself, though, is neither easy nor simple and should not be treated as such.
Mentorship is a serious responsibility that renews your own zeal for showing up to work every day. When mentoring is taken seriously, the positive impact on all parties involved cannot be understated.
Ryan Campagna, CFP, AIF, is senior vice president of retirement plan advisory sales for Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group. Campagna was recently named Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year by Plan Adviser Magazine.