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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

A recently-released Deloitte study: Leading in the New World Of Work, found that employee engagement is the No. 1 issue for businesses around the world today. As a serial entrepreneur, I've been in dozens of meetings with business leaders who have spoken about the time, money and resources their companies have put towards developing formal mentorship programs, only to have them fail.

There's no disputing the fact that implementing "mentorship" initiatives can be a solution to creating a more engaged workplace, stronger leaders and improving employee retention. Digging down to the root of mentorship, we need to move away from conversations around "why mentorship is important" and get to the real issue, which is "how we implement the right form of mentorship." It's on each and every one of us to redefine mentorship in the 21st century so we can bridge the gap that exists between the generations in our workplaces.

First and foremost, mentorship is not a program, it's an outcome.

Forced and matched mentorship programs aren't yielding the positive results they once did. If we think about mentorship the way we think about online dating, people are now finding first dates online who evolve into husbands and wives. It's the opportunity to meet a number of different people and discover new things that makes online dating so appealing. It's about time that we adopt the same principle with mentorship. Like a romantic relationship, mentorship should not be a forced union, but developed over time.

Second, a successful mentorship outcome hinges on mutual benefit.

We have entered into a new workplace. By 2025, 75 per cent of the global work force will be made up of a generation who grew up with technology at their fingertips, technology that has enabled them to change the way people meet and how relationships are formed. Sites like Match.com and apps like Tinder have revolutionalized the dating world, giving anyone access to meet people outside their direct network, without the expectation of a committed relationship.

The same formula can be applied to mentorship, both parties must find mutual benefit in the conversation. The best part of my day is when industry leaders tell me about what they've learned through their conversations with the next generation.

Last (but not least), the simpler the better.

Everyone needs to take a deep breath and realize that we're all in this together. The best form of mentorship happens simply, without grandiose expectations – just an open mind, the willingness to have a conversation and the hope that it might turn into something special. Just like online dating.

Dave Wilkin is the founder of Ten Thousand Coffees (@10kcoffees), which connects young leaders with established leaders.