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Seeking Improvement in Employee Retention or Engagement?

Consider external mentoring as a solution.

Is your talent pool too shallow? With baby boomers retiring in record numbers, millennials hopping from job to job every few years, and companies expecting more from employees earlier in their careers, the need for more talent development is clear.

Many companies are turning to external mentoring to help workers develop critical business skills. These mentors share their experiences -- from navigating the boardroom to implementing a major system integration -- and empower mentees to tackle similar challenges and achieve success.


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In addition to supplementing your internal capabilities, external mentors give a fresh perspective on life beyond the company’s four walls. The results? More engaged employees, less turnover, and a workforce that’s ready to tackle today and tomorrow’s challenges.  

Whether you’re planning for an acquisition or grooming an employee for the C-suite, mentoring can up your chances of success.

If any of the situations below sound familiar to you, it may be time to explore external mentoring.



  1. Your organization is changing. Is your company expanding globally? Getting ready for its first merger? One way to increase your success rate is to have the employees involved share their ideas with someone who’s been through it. An external mentor can tell your staff what worked -- and what didn’t -- for them and provide critical feedback on your company’s plans.   
  2. Your industry is changing. In rapidly changing fields like health care, innovation is essential for survival. Through external mentoring, your employees can engage mentors from other industries or specialization areas to gain new perspective. For example, a health care insurance organization sought mentors from a wide range of areas to make sure it was meeting customers’ evolving needs. By tapping the expertise of mentors outside its industry, even including some in client decision-maker roles, the company learned more and expanded its thinking.
  3. You’re having retention issues. They say people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. If your company is shedding employees, the problem might be managers who don’t have the time or skills to help employees grow. Millennials are especially apt to jump ship for a more supportive work environment, switching employers every two to three years on average. Invest in external mentoring to show staff that you’re committed to their growth and creating a supportive work environment, and make them more likely to stay.
  4. You’re facing a talent cliff. Each day, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age, leaving a looming “talent cliff” in their wake. That exodus, coupled with the fact that baby boomers outnumber Generation Xers by 10 million, means that there’s a shortage of talent to fill many executive positions. If your company is facing a leadership void, tap external resources to share lessons learned through their own careers with your younger employees to prepare them for senior roles.
  5. Your employees lack critical skills. As companies tightened their belts during the recession, training was one of the first things to go. Organizations are also asking workers to take on bigger responsibilities earlier in their careers, making it even more important to educate them for success. While paying for an employee’s executive MBA may be cost-prohibitive, mentoring is a flexible, affordable alternative.



The main rule of mentoring is that you get out what you put in. To prepare for a successful experience:

  • Define the purpose of the program and what success will look like. Spell out the qualities you’d like to develop in employees, such as better strategic planning skills, and use those specifics to measure program success. Many organizations also track employee retention, promotions and engagement to gauge program effectiveness.
  • Determine who will set up and administer the program. The best-intentioned mentoring programs can fade quickly without a dedicated champion.
  • Ask employees to consider what type of mentor or mentors would be a good fit, including industry, company role, specific business experience and personality. Sometimes employees can benefit from working with mentors in different industries or specialization areas, such as a new C-suite member engaging a mentor with a strong finance background to learn those skills.
  • Employees should discuss specific goals they want to accomplish with their mentors and provide the mentor with access to their personality assessments, performance reviews and other assessments to develop a roadmap for the relationship. Remind them to provide discussion topics in advance to mentors to make the relationship more productive. 
  • Track key metrics, such as program participation and employee satisfaction, to help determine whether a program is working for your company. Consider partnering with an external mentoring organization that can pair employees with new mentors if they move into different company roles or need support in several areas.  

While developing quality employees isn’t easy, help is out there. Tapping the expertise of external mentors can help you ensure the pool at the bottom of the talent cliff is a deep one.

 Learn more about The Mentor Bank, our Leadership and Organizational Development capabilities and other ways we help you accelerate success.