How Mentorship Programmes Can Bridge Talent, Engagement, and Inclusivity Gaps at Work

By Brian Tan, Founder of FutureLab,

Be it corporations or small-scale businesses, the modern workforce has of late been faced with a conundrum: their top performers are usually the first ones to leave. Relatively outstanding employees are often quicker to feel that they have touched the ceiling of personal growth and have no further room to play — leading them to seek that sense of fulfilment elsewhere.

This is a stark reminder that while company initiatives and structures may seem suitable at present, they must remain agile enough to keep pace with their employees’ constant self-improvement and hunger for growth.

The most agile and dynamic element in an organisation is, in fact, its people. Human touch is a powerful tool that can keep entire workforces engaged: a staggering 94% of employees surveyed on LinkedIn agree that they are more likely to stay with an employer if they received dedicated workforce training and face-to-face guidance.

This is where mentorship programmes come into play. Beyond meeting a growing emphasis on individual attention to personal and professional development at work, mentors can help address gaps in recruitment, engagement, and cohesion on a more personalised level.

Mentorship initiatives are already being implemented by almost 85% of Fortune 500 companies, and many Malaysian-based companies are following suit by engaging FutureLab to run mentoring programmes as an employee engagement strategy. To date, FutureLab has hosted more than 20,000 mentoring sessions focused on employability and talent engagement, proving that mentorship is a necessity to thrive in a booming talent market.

Winning the battle to attract and retain talent

The modern worker is steering away from performance-centric environments and is instead looking for meaning, growth, and community. This is especially true for younger millennial and Gen Z employees, who greatly appreciate workplaces that practise a culture of care and two-way communication.

Having a mentorship system in place can help companies maintain these subtle but key conversations in the workplace. It demonstrates an organisation’s belief in supporting and empowering their employees on a more personal level, as well as a willingness to first invest in harnessing the same value that they expect to receive in return.

Individual attention and the space to learn can go a long way towards ensuring that companies retain and develop the right people — resulting in confident, empathetic, and impact-driven individuals.

On top of keeping quality talent, companies can also attract potential talent by extending their mentorships beyond the workplace, such as through internship drives or university mentoring programmes. With these initiatives, employers are filling two needs with one deed — building employer branding as a workplace of choice, and grooming industry-ready talent to be brought on board in the future.

Bridging generational and diversity gap

The world of work today is the most diverse it’s ever been. It is made up of employees spanning four different generations (from as far back as 1946!), across various ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds. Work habits, social values, communication styles, and even the choice of emojis in text messages can be vastly different among employees of different ages.

Cross-generational mentoring programmes — in which a more experienced (often older) industry professional and a younger, less experienced hire mentor each other — can help bridge this gap. For instance, while senior employees share their skills and experience with their younger counterparts, the younger ones can in return help them stay afloat of digital trends and bring a fresh eye to the table. This allows for an exchange of skills, ideas, and perspectives, which will enable companies to stay current and experience sustainable growth in the long run.

These mentoring programmes also help companies instil a sense of purpose and responsibility in their workers, fostering a culture of always striving to set an example for others and feeling valued as a contributing employee. Furthermore, it can also reconcile differences in expectations and build rapport between team members across different levels of seniority.

In addition, the diversification of mentors in a company improves workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Mentoring serves to counteract bias and ensure that all employees have equal access to upskilling and advancement opportunities, regardless of age and background.

Beyond the more conventional work-related progression, it also plays a vital and often overlooked role of support: connecting underrepresented or underprivileged employees to an inclusive, understanding work community that provides them a safe space.

Ultimately, companies are only as good as the people that keep it running. Mentorship is an effective way to keep this going: championing a more resilient, connected workforce that leads to increased productivity and performance.

All in all, mentorship programmes should be a key part of any talent and culture strategy; it encourages employees to celebrate each other’s wins, big or small, while feeling a distinct level of satisfaction that they have successfully guided someone in their quest to achieve personally and professionally — all while building healthy, long-term growth for their workplaces.

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