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Want to retain your youngest hires? Invest in mentorship

Your people strategy should include an element of nurturing professional development.

Want to retain your youngest hires? Invest in mentorship
[Photo: lilartsy/Pexels]

The stakes for recruiting and retaining talent right now feels higher than before.

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With the onset of the Great Resignation, many leaders were forced to reflect and recognize the value of holding on to great employees.

One of the best ways to do that is by incorporating mentorship programs in your company. In my experience, they allow team members to access growth opportunities—one of the driving motivations behind why people quit in 2021, according to the Pew Research Center.

“There is a widening mismatch between the job environment employees want—and now expect—and the one their organizations have,” write four researchers for Harvard Business Review.

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Their remedy? Keep your people from leaving by making your company a more attractive place to stay. That’s why as CEO to my own SaaS company, I’ve found mentoring programs to be such an effective tool. They don’t simply help reduce turnover rates: they make people feel more challenged, engaged, and included.

How mentorship can be a retention tool

Over the past 16 years of running my form-building company, I’ve advocated for mentorship programs, and I believe it’s what’s helped us maintain a low staff turnover with an annual churn rate of only 5%. Working with mentees has also been essential to my own personal and professional growth, because while not every entrepreneur will admit to it, it’s not a one-way street. Even seasoned leaders need to continuously learn from their junior peers. Here are 3 ways to make these programs a key part of your organization’s ongoing success.

1. Empower mentees

Every time we have a new hire or intern, we assign them a more senior mentor to guide them through the onboarding process so that they feel more supported. We also encourage cross-functional teams to foster peer relationships. I’ve found that this empowers mentees to feel more confident in sharing their ideas, concerns, and collaborating with their new colleagues.

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It’s also important for me that mentors aren’t merely focused on keeping new hires on track, but maintain ongoing conversations about prioritizing their own well-being, one of our core values. For example, in my previous experience with mentees, I’ve made it a point to ask them about their passions and what they’re doing to energize themselves.

It’s also one of the best ways we help them understand the kind of culture we’re trying to build—one that values kindness and care over hard-core productivity.

2. Fuel a growth mindset

Something to keep in mind when establishing successful mentorship programs is a focus on diversity and inclusion. As more companies look to expand their staff this summer, it’s important to pair mentors and mentees from different backgrounds.

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Not only does this promote a more diverse workplace, it also fuels a growth mindset. At Jotform, we’ve seen innovation go through the roof because we encourage a warm, non-threatening environment where everyone’s voice is equally heard and taken into account.

Aside from this, mentee-mentor pairs can show off their skills and talents in a co-learning relationship that grows into opportunities for advancement. Ultimately, having access to this kind of formal development—in the way of mentoring—is one of the top things workers highly value.

3. Create a sense of belonging

When it comes to designing your mentorship program, keeping mentees motivated and engaged is key for them experiencing a sense of belonging.

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That’s why each of these co-learning relationships shouldn’t be solely focused on skill development. Mentors can help new hires and interns better communicate with other colleagues and gain a better understanding of your company’s mission.

But don’t forget that this responsibility doesn’t only fall on the shoulders of mentors themselves.

According to Gartner contributors Jackie Wiles and Jordan Turner, building a sense of belonging means eliminating outsiderness. And this comes from your leadership style and overall culture. “Belonging is a key component of inclusion. When employees are truly included, they perceive that the organization cares for them as individuals—their authentic selves.”

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It’s something I strive to exemplify across my company, because I avidly remember the feeling of “otherness” as a foreign college student from Turkey.

Wiles and Turner put it well: “Many employees still feel like outsiders in the workplace—which causes them to further suppress the parts of themselves that make them unique from their colleagues. Feeling like an outsider is a personally painful, negative experience, a cognitive distraction that undermines focus and performance.”

From the beginning, I knew that fostering a mentorship program that makes newcomers feel an immediate sense of belonging would be instrumental to our growth as a business. And it’s my belief that the true foundation for helping retain your employees should be built upon genuine value and care for them as people.

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Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform, a leading online forms SaaS solution.

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