Mentoring programs are a great way to build a knowledgeable, productive, workforce. They’ve been shown to boost employee satisfaction and engagement, and to reduce turnover. Whether it’s to ease the transition for new hires or to develop skills in longtime employees, mentoring makes sense for companies of all types.
Employee mentoring programs offer unique benefits to both groups of participants. Mentors can step into the role of expert when they share their knowledge and expertise. Being a mentor also offers an ideal chance to develop leadership skills. Additionally, mentors enjoy a rare opportunity to “see” their organization from the perspective of more junior employees.
Mentoring’s benefits to protégés are perhaps more obvious. These individuals gain expert advice on how to navigate the company and perform better in their jobs. Protégés who are new to the organization or position also have a shorter learning curve than others, which leads to a more successful transition period. Finally, being a protégé means getting individual career guidance from a pro. All these advantages make for employees who are more engaged and satisfied in their jobs.
Another plus is that mentoring programs can be relatively simple to put in place. The process can be broken down into the following seven steps:
1. Get management support. The many benefits of mentoring for companies and employees should convince senior executives that it’s a worthwhile effort.
2. Roster a team of employees to oversee the program. This group will outline goals and specifics. Mentoring programs can serve a variety of purposes, such as employee training, professional development, or culture change. One or two members of the team should be put in charge of making sure the program gets off the ground.
3. Recruit and match participants. Mentors should be at the management level and have specific expertise to share, while protégés should be employees who will most benefit from having a mentor. Do your best to partner people who will work well together. Your HR department may be able to help you find mentors and protégés who are likely to “click.” For both groups, participation should be strictly voluntary.
4. Conduct an orientation. Explain the purpose and details of the program to participants, including information how long the program will run. The orientation should outline expectations for mentors and protégés, and tell them how you will be monitoring progress. Some organizations even create formal written mentoring agreements.
5. Provide opportunities to connect. The fifth step is to schedule regular opportunities for mentors and protégés to interact. You may offer activities such as group discussions; professional development seminars; team-building exercises; or guest speakers. Mentor/protégé teams should meet at least once a month for an hour.
6. Monitor progress on a regular basis. Ask both sets of participants if they are meeting their goals, and make changes if necessary.
7. Evaluate. Your final task is to measure achievements as the program ends. Ask each pair to evaluate their progress and comment on the experience. Gather the oversight team to review the feedback and adjust the program accordingly. With proper attention, your program can benefit the whole organization, well into the future.