More business leaders have become interested in mentorship in recent years. Organizations with strong mentoring programs can use them to attract the best talent and retain those individuals. Through excellent mentoring programs, employees can expand their skills sets while developing a stronger affinity for a company. Mentorship can have a strong influence in shaping an organizational culture, closing generation gaps, and making the workplace as engaging as possible. Business leaders should think of mentoring programs as a way of investing in a new generation of leaders. While not all employees will stay with a company for the long haul, individuals who choose to do so can be shaped according to organizational values and continue the growth trajectory.
Great mentorship programs require planning and analysis. Individuals must think carefully about how to implement such a program, which can range from pairing participants to teaching individuals about what mentorship entails. Following is a brief overview of how to initiate a mentorship program.
Create structure for the program.
Before initiating a mentorship program, individuals need to think about what the objectives of such a project should be. People who want to improve retention rates may structure a program differently from those who are looking to develop new leaders or share technical skills among employees. Some individuals may use mentorship to welcome employees and introduce them to the office environment.
Regardless of what the objectives of a mentoring initiative are, the program must align with the culture of a company. In fact, many people have used mentorship to develop and/or reinforce the company culture. Formal companies may decide to create a formal application process for mentors and mentees and then set strict expectations regarding the duration and time requirements. Informal organizations should still put guidelines in place, but they can come across more as suggestions rather than as strict requirements. Even in the most informal environments, some degree of structure is necessary to help gauge efficacy.
Choose the best pairing method.
Organizations can use a wide variety of methods to pair mentors and mentees. Some companies prefer group mentoring, which allows one executive to interact with many employees, while other firms pair individuals with their peers to share skills and learn new perspectives. The choice largely depends on the goals of the program. Leadership training programs should aim to pair executives with employees, while enrichment-focused initiatives may benefit from the peer approach.
When it comes to matching, companies should avoid random pairing and instead allow participants to have some degree of input. Participants could fill out a sheet about what they want to get out of the mentoring process or what they have to offers to make pairing easier. Questionnaires, brief interviews, and even committee recommendations have all been used by various organizations. Sometimes, it can work to simply give people freedom of choice between several candidates.
Pairing is important because not everyone will get along or see eye-to-eye in a business sense. When people’s personalities mesh, they will get the most out of the mentor-mentee relationship.
Train participants before the program starts.
The success of a mentorship program largely depends on the willingness of participants to make an effort. In order to ensure that all participants put in the necessary effort, they should understand why the mentorship program is beneficial. Many people fail to see the initial value of a mentoring program, so it can be helpful to provide some case studies or simply have a discussion about the merits of mentorship and what it can do for the future of a company. Ultimately, people should not just be participating in the program, but encouraging other employees to also take part.
In addition, training should serve to manage expectations. Both mentors and mentees should enter the relationship with an understanding of the time commitment and their duties to each other. When everyone is on the same page, no one feels let down by a lack of response or pestered by communication that is too frequent. Each pair should also be encouraged to have their own conversation about expectations. The conversation can include suggestions on the format for the mentoring experience. While the decision on the format can be up to each pair, the leader should make suggestions about getting the most out of the relationship. Often, it can prove difficult to identify a good starting point.
Evaluate the program.
In order to figure out whether the mentorship program is having the desired effect, individuals need to spend some time evaluating its impact. Unfortunately, such evaluations often rely more on anecdotal evidence than numbers, but people can certainly judge whether productivity has increased among certain employees or departments as a whole as a result of mentorship. For evaluation, many organizations rely on conversations with program participants to gauge their impressions of how their experience has changed. Individuals may want to create an anonymous forum for sharing feedback in order to encourage candid responses, while also having one-on-one conversations with participants about their experience.