Alison Bell is Indiana Chancellor of WGU.

Mentorship can happen at varying levels, from one-off micro-mentorship opportunities to deeper connections that span decades-long careers. Further, mentors come in all shapes and sizes, from personal relationships to work peers or managers to educators and coaches.

However they may look, it’s imperative we emphasize the importance and advantages of mentoring relationships as it relates to career readiness and ongoing workforce development. Of those with a mentor, 97% of them feel they are highly impactful and valuable, yet only 37% of professionals have a mentor. The power of mentorship also lies in the “pay it forward” approach: 89% of those who have been mentored will also go on to mentor others.

I observed higher education from different perspectives throughout my childhood – with a parent in the field and living in a community grounded by a local university. Through this exposure, and by extension mentorship, I understood that there was always a place for anyone, including women in leadership, and learned the importance of work ethic and perseverance. Mentorship is a critical piece of my journey as a leader and career woman.

The personal and professional support throughout my life pushed me toward serving others as a professional mentor. Most formally, my mentorship started in the late ‘90s on college campuses where I held roles as an academic advisor and creating and leading programming in two residential living learning communities for undergraduate students. Still connected to many students from this stage in my career, I’ve been able to build impactful and long lasting relationships and serve as a confidante on professional choices and pathways.

Mentorship yields many benefits, including greater job satisfaction, building a strong network, higher salary potential, and feeling more empowered and confident. When analyzing 43 studies, it was found that compared to non-mentored employees, mentored employees received higher compensation, a greater number of promotions, are more satisfied with and committed to their careers, and more. Further, employee engagement and retention are higher in mentored employees. The benefits of a mentoring relationship are not limited to mentees either, with many of these benefits applying to the mentors and mentees alike.

Businesses, associations and organizations of all kinds can create opportunities for mentorship. A few strategies for welcoming mentorship into your workplace include:

  • Implement mentor-match programs to connect employees with like-minded colleagues to support internal growth and employee engagement.
  • Encourage industry networking. Sending employees out to network with industry peers creates a new level of trust and commitment to growth opportunities that will benefit both individuals and organizations alike.
  • Consider pairing new employees with a peer in the organization to help them acclimate to their role, department, the business and more through short-term mentorship.
  • Develop and nurture an open-door policy to support micro-mentorship and one-off opportunities between team members.
  • Support up-and-coming professionals in your field through high school and college engagements – from career fairs to individual informational interviews – to support an early pipeline and connection between talent and industry.

WGU Indiana invests greatly in student and alumni mentorship by assigning every incoming student a Program Mentor. These faculty members provide one-on-one guidance throughout their degree pursuit. This experience helps students create course plans, acclimate to the university’s policies and procedures, receive motivation and support to stay on track, and more. As a result of this intentionality in mentorship, 65% of WGU alumni strongly agree they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. Gallup research has found this key experience to be one of the strongest predictors of future workplace engagement and wellbeing. It also sets WGU apart nationally, as just 32% of all national college graduates strongly agree they had such a mentor — a percentage 30 points less than that of WGU graduates.

Mentorship is one of the greatest growth strategies for your employees and business. Don’t let it pass by. However you choose to engage with mentorship, the value is ten-fold (or more).

Alison Bell has more than 20 years of higher education leadership experience and is the chancellor of WGU Indiana, a nonprofit, online university offering 60+ degrees in the four colleges of business, teaching, I.T. and health/nursing.

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