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Steve O'Brian


Vice president

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Mentoring programs: Five tips for better employee engagement


Steve O’Brian outlines five different employee development programs that benefit from using mentoring as a learning method.

Many companies offer mentoring programs. However few organisations realise how effective mentoring can be for a variety of career development programs beyond the traditional senior/junior employee pairing. Mentoring is one of the most effective methods of learning, proving true the old adage that 70% of learning is experiential. Mentoring, in short, is today’s form of apprenticeship and it’s a powerful driver of employee engagement, performance, and ultimately, retention.

Here’s how to harness this powerful form of learning for more focused purposes at your organisation.

Employee career development 

This is the traditional type of mentoring program, where junior employees learn from senior employees. Not only does this provide additional skills and cultural knowledge, but it turns out that opportunity for learning and development is a top driver of engagement and retention of employees – even more important than leadership, culture, and compensation (Right Management, 2012). Setting up a career mentoring program helps employees feel that they’re growing and learning while achieving the objectives of understanding a current position plus the future path forward. This in turn contributes to better retention in a tight labor market, saving companies cost and valuable time.

Leadership development

In addition to executive coaching, mentoring can play a powerful role in leadership development. Use a professional mentoring program as an effective strategy to reward high potentials with personal attention and guidance. This will lead to nurturing your company’s leadership chain. By connecting high potentials with leaders, top performers, and each other across the company, high potentials learn faster and are ready to take on leadership positions sooner. 

Diversity mentoring

Through diversity initiatives, employees learn cultural awareness to create an inclusive corporate culture. Mentoring creates an environment of trust and belonging while giving employees an opportunity to voice their concerns, overcome hurdles, and find solutions. As a result, mentoring can inspire employees to work better together, creating a stronger corporate culture going forward.

Reverse mentoring

Popular among companies that believe everyone has something to bring to the table, reverse mentoring features newer employees who have modern skills that can re-invigorate and improve performance in more mature companies. Reverse mentoring is different from traditional mentoring in that it’s the junior employee who serves as the mentor, providing senior members of the organisation with up-to-date information on the latest business technologies and workplace trends.

Knowledge transfer

Sharing knowledge throughout a company not only increases productivity but can also help with succession strategies. Mentoring is an effective approach to capture and distribute important internal knowledge by providing employees with direct access to a range of experts and peers who can share the vital knowledge and skills. Knowledge transfer fuels succession planning, ensuring that once executives retire, someone with plenty of company knowledge will be ready to step into place.

Mentoring helps employees find their fit in an organisation while creating new levels of ownership and thought leadership. By developing employees this way, rates of employee engagement and retention are improved, creating a win-win for both employees and your business. 

To learn more about each type of mentoring and understand how they have worked in real organisations, please refer to the full Chronus whitepaper and case studies on using mentoring in the workplace

Steve O’Brian, vice president of Chronus Corp., is an accomplished author and speaker on the subject of corporate mentoring, coaching, and onboarding. His thought leadership has been instrumental in changing the way companies approach talent development programs. Deeply involved in the creation of client solutions, O’Brian shares his best-practice program expertise throughout the corporate learning and development world


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Steve O'Brian

Vice president

Read more from Steve O'Brian

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