8 steps to building a mentoring program

A mentoring program is one of the most effective things in your business toolbox. It’s hugely beneficial, not just for mentees but also mentors and the business as a whole.

 What is mentoring?

A mentor is a workplace counsellor or guide. Mentees often feel more comfortable asking questions of their mentor than their manager.

Advice from a mentor can include the most basic of information about everyday routines, including the “dos and don’ts” a newbie won’t find in the employee manual. Mentors can help the employee learn job responsibilities and prepare them for future roles in the organisation.

Is a mentoring program really worth the effort?

We certainly think so. For a start, a mentoring program can help build workplace morale and boost staff retention rates.

A mentor who is available to answer questions and provide leadership development can also save valuable save management time.

These statistics, from the authors of the book War on Talent, are pretty convincing too:

“Of those who have had a highly helpful mentoring experience, 95 percent indicated it motivated them to do their very best, 88 percent said it made them less likely to leave their company, and 97 percent said it contributed to their success at the company.”

Developing a successful mentoring program: the 8-step approach

To get the right results, you need to put some thought into your program. And we’ve done the thinking for you. Here are the 8 steps you need to follow to create a smart and effective program.

1.    Opt for a voluntary program

Forcing someone who does not want to be involved in mentoring to take part in a program won’t benefit anyone. Instead encourage participation in a voluntary program.

2.    Select the right mentor and ensure proper pairing 

Once your mentors and mentees have put their hands up, take a good look at those who’ve nominated themselves as a mentor. Not everyone makes a good mentor. Good mentors are people who are respected, successful and fit the culture of the organisation. They are generous – willing to contribute their time and knowledge.

Once a structured nomination process is conducted, take time to pair each mentor and mentee. Consider any obstacles to a good relationship between the two and give both parties the opportunity to review who they have been paired with and voice any questions or concerns they might have.

3.    Set boundaries

Understanding parameters can influence the success of your mentoring program and the relationships developed. Make sure the limits of the program and the mentor-mentee relationship are clearly set out in writing.

4.    Think about goals 

What are the objectives of the program? How do these align with your strategic plan? Think about these questions as you design the program.

It’s also important to ask each mentee to outline their reasons for participating in the program. This will help guide discussions about what they can expect from the program.

5.    Prepare supporting materials 

Even though mentoring participants may be keen and have a general understanding of the nature of mentoring, it doesn’t mean they know what to do. You’ve designed a mentoring program and you need to make sure participants have the support and materials to make the program work.

Checklists and meeting agendas can be used to help the relationship (and the program) develop. That initial conversation between two parties can be a lot less awkward with tools to guide the structure and outcomes for the conversation.

6.    Set communication preferences 

Will discussions be face-to-face, over the telephone or even via email?

Will there be regular scheduled meetings?

Both mentor and mentee need to make their preferences known at the beginning of the relationship (and reach an acceptable compromise if they are different).

7.    Talk time commitments

There’s an important balance to be achieved when it comes to time. The mentor must expect to give the employee adequate time, but the newcomer should not expect excessive amounts of time.

Setting a schedule at the outset (for example, meetings once a week in the first month, then once a month after that) avoids irritating misunderstandings later.

8.    Promote professionalism

The relationship between the mentor and his or her protégé is a professional one, not a personal one. This is particularly important for the mentee to understand.

Confidentiality is also a must. Both parties need to feel confident that discussions remain between them and not immediately relayed to a supervisor or manager (or the whole office!)

The rewards from implenting an inhouse mentoring program can be great not only for the mentees and mentors, but for the business also so it's worth getting these steps right.

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