Retaining talent is a tricky thing to do in general, but it can prove particularly difficult when the job market is hot and opportunities abound. Such is the challenge many employers today face, which is why having insight into employees' thought patterns is crucial.

To this end, technology firm Instructure commissioned the Harris Poll to conduct a survey inquiring about workers' individual career journeys, and the results were somewhat surprising: A whopping 77% believe they're on their own to dictate their career development, as opposed to relying on employer support and resources to advance professionally.

Furthermore, only 51% of employees say their companies offer a meaningful mentoring program. And that's a problem, because the right mentoring setup can fuel career development and offer folks on both sides of the mentoring equation the opportunity to progress and learn.

Older woman standing over younger woman at desk

Image source: Getty Images.

If your business has been falling down on the mentoring front, it's a good idea to step up your game. Otherwise, you'll risk losing those employees who don't feel supported professionally.

Tightening up your mentoring program

Instructure reports that 15% of employers want to invest more in mentoring programs, and if yours has been lacking, it's smart to do the same. But before you sink additional resources into that program, think about how you'll approach it strategically.

Your first step in this regard should be to make sure your managers and seasoned employees are on board with being mentors, and if not, find ways to incentivize them to participate enthusiastically. These are the people who will ultimately drive this type of program, so you need to get them invested.

Next, set clear objectives for your mentoring program. This will help guide your mentors' approach to offering guidance. Along these lines, you'll need to figure out who will participate in your mentoring program. Will it be available to all employees, and if so, will it be the same for workers at various levels? Or will you group employees into tiers or categories and set up different activities and goals based on where people are in their careers? These are decisions you'll need to make so you'll know how to best allocate your resources.

Finally, think about how you'll promote your mentoring program to get participants excited about signing up. Also, figure out how your mentoring program will tie into your career development program on a whole.

A lighter approach to mentoring

If you don't have the resources available to kick off a full-fledged mentoring program, or participation in such programs historically hasn't been great at your company, there's another option to consider: Let relationships among seasoned and newer employees develop organically, and then support those relationships to further the careers of your employees who are eager to advance. An act as simple as providing meeting space for mentors and mentees to sit down in private could go a long way toward helping workers feel like you have their backs career-wise.

As an employer, it's on you to help your employees grow their skills and propel their careers forward. A mentoring program is only one means of showing your workers you're invested in their growth, but it's an effective one at that. And if you make the effort, you may be rewarded by an uptick in loyalty and the cost savings that come with lower levels of turnover.