Evaluating Mentoring Research

Seven studies prove the benefits of mentoring to talent development.

Photo by Shutterstock

Photo by Shutterstock

We've documented how companies increasingly are using mentoring as a vital talent-development tool and how valuable it is for everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, physical ability or age. The cross-cultural component is key and women, Blacks, Latinas and Asians often cite mentoring as their main reason for staying and flourishing at a company.

Here's what other research on this topic shows: Nearly 1 in 5 companies said they are ready to adopt mentoring programs in 2010 as a way to develop up-and-coming leaders, according to a study by Boston-based Aberdeen Group. The study, "Learning & Development: Arming Frontline and Midlevel Managers to Deliver People and Performance Results," also found that 76 percent of companies surveyed said they have used mentoring in an effort to deliver critical leadership skills. And nearly two-thirds said they find mentoring to be effective.

Here's a look at some additional academic and professional research on the topic of mentoring.

Capitalizing on Coaching Challenges

By Sophie Oberstein

Research shows that when people work well together and develop strong relationships, employee turnover is likely to be reduced. But what happens when mentoring relationships go awry? This recent report discusses the challenges faced by mentors and mentees when things go sour.

Coaching and mentoring often translate into increased company loyalty and enhanced motivation and productivity, according to the authors. But these benefits can be thwarted when problems arise. The authors talk about what can be done when coaching stalls or when employees aren't following through on coaching and mentoring assignments or realizing their goals, or when you are asked to coach or mentor someone you may have angry or negative feelings about. The article offers some practical tools for both mentors and mentees about how to recognize problems and transform what may seem like insurmountable problem into an opportunity.

Make Mentoring Work For You: Ten Strategies for Success

By Lois J. Zachary

Although mentoring is an ideal growth and development opportunity, lack of time is one of the most frequently cited reasons for lack of mentoring success. "Time will always be an issue; it isn't as much about finding the time as it is about making the best use of the time that you do have. And that means knowing how to make mentoring work for you," says the report.

The article presents advice and recommendations to help make business mentoring relationships successful. Mentoring is defined in the report as "a reciprocal and collaborative learning partnership."

"The model of the 1970s and 80s that focused on a more experienced (often older) adult passing on knowledge and information to a less experienced adult has shifted. The mentee plays an active role, the mentor functions as a learning facilitator rather than an authority,'' the report says.

The article discusses the importance of choosing the right mentor, focusing on time management, and obtaining regular feedback.

Venus-Mars and Benefits: Women and the Workplace

By Thomasina Tafur

Apparently, when it comes to employee satisfaction and mentoring, men and women appear to come from different planets. This study says that while most men prefer money or more tangible rewards for job performance, women employees believe other perks are just as valuable as their salaries. For example, women employees prefer to be recognized with more relationship-oriented or appreciative types of incentives. That can include, for example, "a letter from a superior indicating a job well done," or even "flexible work hours to enable them to cope with responsibilities at home and work."

The article also notes that women are more likely to seek feedback and mentoring than male employees. The article focuses on the types of benefits that appeal to female employees and offers advice company's implement to help retain their top female performers.

The Effects of Supervisors' Verbal Aggressiveness and Mentoring on their Subordinates

By Paul E. Madlock and Carrie Kennedy-Lightsey

A recent study in the "Journal of Business Communication" examines mentoring relationships that are characterized by verbal aggression and a genuine lack of care or concern for the mentee. "Supervisors should be warned against the use of verbal aggression, which will do more damage to mentoring efforts than good,'' the article says.

During the current economic downturn, more employees report that their bosses use threats and intimidation, according to a national study of leadership funded by the University of Phoenix.

Supervisors should understand the importance of their communication for stimulating a mentee's job satisfaction and organizational commitment. "The act of mentoring without attention to the communication that occurs between a supervisor and subordinate is a futile endeavor,'' the article says. "In turn, subordinates who seek the career support and guidance of a mentoring supervisor may be deterred when supervisors are verbally aggressive."

