Why Connection Matters for Mentorship and Workplace Wellbeing

  • Employee Wellbeing
Michelle Weil

Do you remember your first day at a professional job and the many feelings it brought on — nervous, excited, uncertain, and proud, to name a few? Was there someone who made an effort to show you around or demonstrate how things operated?

As champions of employee wellbeing in the workplace, the ethOs team views mentorship as a powerful resource for uplifting and positively influencing the professional landscape.

Making even small connections play a huge role in workplace happiness. Recently, Gallup’s World Happiness Report 2024 came across my desk, and I was shocked to discover that the U.S. has dropped from its place on the list of the top 10 happiest regions in the world to number 23. Not only is that disappointing, but the reason for the slip is that people under the age of 30 in the U.S. are feeling unhappier in life than those over 60. Researchers identified the driving force behind the drop in happiness scores for younger generations as a lack of feeling connected with others.

This report serves to intensify the importance of making workplace connections matter and amplifying every employee’s sense of belonging. Regardless of whether a person is an introvert, extrovert, or anywhere in between, we are all wired as humans for some level of connection. Through the promotion of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, leaders and human resource professionals can help their teams foster meaningful connections, encourage growth, and drive the collective success and sense of belonging companywide.

The Benefits of Mentorship

As part of our work creating exceptional experiences within organizations, our team facilitates focus group conversations with employees at every level. Mentorship comes up frequently as a way employees would like some guidance on how to “show up” professionally. From work-appropriate attire to interacting with coworkers, we’re hearing that employees are eager to learn from more experienced professionals about best practices.

A professional mentor, whether it’s someone within the same organization or not, is a person who can offer trusted and experienced advice. This support not only uplifts a mentee professionally but fulfills a need for social and emotional connections as well. Additionally, if you’re like me, the need for mentors doesn’t end when you turn 30 — I have gained invaluable insight from mentors through every phase of my life so far.

Let’s not forget that mentees are not the only recipients of the positive benefits of mentorship; mentors experience personal ROI as well. While being a mentor is an investment of time, it also offers ample opportunities for growth, connection, and success on the mentor’s end.

Additionally, mentors often learn a thing or two from their mentees — there is no shame in continual learning no matter how much experience you have. From new technologies to fresh ideas, the opportunities for learning through connections are prolific.

Sponsors Take Mentorship to the Next Level

Another way to support emerging professionals is through leveraging your own influence to champion untapped talent. “Mentors help by talking to you,” Our DE&I Practice Leader Nola Cartmill shared in her blog. “Sponsors help by talking about you.”

As a sponsor, you agree to share your convictions of their skills and talent outwardly to people who can impact the trajectory of their success. Consider a company leader who sits among other decision-makers discussing an employee’s promotion. As the employee’s sponsor, the leader would make a case for why they believe this person deserves the recognition. They are a champion for them, opening doors the employee may not have been able to access at their current level.

A sponsor can also be an influential figure outside of the workplace as someone who helps them make connections within the community. Examples of sponsorship include referring a young professional for an open position that matches their skills or inviting them to networking events and introducing them to various community leaders.

While the support of a mentor can be just as valuable, sponsors can help optimize an individual’s career potential by drawing attention to those who haven’t yet had the opportunity, but absolutely deserve to, take a step into the spotlight.

Getting Started With Mentorship

If your organization has the bandwidth to start a dedicated program for helping employees make connections and grow through mentorship and sponsorship, it’s important to begin by defining the goals of the program. Identify what supporters hope to achieve through mentorship or sponsorship opportunities, such as professional development, enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts, or supporting internal promotion.

Even without a company-sponsored program, mentorship and sponsorship opportunities are available in our communities. Independent mentorship programs, professional organizations, and industry events often offer networking opportunities that can connect mentors and mentees and professionals seeking sponsorship with experienced individuals willing to provide guidance and support.

Making Connections With Intention

Ultimately, the key to successful mentorship and sponsorship is intentionality and commitment. Regardless of whether you’re the one offering guidance or seeking wisdom and knowledge, making these meaningful connections enhance personal and professional growth — all of which contribute to the collective culture and success of an organization.

At ethOs, we believe that prioritizing each individual’s sense of connection and belonging creates environments where every employee is poised to thrive. Are you interested in how to create a mentorship or sponsorship program in your organization? Let’s talk!

May 20, 2024