An argument for mentorship

Apr 21, 2024

Sara Karstetter

The employee-focused recruiting, retention, and compensation strategy.

Stellar management usually consists of those who are great at making sure there are people and resources in the places where they are needed so work can be completed efficiently. Much like a conductor overseeing a world-class orchestra, they plan, direct, and oversee a cacophony of people and needs.

But then there is mentorship.

Compared to mentorship, even the best management can still cause people to feel like they are merely assets being placed where they are needed in order to produce an end-result (profit). You know the phrase: “Cogs in a wheel.” This environment can be emotionally draining and can easily lead to burnout.

Mentorship, however, is not just developing a relationship with these cogs, it is a commitment to recognizing that they are people with career goals of their own. It is also the knowledge that nurturing their professional selves will be beneficial to both the employee and the company. A “rising tide lifts all boats” scenario. Mentorship starts with defining what “success” looks like for an employee. Then an intentional and sustained relationship is developed to encompass goal setting, training, motivation, advice, direction, coaching, and support. This is a wholistic approach to a person as a company’s resource.

So why do more companies not choose the path of mentorship? Let’s unpack this a little:

  • Not everyone is great at mentoring. Many of us have not had the benefit of a great mentor, so not everyone has the knowledge of how this relationship functions. You can find a few words of advice from The Zweig Letter on what to look for in mentorship here, on how to be a mentor here, on how mentoring factors into being a good steward of your company here, and (for those of us who are remote) how to be intentional with your mentorship program as part of the greater hybrid/remote strategy here.
  • Modern employees may jump ship to a neighboring company more often than leadership would like. Leaders, now more than ever, need every tool in their belt to both gain and retain staff. Mentorship is one of the greater intangible benefits you can provide. Employees care about the full potential of a position at a company. When looking at competing offers, money isn’t always the bottom line. Opportunity and the environment they are joining may be the deciding factors (this was true for me!).
    Additionally, a mentorship environment may be the defining factor in choosing not to jump ship. Mentorship gives employees the opportunity to grow, to thrive, to be heard, and to become their best professional selves. It also allows them to grow their careers in the direction of their choosing. With the younger generations focusing so much on self-care, this is a version of professional self-care that they cannot provide for themselves, only the more experienced can.
    Mentorship is also a tangible investment in your staff. It lets them know they matter and are not just a cog in the wheel. Eighty-nine percent of those with mentors believe their colleagues value their work, which is a key component to overall happiness at work. Seventy-nine percent of millennials see mentoring as a crucial part of their career success, and seventy-seven percent, who feel they have control over their career, are more loyal. These are some huge numbers when looking to increase your odds of recruiting and retaining staff.
  • A scapegoat in delaying a mentorship program could easily be the budget. Many companies are focused on KPIs, and having a set utilization rate for each employee is typically one of them. We all know that dedicating time to training and mentoring cuts into a department’s utilization rate. If this metric is something leadership is tracking, you might have a tough time trying to convince them to relax it for the greater good of the company. After all, the bottom line is the bottom line.
    My argument to the converse? Be farsighted! In time, this mentorship and training will make your staff more knowledgeable, efficient, effective, and satisfied at their jobs, thereby increasing productivity, in perpetuity. Perpetuity is a pretty strong word, but much like a degree, once it is earned, it is yours. And, to your company’s benefit, you will have more knowledgeable, efficient, and effective staff. How does that benefit the company? Well, whether it is due to increased efficiency or increased competency, this more effective staff will be more valuable when it comes to billing.

So, what is the bottom line? What is the end-result of mentorship?

Your company will be able to be more proficient with a higher level of competency at a price you will be able to set accordingly. You will either be able to charge more for a better deliverable or decrease your timeframe for the same deliverable. You will decrease your turnover rate because you will have happy, fulfilled staff who are progressing their careers in a direction in which they have a say. And you will set your company up for future success in your own growth plans by developing your own (happy) future leaders. 

Sara Karstetter, MBA is a mergers and acquisitions advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.