Mentorship Programs for Women: Advancing Your Employees and Your Business
Business owners today want employees who are engaged, motivated and happy at work. One of the best ways to foster that kind of work culture is by starting an internal mentorship program. Mentorship programs can be instrumental in career advancement, particularly for women, in addition to providing benefits for your business.
According to research from Development Dimensions International, a talent management consultant, 63% of women have never had a formal mentor and just 56% of organizations have a formal program. Yet, before you jump to launch your own mentorship program, it’s important to know what it can deliver and how it should be structured.
Benefits for Your Business
Internal mentorship programs can help you recruit and retain your employees. Career development is one of the most sought after benefits for job seekers. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that if a company invested more in their employees, 94% of those employees would stay at the company longer. In fact, employees who spend more than five hours a week in learning programs, such as mentorships, are more likely to feel a greater sense of purpose and be less stressed.
When you connect a mentee with a mentor, you demonstrate your willingness to invest in your employees with your time and resources. In a small-business owner study by Mastercard, 48% of women said creating mentorship programs for women would be the most helpful move in advancing female entrepreneurs.
According to research from MicroMentor, 83% of small businesses with mentor programs survive longer than five years. In addition, small businesses with mentorship programs in place experienced an 83% growth in revenue, while companies without mentor programs only saw a 16% increase.
Benefits for Employees
Mentorship programs provide benefits for both new and existing employees. Some of your more experienced female employees, for example, have probably navigated a variety of issues during their careers. Perhaps they’ve addressed work/life balance, gender bias and pay inequality at other companies. Ask them to share their tips and stories with the younger women on the team to prepare accordingly for the future. You never know when their valuable insights could come in handy.
Seasoned employees can also learn from those who are new to the company. For example, “reverse mentoring” turns a younger employee into a mentor. This relationship creates a different flow of knowledge by giving the younger employee an opportunity to share the latest trends, technology and innovative new practices.
How to Create Mentorship Programs
To create a program for the women on your team, you need structure as well as a safe place to openly discuss issues and share ideas. Mentors should set expectations and objectives upfront, so both parties know the ground rules and each person’s responsibilities in the relationship.
You can have mid-week check-ins and homework, too. The mentor should hold the mentee accountable for the steps she said she’d take. Set specific goals for your women’s mentorship program so you can make sure it’s effective. Mentoring without an intention or plan often turns into a wasted opportunity.
Whenever possible, include the most successful women on your team as mentors; they will likely motivate younger women to put in their best effort. Invite every female on your team to participate as a mentor or mentee, and automatically enroll new employees during your onboarding process by pairing them up with a mentor.
If the mentee doesn’t feel she’s getting what she needs, make sure she can easily be reassigned to a more appropriate mentor. Not every partnership will be a match, but no matter the situation, you should make every effort to find your employee her best mentor.
How Mentorships Empower Women
Starting a mentorship program for the women in your workplace will create a sense of community, encourage learning and support growth in your business. The goal is to help equip all women with the tools and advice they need to address the challenges they’ll face in their careers. Insight is powerful, and it can help all of your employees take their careers to the next level.
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.