While starting a corporate mentorship program may seem like a daunting task, the rewards the mentors, mentees and company reap are well worth the time and effort. According to some studies, corporate mentorship is on the rise, with 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies offering mentorship programs.

Whether the goal is to develop high-potential employees, speed up the new hire onboarding process, increase employee retention or knowledge transfer, the types of mentorship programs are seemingly endless – and so are the benefits.

A study done on Sun Microsystems’ program found their retention rates boosted by 23 percent because of their mentorship program. Mentorship programs are a win-win. The employer receives greater productivity, lower turnover, less mistakes, higher employee satisfaction and more. Employees gain the opportunity to learn from others, positive feedback and mentors expand their management skills.

Four years ago, DHL Express in the U.S. started its Advanced Mentoring Program, where select employees are supported by experienced managers and given individual coaching. Based on a mentor-mentee relationship, the program enhances leadership development and knowledge transfer across all our businesses.

Once we determined the goal of the program, we had to decide who would participate.  On the mentored side, we target high-potential employees who are interested in an international career and have a sense of where they would like to take their careers. On the mentor side, identifying individuals who have a desire to develop others, see them grow and are willing to understand the time investment – regardless of how formal or informal the program – is key. Participation (on both sides) is voluntary, not mandatory, which helps foster a positive environment.

The mentoring relationship is designed to help mentees:

  • Understand organizational politics, culture and processes on a bigger scale
  • Gain knowledge and technical expertise in areas related to their career development
  • Develop alternative views/solutions
  • Understand and work through personal and professional changes that impact their effectiveness
  • Develop a career path by helping them think through what they are trying to achieve and discover different ways to approach it

The program has been very successful.  In fact, when we evaluated our pilot program, we found that 60% of its participants moved into higher positions. After the second round of the program, we saw a marked improvement in the overall Active Leadership scores of the participants. And due it its success, the program was expanded in 2014 to include mentees becoming mentors. We are now in our third mentor / mentee cycle in the U.S. and we continue to refine the program for optimum benefit of the mentee and mentor.

In my 16 years with DHL, my professional career has developed, in part, because of the informal and formal mentors I’ve been fortunate to have. I fully believe mentorship is a key ingredient to growth at any organization. My advice is to seek out a mentor that will help you, and your company, grow.

Are you considering a mentorship program, or have one in place? Share your thoughts at @DHLUS on Twitter.