When it comes to professional development, people want a human connection for advice and guidance, according to new research from Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM). And even though they believe mentoring would help advance their careers, less than a third of employees have joined a mentorship program at work.
Qualtrics conducted a study, in partnership with Charter, of 3,000 US employees working in office-based roles to understand what professional development opportunities are available to them and how they feel about the value of such offerings.
Having growth and development opportunities is the top driver of making sure employees feel that they belong, and a significant driver of employee engagement and retention. As remote work became more common, some organizations expressed concern about more junior employees missing opportunities to build relationships and be mentored by their senior colleagues. Formal mentorship programs are a potential antidote to that, but previous Qualtrics research found that at least 60% of employees said their organization did not offer mentoring or professional training opportunities during the first year of the pandemic. As a result, employees today may see additional value in these development offerings.
Nearly all (86%) employees said their organization offers some sort of professional growth opportunities, including workshops or conferences, training courses and online software tools. When people use available development resources, they believe they’re valuable for their careers; the largest share of employees said internal coaching and formal mentorship among staff will help advance their careers. However, these are among the least available resources for employees, with 39% having internal coaching available to them and just 30% having formal mentorship opportunities.
The most common reasons these programs aren’t used are a lack of awareness and not having the time outside of their own job responsibilities. Only 15% of employees said they didn’t take advantage of a mentorship opportunity because they didn’t think it would be valuable, suggesting that increased support from leadership could encourage more employees to take advantage of these options.
“Despite the massive disruptions we’ve recently faced, the importance of professional growth and development for employees and organizations alike has not changed, with employees highlighting mentoring as one of the most effective/preferred ways to accomplish this,” said Dr. Benjamin Granger, Chief Workplace Psychologist at Qualtrics. “In particular, strong mentor relationships can help employees settle into new companies and roles and develop stronger leadership and communication skills, while giving mentors a fresh perspective and sense of personal accomplishment.”
This research reveals insights for leaders to offer effective mentoring programs for their organizations.
- Employees want a personal connection. More than half of employees who have worked with a mentor met with them in person, and the most successful mentor-mentee relationships were most likely to meet in person. However, meeting virtually does not prevent successful mentor relationships, and meeting frequently is more important than meeting in-person. Additionally, employees feel more strongly that one-on-one professional development offerings will benefit their careers than digital resources and group trainings will.
- Goals aren’t always about climbing the corporate ladder. Beyond learning tactical skills, employees are looking to expand their abilities through leadership skills (a goal for 51% of mentees), understanding business operations (50%) and networking within their professional field (43%). Only 27% said a promotion was a specific goal of their mentor relationship.
- Mentoring is a satisfying and valuable experience. Mentors not only feel the satisfaction of knowing they’re positively impacting someone’s career, they also report learning new perspectives and tactical approaches from their mentees. However, less than half (45%) of employees say their organization offers any training on how to be an effective mentor.
“When maintained and supported by organizations, mentoring can quickly become a sustainable, self-propelling engine where successful mentees become the next generation of mentors,” said Granger.
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