The difference between retaining your company’s good employees and losing them to the competition can be as simple as the difference between equipping them to do a good job and developing them into great leaders. When you equip people, you teach them how to do a job. Employee development is different. When you develop people, your managers help them improve as individuals. They help them acquire personal qualities that will benefit them holistically, in many areas of life, not just their jobs.

When your leaders help employees cultivate discipline or a positive attitude, that’s development. When they teach someone to manage time more effectively or improve people skills, that’s development. When they teach leadership, that’s development.

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t have a developmental mindset. They expect their employees to take care of their developmental needs on their own.

What they fail to realize, however, is that development always pays higher dividends than equipping because it helps the whole person and lifts him to a higher level.

The best way for your employees to realize their full potential is to learn from those who’ve been there before. Studies show that the most practical way to offer your employees that type of training is through mentoring.

  • 71% of Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric, Intel, and Google, offer mentorship programs.
  • 75% of executives credit their mentors with helping them achieve the position they are in today.
  • 77% of companies that have a mentorship program indicate that it improved both employee retention and job performance.

Mentoring programs don’t help only those being mentored. Mentorships can and do give the employee being mentored a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, but they can also give the mentor a greater sense of purpose and connection with the direction of the company.

Anne Sweeney, former co-chair of Disney Media, President of the Disney–ABC Television Group, and the President of Disney Channel from 1996 to 2014 emphasizes the dual benefit of the mentoring relationship:

I think the greatest thing we give each other is encouragement…knowing that I’m talking to someone in this mentoring relationship who’s interested in the big idea here is very, very important to me. I think if it were just about helping me get to the next step, it would be a heck of a lot less interesting.

Mentoring supports employee development in your organization. It brings out the best in them and enables them to make unique contributions to the company’s success. It produces a more cohesive working environment that keeps good employees engaged with one another, encouraging a we perspective, rather than us vs them.

That is the difference between equipping people to do a job and embracing the job of employee development.

A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him or her. By intentionally surrounding good employees with mentors, you set everyone up for success and position leaders and employees to go to a higher level.

Ask your leaders and manager to think about it. What kind of leaders most affected their own growth and success? Probably the ones who invested in them and saw them as a “10.”

As they think back over their careers, they can ask these questions to better understand the value of mentoring:

  • Who got their best effort?
  • Who did they enjoy working with?
  • Who was the easiest for them to approach?
  • Who wanted the best for them?
  • Who did they learn the most from?

In every instance, it was likely the leader who saw them as a 10, not the leader who saw them as a 2. Bottom line: mentoring leaders get more out of their people because they think more of their people.

Consequently, their people want to follow them. The positive, uplifting attitude they bring to leadership creates a positive work environment where everyone on the team has a place and purpose—and where everyone shares in the win.

When your good employees realize they’re in an organization that wants to develop their full potential, they’ll think twice before leaving—if they think about it at all.

Mentoring can do more than help your company keep good employees, it can help make your good employees better people.