Ameris: Mentoring key to retention, engagement, development 

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business News)

Jennifer Garizio, learning and development director at Ameris Bank

At Ameris Bancorp (Nasdaq: ABCB), the most promising talent are nominated for a nine-month mentorship program with top executives. The program, MentorAmeris, is the top-level mentorship program of a bank that mentors employees from day one.

“We want to attract and retain the best talent we can, and we want to develop a culture of learning,” said Jennifer Garizio, the bank’s learning and development director, who oversees MentorAmeris.

MentorAmeris is one of many mentorship programs at Ameris. From onboarding to succession planning, the bank uses mentoring programs to build its culture and keep and develop its talent, Garizio said.

“We were fortunate from the very beginning that we had executive-level buy in and participation,” said Garizio, who launched MentorAmeris. “They saw the value in developing employees.”

That level of executive support, epitomized by Ameris Bank CEO Dennis Zember’s participation as a mentor last year, is key to any company looking to start a mentorship program, Garizio said, noting that mentorship yields dividends in any industry. It increases employee retention, develops executive ability, enhances succession planning, develops communication across business lines and increases employee engagement, she said.

MentorAmeris began last year with seven mentees and is in its second iteration with 10. Garizio expects the program to grow each year. Mandi Gilbert, brand and advertising strategist, is among the program’s second cohort.

“It makes you feel invested in,” Gilbert said of the program. “It shows they care about your development.”

Another key to developing a mentorship program, Garizio said, is defining a clear purpose. Garizio helped develop MentorAmeris’s purpose – reduce job turnover, increase job satisfaction and the like – but the program also allows participants to set their own goals.

Participants identify what they hope to get out of the program before they are matched with mentors. Garizio picks mentors who are “passionate about developing others,” want to leave a legacy and have time to invest in others, she said. Mentors are never mentees’ managers and are often from different business lines and other states.

“Banking is about people, and to me, there is nothing more important than developing people,” Garizio said. “

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