Many companies are now encouraging or requiring staff to be in office more days per week than they have over the past few remote-heavy years. One common justification for this, as given by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, is the argument that training, including mentorship, is best done in person. For our newest research project, we wanted to interrogate that argument: Is it true that remote mentorship is less effective? And how does hybrid work factor in when planning these programs?
This past December, Charter and Qualtrics partnered to survey 3,005 desk-based workers in the United States. We wanted to identify the core aspects that make for successful mentoring relationships, as well as those that don’t matter as much. We defined mentorship as a relationship where someone advises and supports a coworker in their career, but not as a direct supervisor (sponsorship and coaching, while related and important, weren't the focus of this study). Within our sample, some 38% of respondents identified as mentees (people who have utilized internal coaching or formal mentorship) and 52% as mentors (those who have ever served as a mentor in a professional setting).
What we learned:
Hybrid work does not limit the potential of mentoring. Successful mentoring relationships were similarly likely to occur if mentor and mentee met remotely, in-person, or a mix of both. Some 19% of highly successful mentees (those who completed 81% or more of their goals during the mentorship period) met with their mentor entirely virtually, compared to 15% for somewhat successful mentees (those who completed 61-80% of their goals).
Good mentors aren’t just born. Mentorships benefit from organizational support, and we see that the most successful mentoring relationships are most often associated with:
- Frequent check-ins between mentors and mentees. Some 51% of very successful mentors meet with their mentees once a week or more often, compared to 37% for somewhat successful mentors.
- Mentors who are meaningfully recognized for the time and effort they put in. Mentors in successful relationships are more likely to have this mentorship supported through compensation (27%, vs. 17% for less successful mentors), recognition in performance reviews (42% vs. 33%), and being provided time by their employer to mentor (39% vs. 33%).
- Communication with managers. We see substantively higher success with formal mentoring processes in which mentors share progress with their mentees’ managers (51% vs. 34%).
Mentors benefit from having high-quality training from their organization available. Mentors of very successful mentees are more likely to work at organizations that offer mentorship training (63% for very successful mentors, vs. 47% for somewhat successful). Notably, only 45% of organizations across our sample offered this training.
Mentorship benefits both parties and the wider workplace. On average, mentees accomplished 75% of their ingoing goals, while some 45% of highly successful mentors learned new skills or tactical approaches suggested by their mentee.
If your organization already has a formal mentorship program, consider implementing more structure. Some examples that make a positive difference:
Start any new mentoring relationship with an orientation for both mentor and mentee. As Wendy Murphy, a professor of management and associate dean of the Undergraduate School at Babson College, explains, “It’s an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page.”
Making mentorship a promotable task that is recognized as a job responsibility for those who participate.
Include mentoring progress as part of both mentee and mentor performance reviews.
If your organization doesn’t have mentorship, or if it’s ad hoc, here’s how to start a more structured program:
Ask employees where they seek on-the-job guidance now and solicit past examples of mentorships that have benefited them at other workplaces.
Look at how other organizations in your space are building their programs. Use these as inspiration, but ensure that any program you implement fits with your organization’s culture.
Ensure that your program includes training for mentors, encourages frequent check-ins, and is incorporated into core job responsibilities for both mentor and mentee.
Use retention metrics to make your case for investing in quality mentorship: Some 56% of the highly successful mentees in our survey reported intent to stay with their current organization for more than five years, compared to only 40% of somewhat successful mentees.
You can hear more about mentorship from Charter's head of workplace strategy Massella Dukuly discussing what this means for employers on NPR's LifeKit.
More about participants in this study:
- The individuals we surveyed represented a wide range of job responsibilities, industries, fields, ethnicities, and gender identities:
- Most were individual contributors (53%) followed by managers (28%), senior leaders (11%), and c-level executives (8%).
- The top represented industries included finance & insurance 13%), technology & IT (13%), education (11%), professional services (11%), and healthcare (10%).
- Most respondents self-identified as White (80%), followed by Black (13%), Asian (5%), and Native American (2%).
Melissa is a research manager at Charter and joined Charter after 13 years as a consumer product researcher and forecaster at NielsenIQ BASES.
The partner for this research, Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software provider that helps organizations quickly identify and resolve points of friction across all digital and human touchpoints in their business – so they can retain their best customers and employees, protect their revenue, and drive profitability. More than 18,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’s advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle, and operates out of 28 offices globally. To learn more, please visit qualtrics.com.
Illustrations by Daniel Lee.
Mentorship is often lauded as best done in person. However, our research with Qualtrics shows that this is not prerequisite for success. The key elements for successful mentorship include organizational investment, through things such as training and inclusion in core job tasks, and frequent interactions, regardless of where those interactions occur.