For many of us, the relationships we have with our mentors have been invaluable. They helped us land our first job; a first promotion; they’re a sounding board for innovation and advice. But how many of us have reversed the role? How many of us have moved from mentee to mentor lately? I always assumed mentoring was something done by those veteran in the industry. That changed when I was asked to take on a couple tasks from my alma mater, Syracuse University. One of those tasks was to guest tweet from a university run Twitter handle, @workingorange. My job was simple: tweet about what I do, offer advice to current students and answer any questions that came my way. While I wasn’t expecting much, it turned out to be extremely rewarding. Here’s a sample of the day’s work:

While I expected the day to end and the dialogue to cease, I was surprised to find that each of those I conversed with had followed me on my personal handle to continue talking. It’s then that I started analyzing the importance of mentoring from a company’s perspective. I began to ask myself, what’s the ROI of mentoring?

Internal Mentoring Programs

Large corporations continue to invest money into mentoring programs matching young professionals with industry veterans in hopes of developing the next generation of talent. However, these programs often feel forced and fall flat of achieving the goals. Today, companies are trying a couple of different tactics to improve mentoring. A couple of examples are:

Reverse Mentoring: The idea of flipping mentoring on its head. Using this approach, it’s the young professionals offering the advice to senior professionals. Consider Citibank who’s recently partnered with University of Miami’s School of Business Administration to launch a reverse mentoring program. Citibank hopes this six month program will, “tap into the digital wisdom of the younger generation,” providing Citibank executives with a prospective they might not have thought of. These types of programs are becoming extremely popular as companies attempt to stay savvy to evolving trends. It’s also a growing method of recruitment for companies. As one executive put it, “If we understand the next generation better, we can motivate and cultivate talent better.”

Peer Mentoring: The idea of like-minded professionals meeting together to offer advice and share experiences about their given niche. This tactic mirrors that of “lean-in circles” made famous by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. These groups, ideally 8-12 people who are in comparable places in life, meet regularly to share experiences, ideas and solicit advice. Peer mentoring fosters long-term relationships with colleagues that are meant to develop over time to be mutually beneficial relationships.

With these two examples in mind, consider the following statistics published by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association:

  • Lloyds TSB implemented a mentorship program that “increased the number of women in a management role from 15% in 1998 to 39% in 2007. Over the same period, women in senior management positions rose from 9% to 21%.”
  • “A case study by The Gartner Group showed that the benefits accrued to Sun Microsystems employees beyond mentees had a business impact on mentors in salary grade, retention and promotion rates. In fact, both mentors and mentees were at least five times more likely to be promoted than those not involved in the program.”

 External Mentoring Programs

Mentoring extends beyond the walls of the workplace with programs like Big Brother, Big Sister and other mentorship opportunities. These mentoring opportunities provide us with the chance to make a difference much bigger than job promotions, salary increases and talent acquisition. Consider the following from Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota:

  • Quality youth mentoring programs can expect a $2.72 return for every dollar spent on effective mentoring programs in the state.
  • Reduced truancy than those not in a mentorship program – resulting in reduced school costs and, ultimately, reduced high school dropouts.
  • Improved school attendance and performance than those not in a mentorship program – leading to increased graduation rates, increased post-secondary education, and higher lifetime earnings.

External mentoring programs provide us with the opportunity to realize an ROI greater than we can imagine. It’s certainly an ROI you won’t be able to place a dollar value on. And who knows, maybe that external mentee comes full circle and lands a job with W2O. Couldn’t get any better than that.

Whether it’s internal or external mentorship, it’s clear that the ROI is worth the time. It’s time for us to begin to give back and make a difference. So, where will you start?