Senior executives are often too busy to mentor their future leaders. This turns out to be a missed opportunity to retain and develop top performers. It can be done in less time and more cost effectively than most executives ever realize.

Remember early in your career when a senior leader took an interest in you? They offered advice and mentorship to help you avoid catastrophic pitfalls at work while honing the skills you brought to the company. If you are like me, this simple act massively increased my loyalty to that leader and the organization.

I can remember a time I was about to present and a mentor said to me, "Whatever you do, do not mention the words 'cost avoidance'. He only wants to talk 'cost savings'. If you mention avoidance, he will shut you down."

My presentation went well as a I carefully avoided referring to 'cost avoidance". But the person after me wasn't so lucky. The person didn't have the wise consultation of my mentor. When the individual mentioned 'cost avoidance', the senior leader actually hung up the phone. Meeting over.

I stuck around a lot longer in that job due to powerful mentorship.

Mentoring is the ultimate win-win-win for the mentee, mentor, and organization. The organization gets a boost in employee retention and engagement. Research shows that mentored employees have:

  • Greater intentions to stay with the organization
  • More commitment to their job
  • Higher job satisfaction.

What's surprising is that research also shows the mentors experience most of these same benefits.

Even with these benefits for the organization, mentee and mentor, formal mentoring can be rare from senior leaders because:

  • Mentoring takes time - Time is money and sometimes mentoring can seem like a waste of their time.
  • Mentoring is abstract - It is not clear how "to do" mentoring. If there is no concise action, senior leaders will default to a different activity.

Use these five simple steps to kick start mentoring in your organization, increase employee engagement, and retain your future leaders.

1. Communicate the return on investment for your organization

Once I had a senior leader tell me that his time was too valuable to mentor new leaders. Then I shared that losing a top performing employee could cost the organization 150 percent to 200 percent of the employee annual salary. He reconsidered.

2. Share the easy five-part mentoring process

Sometimes mentoring can seem a little ambiguous. Boil it down to 5 easy parts.

  1. Listen for the problem.

  2. Clarify and share the problem you heard.

  3. Share a quick story of a time you had something similar happen.

  4. Discuss what you tried to solve.

  5. Share what worked or did not work.

3. Use a simple method to mentor

The key is leverage and ease. Mentorship can seem too costly because leaders are thinking narrowly about how to generate the core output of passing along important, helpful knowledge. Consider easy ways senior leaders can share their knowledge with a large group. Here are 10 ways time-crunched managers can mentor others.

  1. Curate and share: Google a problem that you see your team having. Identify a helpful article, then email it to them.
  2. Email message: Write a quick email regarding a helpful idea that you have seen or present a picture of potential solution.
  3. Informal video message: Record a helpful message on your smart phone around a topic that employees are struggling with and email it to them.
  4. Write an article for the company newsletter a common challenge. Use the 5-part structure shared in step #2.
  5. Lunch round table: Invite a group of employees to an informal lunch; and let them ask questions.
  6. Lunch-and-learn presentation: Host a 15-minute presentation on a specific topic.
  7. Job shadowing: Invite a future leader to a behind-the-scenes day, so they can learn from the senior leader through observation.
  8. Q&A: Ask future leaders to submit their questions on a specific topic; record or write your replies.
  9. Reverse mentoring: Ask future leaders on what topics they could mentor senior leaders. Research shows this can have a positive impact on employee retention and job satisfaction as well, yet a Delphi study found that less than 10% of organization use reverse form of mentorship.

4. Track the impact

Track the job performance and employee retention of the mentees and the mentors. Note any changes.

5. Spread what works

Notice which mentoring methods that are most effective for your organization. Spread them to other parts of the organization, and reap the benefits.

Now select one senior leader within your organization and ask the individual to try this five-step mentoring process. When they succeed, share this success with others to reap and spread the benefits of mentoring to others in your organization.