This DATIS Blog Article, “How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program”, was originally written by Alison Napolitano, MBA at UNC, on April 15th, 2015 and was shared with permission.
An effective mentoring program can contribute to a workplace culture that promotes productive, engaged employees. Though it’s not always mentioned as a benefit, mentoring programs can help employees establish career goals and learn from their coworkers, as well as help new hires to acclimate more quickly. Plus, these programs are a good way to future-proof your organization, as these programs are particularly important to millennials, who will soon make up nearly half of all workers.
About 25 percent of companies now have some sort of formal mentoring program, a steep increase from the 5 percent a few years ago. Mentoring programs have proven benefits to both the employee, who can now enjoy a more fulfilling job, and the employer, who now benefits from happier, more productive employees. The key to creating an effective mentoring program is following a few guidelines and making sure that employees are receiving real benefits by putting in the time to work with a mentor.
Step 1: Lay the groundwork.
The first step is figuring out what type of mentoring program will work best for your company. Options include one-on-one, peer, or group mentoring, but technology also allows for e-mentoring, if the company has remote employees or a range of office locations. Another interesting idea is allowing younger employees to mentor older employees about new technology or trends in the industry. In return, the older employee might be able to offer experience-based wisdom. The key is knowing the company’s needs and establishing a format that works for everyone.
After selecting the format, there are a few other items that must be addressed. The next step is identifying a specific need or gap at the company and pinpointing goals to address that need. Specific and actionable objectives are important in this stage to avoid having a vague, directionless program.
This may be best accomplished by establishing a diverse mentoring committee that includes representatives from all ages, levels and departments. This group should also decide how long the program should run (with a maximum of 12 months) and what metrics will be the most effective in monitoring the success of the program.
Step 2: Prepare for launch.
This step relies heavily on communicating with employees. Make sure it is clear what the aim of the program is, who is eligible and how those employees can enroll.
Once that has been communicated, allow mentors/mentees to offer opinions on what they’re looking to contribute and receive from the program. In addition, have a plan for when a mentor and mentee don’t seem to be a good match.
Step 3: Launch the program and train participants.
Create a formal schedule of training seminars so mentors and mentees know how to derive the biggest benefits from the program. They should identify individual and organizational goals, establish a meeting schedule and learn important guidelines (i.e., how to give constructive criticism and communicate effectively).
Step 4: Build relationships and assess progress.
Though it’s impossible to predict how well an individual pair will communicate, it is important to check in and make sure they’re staying on track. Regular check-in meetings every other month will help create a forum to catch problems and redirect focus. Don’t forget to have a final meeting to assess the mentoring experience as a whole.
Step 5: Evaluate program effectiveness.
At the end of the program, take time to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Use surveys and interviews to understand if mentoring pairs were able to meet individual or organizational goals. By collecting quantitative and qualitative data, the committee can assess how successful their approach to the program has been and what needs to be changed.
The mentoring program may not be flawless the first time around, but the key is to continue to tweak the program and tailor your approach for your company’s unique culture and needs.
For more information on how to build a mentoring program, click here to download a full step by step guide.