Talented employees are hard to find and even harder to keep. But being known for career development can set your company apart and give it a competitive edge. That’s why 76 percent of Fortune magazine’s top 25 companies provide mentoring to their employees.

These companies know that mentoring is a win-win situation. Mentoring programs help companies to develop the skills and talents of their workers and identify and grow employees who display leadership potential, leading to a more productive workforce. Mentoring programs can also help employees to become more confident in their abilities and more engaged at work.

The millennial generation, in particular, expresses a preference for employee mentoring.  Research reveals that 66 percent of millennials want an employee mentor, 80 percent desire regular feedback from their boss and 89 percent think it is important to experience continuous on-the-job learning. And since millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce by 2020, it’s in the best interest of companies to make mentoring an organizational priority.

Unfortunately, many managers don’t know how to mentor employees or provide effective career development. However, fostering professional development among employees is not as complicated as it might seem, especially when resources are available to guide you through the process.

There are several types of mentoring programs to choose from, some of which can be combined.  For example:

  • One-on-one mentoring provides the opportunity for the mentor to serve as a role model, sounding board and source of support to the mentee.
  • E-mentoring allows the mentor and mentee to communicate virtually, regardless of the physical distance between them.
  • Reverse mentoring allows a younger mentor to share knowledge (such as new technology) with more experienced mentee.
  • Group mentoring provides an opportunity for one mentor to share with several mentees at the same time.
  • Peer mentoring groups provide a forum for individuals to share their knowledge and experiences and learn from one another.

There are several ways to go about creating a solid framework for a successful mentoring program. However, some general key steps include:

  1. Lay the groundwork: Recognize the need, set program objectives and determine the program’s structure.  
  2. Prepare for the launch: Introduce the program to employees at all levels and develop a process to match mentors and mentees.
  3. Launch the program and train participants: Identify goals and milestones, link each goal to broader organizational needs, plan meeting times and teach participants how to provide constructive feedback.
  4. Build relationships and assess progress: Establish regular check-ins and a final meeting upon completion of the program.
  5. Evaluate program effectiveness: Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures to assess the success of the program.

Taking these steps to build real and lasting mentoring programs will help attract and retain top talent. With millennials’ growing presence in the workforce, it is crucial that managers recognize the need for mentoring relationships and provide programs that will assist in professional development and communication in the workplace. This will help set your company apart and show your employees they are valued.

To read more about mentorship programs, you can click on this link.

 AlisonAlison Napolitano is the community manager for MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA degree. Alison has a background in marketing, digital strategy and account management. In her spare time, Alison enjoys art, being with family and is always involved in some form of athletics.  You can follow Alison on Twitter @anapio7.