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How to Hold Onto Valuable Employees

Effective mentoring is a valuable but often overlooked method.

Key points

  • Mentoring is an effective retention tool to keep top employees.
  • Behavioral questions can uncover a new hire's mentoring approach and values.
  • Asking a candidate about specific mentoring scenarios can help an employer make a good hire.
Nagesh Badu/Unsplash
Source: Nagesh Badu/Unsplash

Mentoring has become a hot topic lately, and it is no surprise. Research shows that mentoring dramatically impacts employees’ professional ascension while simultaneously taming their potential for burnout. It also undoubtedly benefits the mentor, who learns just as much from the mentee.

What people are not openly discussing is how much mentoring helps the organization.

Mentored employees have a great career trajectory and are more loyal to the institution. They are less likely to seek out other jobs, and when offered new opportunities elsewhere, their current mentorship plays a crucial factor in their decision-making. As such, mentorship is an undervalued retention method.

Employers are beginning to understand the value of mentorship when interviewing people but are haphazard in their approach to screening people for their mentorship beliefs and practices. “Do you mentor people regularly?” might be the generic question asked when a behavioral approach would be more revealing. In lieu of a yes/no response, getting to the core of their mentoring values would be significantly more revealing.

The next time you interview someone for a role, ask them behavioral questions if you want to know where they stand on mentorship and if they are an inspiring mentor. Consider these prompts:

What is the most challenging issue you faced with your mentee this year?

What is the most outstanding achievement of your mentee?

What was your role in this accomplishment?

Rather than generic yes/no questions, you are forcing the applicant to dig deep and recall specific scenarios where they worked with their mentee. This approach can lead to a whole line of questions and stimulating conversation to uncover how they handle problems, such as:

How do they handle technical or ethical dilemmas?

Do they give credit where credit is due or hog it all to themselves?

How did they handle differences in perspectives and ideas with their mentee? Were they open to new ideas, or did they bulldoze their opinions through to the finish line?

What do they do when they are overwhelmed and busy?

You can explore whether the mentor is trying to recreate a younger version of themselves (a big no-no in mentoring) or putting wings on their mentee so they can soar in their chosen career.

Being a mentor is not a label one gives themselves. It is an honor earned through dedication and encouragement. You are not a mentor until your mentee calls you one. True mentors understand that when their mentees succeed, they succeed (just ask Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, who shared the Nobel Prize with his mentee, Dr. Brian Kobilka).

In a volatile job market, where holding on to the best employees is paramount, utilizing behavioral questions to find the best mentors is a strategy worth trying.