HR Strategy

4 Significant Steps to Make the Most of Your Mentorship Program

By

Lauren Owens

| Feb 18, 2015

You’ve made up your mind to start a mentorship program at work, the research is clear and the boss approves … now what?

Step One: Lay the foundation.

The first – and likely most important – step is to define the objective of the program. If you are trying to develop a specific skill, your program will be structured differently than if you were building leaders. It is also important to develop a program that aligns with your business culture. Perhaps you operate in a formal environment, in which case having a formal application and set of guidelines may be a best practice.

Example:

Objective – Build brand ambassadors throughout organization

Plan

Create application

  • name
  • department
  • years with company
  • What are your personal interests?
  • What do you expect to get out of this program?

Set requirements for mentors

  • must be with company one year,
  • must have knowledge of branding standards and
  • must pass core values training.

Step Two: Make the match.

There are different ways to match mentors with mentees. Some companies prefer the group-session approach, while others choose a reverse-mentoring approach in which lower-level employees teach the higher-level employees.

However, the most common are one-on-one pairs. There is no research that indicates how to determine the best match, but research does show that the most successful relationships are those in which the participants have input. This being said, you might have participants fill out an information sheet this way you can find a common ground or perhaps give the mentor or mentee options and have them choose one.

But the most important piece of advice to remember is to create a way out. Not every pair will be harmonious, so it is important that they don’t feel trapped and easily can back out of the relationship without hurting any feelings. One way to do this is to set up evaluation sessions shortly after the relationship has begun. This way, if there is a serious problem, the matter can be addressed quickly and you have time to find the mentee a new mentor or vice versa.

Step Three: Train your mentors.

Your pairs are set and now it’s off to work! But if you want the program to yield positive results, it would be a good idea to train your mentors first.

  • Explain what a mentor is. Essentially they are a guide who can help direct a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors.
  • Why are mentors important? Mentors help the mentee to become more proficient at his or her job. The mentor is able to “give back” through sharing wisdom, and the company develops well-rounded, knowledgeable professionals who act as catalysts to propel the business forward.
  • Manage their expectations. Expectations are natural and often can be met if they are realistic. However, if they are inconsistent with the purpose of the relationship, problems can occur. Mentors are there to offer guidance and share advice, but shouldn’t take on the role of manager; these roles are not interconnected.
  • Suggest a plan for how mentors can structure their time. It’s not always easy to find a time that works best for both individuals. This should be the first topic of discussion between the two. Once a timeline is established (preferably before or after work hours), they should agree on a common meeting ground (coffee shops generally are ideal). This provides a more inviting environment where both individuals can share information openly and honestly. They should allot themselves at least an hour for sufficient time to dig deeper. Encourage mentors to start each meeting by recapping what was last discussed and see where progress has been made or maybe where improvements are needed. They should also be encouraged to let the mentee take the reins every once in a while.

Step Four: Evaluate your program.

Best-case scenario: Your program goes off without a hitch and becomes a huge success. Even if you do experience a few hiccups here and there, it is important to acknowledge them and re-evaluate your strategy. Try surveying both the mentor and mentee once the relationship concludes to determine overall effectiveness.

About the Author

Lauren Owens

Lauren is an enthusiastic writer who is passionate about numerous topics surrounding the HCM industry including talent management and acquisition, technology, document management and leadership. Lauren is a former Paycom blogger, social strategist and community relations coordinator.

See more posts by Lauren Owens