Every business knows that talent is its most important asset. For this reason, companies have worked out different ways to retain talent. One of which is mentoring employees.
A workplace mentoring program is a system of using mentors to guide new hires on their professional journey.
The benefits of having a mentoring program are immense. Studies reveal that 94% of workers would choose to continue with an organization if they are provided a mentor.
Apart from reducing employee turnover, having a workplace mentoring program also helps to improve employee communication skills, lower the cost of formal training, and improve employee productivity and workplace diversity.
Mentors can also benefit as they develop leadership and management skills. It’s no surprise that close to three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies now run mentorship programs.
So, how do you design an effective workplace mentoring program and tap these benefits? Let’s take a look.
- Start with a goal or objective
This is the first thing to do when creating a workplace mentoring program. You need to ask yourself what you want to earn at the close of the mentorship program.
For example, Verizon’s goal for launching a mentorship program for women with small businesses was to help them navigate the economic challenges brought about by Covid-19.
For Boeing and Tallo, it was to help college students make better career decisions. Some reasons companies run mentorship programs include
- Improve employee performance
- Get more people, especially of color, to leadership and management positions
- Improve the work environment to attract more recruits
Whatever your goals are, they must benefit your business the most. As a result, your goals must be measurable, attainable, clear, and achievable. Understanding what needs to be done will help you source the right people to help you achieve those goals.
“But how do you define the right mentorship goals?” you may ask.
- Consult or seek advice from your leadership or management team
- Survey mentors and mentees
- Revisit your past programs
Note that having the right goal or purpose will help you come up with the right measurement and monitoring criteria.
- Set a duration
How long a mentorship program should run is dependent on your goals, your people, the resources you avail, and the activities for participants. Different companies will set different timelines.
Setting a duration helps participants know what to expect and even motivates them to make the most of the opportunity. It also helps to allocate the right amount of resources to the program.
- Provide multiple mentors
Mentors have a lot of influence on mentees. But if you want mentees to harvest more from a mentoring program, avail multiple mentors for the following reasons.
- At least one mentor would be available to engage at a critical time.
- Multiple mentors guarantee trainees receive different perspectives or viewpoints regarding a project. As a result, it reduces implicit bias.
- Brings more networking opportunities.
- More accountability.
- Define the mentorship structure
A well-organized mentoring program must have the right structure and support if you want to maximize its value.
Before you even begin the program, decide how the program will work. For example, will you have a 1-on-1 mentorship system, peer mentorship system, group mentoring, or a reverse mentoring program?
Identify who the mentees and mentors are, each person’s responsibility, how it will be done (online or offline), how employees can access the program, the desired outcome, and how to track and measure the program’s success.
Having a proper structure helps in several ways. First, mentors won’t use their own methods to conduct lessons, but rely on what you have given. It makes tracking the program’s success a breeze. Having guidelines makes it easy to evaluate the effectiveness of the mentoring program and whether it meets business objectives.
Note that when creating your mentorship structure, be flexible and encourage mentors and mentees to share knowledge and information, such that no one feels left out.
- Reward mentors and mentees
The actual process of mentoring someone is time-consuming. As a result, it is prudent that companies provide incentives to encourage mentors and mentees to commit to the program.
You can reward mentors and mentees by offering them certificates of completion or recognition, providing reimbursement of the cost of private courses they undertake, or job promotion.
Honouring mentors and mentees help make mentorship programs more gratifying and fulfilling for your talent.
- Ensure proper pairing
Poor matching has been identified as one of the common pitfalls in mentoring programs.
When pairing participants, examine each individual’s professional profile, application notes, resumes, skills, strengths and weaknesses, and employee goals. Besides, encourage both mentors and mentees to take part in the selection process.
3M, for example, ensures proper pairing of participants by offering mentorship opportunities appropriate for every individual.
The company offers both informal mentoring (where individuals select each other to create a one-on-one relationship) and formal mentoring (where HR helps individuals assess a mentoring program that would best fit them).
- Hold pairs accountable
Statistics show that mentors and mentees meet less than once a month. Besides, a mere 19% of mentees say it is very easy to get time with a mentor. The reality is: most mentoring programs are given a backseat compared to other programs.
Accountability is the only way to secure a mentoring program’s success. How do you ensure accountability?
- Find how frequently mentors and mentees hold meetings.
- Follow up properly. Don’t leave all matters regarding your mentoring program to administrators or mentors.
- Set a date on your calendar to assess mentees and gauge whether they are making any progress.
- Set up challenges or assessments often.
- Do job shadowing.
- Ensure that mentors and mentees pledge to one another to lead by example.
- Provide continuous support and training
Jenn Labin, Chief Talent & Diversity Officer at MentorcliQ, cautions that “Great employees and leaders do not always equal great mentors. Even the most successful employees need guidance and training to become successful mentors.”
Mentors need training and support constantly. The main purpose is to help them understand your objectives and expectations of the project besides, strengthen their effectiveness and confidence.
While providing training, discuss the benefit the mentors and mentees will enjoy, program duration, the format the mentorship will take, the skills needed, and the program’s structure. In addition, give mentors the tools that can help them accomplish their tasks with ease.
Your training should help mentors learn the tips for dealing with hard conversations, how to share networks or contacts, ways of setting realistic goals or boundaries, and how to create successful mentoring relationships.
If you are struggling to create a successful mentoring program or what you have is not working, now you have the tips to equip your mentors and mentees for success.
By having a well-thought-out goal, organizing and structuring your mentoring program appropriately, and monitoring the progress of mentors and mentees, you will be able to regularly provide a whale of benefits to your talent and grow your business.
Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.