Mentoring could be a valuable tool in the ongoing effort to plug the 'talent drain', according to a new report from HR services group Penna.
The company commissioned a survey which found that one in five (20 per cent) employees are not currently mentoring or being mentored, but would like the opportunity.
Forty per cent of the 2,000 people participating in the poll said they had never been given the chance to be a mentor or a mentee.
A reservation held by many employers is that staff will simply use mentoring schemes to help them find a new role with a different company, but the research suggested that this is relatively rare.
Only one in ten (ten per cent) respondents who had participated in mentoring programmes did so in the hope of finding a different job, while 59 per cent wanted to acquire new skills.
Two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees said relevant expertise is the most important characteristic in a mentor, while strong rapport with others (62 per cent) and being challenging (59 per cent) were also identified as desirable traits.
Penny de Valk, managing director of Penna's Talent Practice, said: "Talent management slipped down the agenda during the recession, but individuals are clearly hungry for opportunities to learn and develop and businesses can provide this through mentoring schemes."
She added: "Without it, businesses are at risk of losing talent who will seek learning opportunities elsewhere - even though mentoring can provide a simple solution to aid retention and engagement."
Ms de Valk also said it was "no coincidence" that 70 per cent of Fortune 500 businesses run mentoring schemes, while three-quarters (75 per cent) of executives believe this provision played a key part in their personal career success.
In the latest Employee Outlook survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 19 per cent of all workers and 38 per cent of public sector staff said their employer had responded to economic adversity by cutting back on training.