According to the third edition of McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, 58% of employed respondents reported having the opportunity to work from home all or part of the week. And 35% of workers were offered remote work on a full-time basis. The emergence of remote and hybrid work is a new benefit that encourages a better work-life balance, but a lack of in-person connection has posed a challenge to learning and development (L&D) opportunities — particularly mentorship.

New research from the University of Phoenix Career Institute® reveals the dire state of mentorship among the American workforce. According to the Institute’s 2023 Career Optimism Index®, most Americans (56%) say they don’t have a mentor and 42% say they don’t have someone who advocates for them at work. What’s more, nearly one-third (34%) of Americans say this lack of mentorship, advocacy or support from a professional network is holding them back in their careers.

With 53% of Americans actively looking for a new job or expecting to in the next six months, leaders are facing a free-agent labor market. Workers feel confident to pursue new opportunities and are willing to leave their current jobs to do so. To mitigate this trend, employers can invest in a mentorship program. A mentorship program can not only be a competitive edge, but also positively impact the employee experience and connectivity in a dispersed work environment.

Mentors can help employees create valuable connections, establish support networks and access critical L&D resources to continuously improve performance. In this article, we’ll evaluate how a mentorship program can strengthen talent pipelines, foster organizational growth and increase employee retention in a remote work environment.

Benefits of a Mentorship Program

Although the index finds that 80% of Americans feel hopeful about the future of their careers, over one-third (37%) do not feel like they can advance specifically at their current job. This means employees won’t think twice before hopping to the next opportunity if your organization cannot help them grow. By implementing formal mentorship programs, employers can help employees harness their full potential and identify clear paths to internal mobility.

One-on-one support gives employees direct assistance in setting and tracking goals, career mapping and navigating their overall L&D journey. Mentorships provide space for dedicated, regular communication about career aspirations that empower employees to take an intentional approach to how they navigate their tenure and trajectory within an organization. Setting workers on a dynamic path can help them envision a future with the company — giving more of a reason to stay. In the LinkedIn Learning 2023 report, providing learning opportunities is cited as the No. 1 way organizations can work to retain their people long term.

Foster Organizational Growth

According to the study, 60% of American workers are seeking support in expanding their professional networks and connecting with others in their current field or other fields of interest. There is mutual benefit in employers stepping in to help fill this need.

Through mentorship programs, employers can create these desired avenues for building and strengthening relationships between employees in the same or different departments, leading to increased cross-organizational collaboration, better communication and a more positive work environment. Furthermore, with increased connection and collaboration comes greater knowledge-sharing and new opportunities for organic skills growth.

Mentorship programs can help leaders build stronger, more skilled and engaged workforces, thus fostering a workplace that encourages learning, growth and development.

Drive Employee Retention

Since the past three years, employees have been in a constant state of flux. They need guidance coupled with meaningful, ongoing professional support to help them in their careers. These workers are willing to take significant leaps to leave their current employer and find new opportunities where these needs are prioritized, posing retention challenges for employers. However, there is hope — according to the LinkedIn Learning report, at the two-year mark, an employee who has made an internal move has a greater chance (75%) of staying with their company.

Mentorship programs offer personalized, continuous support for driving career growth and development, positively impacting the employee experience, team connectivity and the opportunity internal mobility. When employees recognize this investment, they can experience a greater sense of purpose and be engaged with the business. As a result, mentorship in the workplace should be recognized as an incredibly powerful way employers can drive business outcomes, curb the free-agent labor market and increase employee retention in a continuously evolving workplace.