The Mentoring Match: Finding the perfect pairing

By Liz Selzer

The mentoring relationship is a special relationship built on trust, encouragement and targeted development. Therefore, it's critical that employees are paired properly if the mentoring relationship is going to work well, according to this report. The author cites a number of different things to look for when matching a mentor and a mentee, including:

  • "Attraction: Both mentee and mentor have to see a benefit in the relationship."
  • "Clear and realistic expectations of what a mentoring relationship is and is not."
  • "Comfort with the opportunity to provide and receive regular input, through meetings set up ahead of time."
  • "An expectation of improved skills and increased knowledge."

Sexual Dynamics in Mentoring Relationships – A Critical Review

By Lynn M. Morgan and Marilyn J. Davidson

Workplace mentoring is all about building relationships. But what happens when they get emotional? A study in the "British Journal of Management" examines the negative impact that sexual dynamics can have on mentoring relationships.

The article explores issues ranging from exploitation, sexual harassment, job loss and unmotivated employees. The study suggests that career risks associated with sexual or romantic relationships in the workplace "are greater for women than they are for men and that women tend to be more negatively evaluated regarding their competence and motivations than men." The authors note that the ingredients and chemistry that help develop good mentoring relationships "are often perilously close to the circumstances in which romantic or sexualized relationships flourish."

"When it comes to choosing a mentor, there is agreement that people tend to choose a mentor with whom they can identify," the study says.

The authors urge companies to develop and communicate clear "policies on romantic involvement in the workplace" and raise awareness, particularly for mentors, about the problems that could arise: "In the final analysis, companies may be reluctant to become involved in establishing such policies or raising the subject because of the sensitivity of these issues but, in the light of the potential damage to business, this should be progressed in just the same way that they would carry out risk analysis on all other aspects of their business,'' the study said. "In highlighting these issues we suggest that organizations, mentees and mentors should be made aware of the potential risks before embarking on a mentoring relationship, and suggest this is an area that clearly needs more research."

Mentoring Success Recipe

Abbott talent vice president offers best practices including involvement from the top, formal tracking and an egalitarian approach.

Abbott talent vice president offers best practices including involvement from the top, formal tracking and an egalitarian approach.

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Women's Great Strides in Tax Profession Reflect Desire to Align With Clients' Progress

Kate Barton, Americas Vice Chair – Tax Services, Ernst & Young, discusses the benefits of mentoring and sponsorship in helping women leaders advance.

by Kate Barton, Americas Vice Chair – Tax Services, Ernst & Young

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How to Start a Mentoring Program

What do you do first? Where do you find mentors and mentees? How long should pairings last?

Photo by Shutterstock

By Barbara Frankel

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Sheryl Sandberg's Message on Mentoring Is Wrong—and Dangerous

Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" says senior women perceive mentoring requests as "total mood killers" and urges younger women to excel before they try to find mentors. Here's why she's totally wrong.

By Barbara Frankel 

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Will Your New Mentoring/Sponsorship Program Succeed?

Find out how BASF started a mentoring program and Deloitte has had a successful one for years, culminating in formal cross-cultural sponsorship.

Formal cross-cultural mentoring programs are increasing at DiversityInc Top 50 companies because, our data show, they increase diversity in management representation. Forty-six percent more managers in DiversityInc Top 50 companies participate in mentoring today than five years ago, and 100 percent now have formal mentoring programs (up from 72 percent in 2007). How can your company successfully launch a cross-cultural mentoring or sponsorship program?

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HR, Diversity & Mentoring: A Correlation to Talent Development?

How can HR/diversity-management collaboration maximize mentoring results, such as engagement, retention and rate of promotions?

DiversityInc research shows that formal, cross-cultural mentoring has a direct correlation to talent development, which is measured in engagement, retention and rate of promotions. Dana Foote, partner, member of the diversity advisory board and co-chair of the Abilities in Motion Network resource group for people with disabilities at KPMG, reveals at our diversity event how her firm maximizes mentoring through HR and diversity-management collaboration. Watch the video below.

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Cross-Cultural Mentoring: How IBM, E&Y & Kraft Increase Diversity in Management

These companies' cutting-edge best practices in talent development can help you create and manage a successful mentoring program.

What's the key to achieving better engagement and promotion among Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women? Provide them the career support they need early on with cross-cultural mentoring.

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