How to Start a Successful Mentoring Program

Across the business spectrum, all companies strive to improve employee onboarding and performance while achieving business goals. One way to achieve this is through implementing a mentorship program. These kinds of programs, when successful, can boost employee satisfaction, increase employee retention, and bolster development and growth in employees up and down the company.

In order to make a mentorship program successful, the program must be structured in a way that meshes with the existing company strategies, and is supported, assessed, and evaluated throughout its development and launch.

Define the objectives

The first step to implementing a mentorship program is to define the program’s objectives. These objectives may differ from company to company, but establishing a clear, quantifiable goal will give your mentors purpose and will drive success in your company.

Once you establish what the program will do, the next step is to determine how it will be done. Align your program structure with the existing culture in the company. Some companies are more formal and would benefit from a more rigidly-defined structure. Other companies may be more relaxed, and the structure can be more fluid, with relationships defined at the individual level. But too little structure can result in a lack of control, and even worse, a lack of clear quantifiable metrics.

Sell the benefits

Even after a program is company-aligned and well structured, without enthusiasm and uptake from employees, as well as recruitment and training of mentors, the program won’t get off the ground. One way to translate initial enthusiasm into buy-in is to outline the benefits of the program to mentors and mentees. If your program is properly aligned with business objectives and company culture, linking the benefits of the training to achieving these goals becomes straightforward.

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Buy-in alone won’t make the program productive, let alone guarantee the program will be long lasting. Mentors have a unique need for a strong base of support, both from the business and from each other. Training mentors not just on best practices for their role, but how their role in the program helps achieve the program’s goals (and the goals of the business), will empower everyone in the program and will give it the longevity it needs to thrive.

Make the chemistry work

After establishing the employee buy-in, and building up a team of well-trained mentors, the next critical step in implementing your program is good pairing between mentors and mentees. Depending on your company culture, and on your program structure, pairing may work best in groups, in pairs, or in the traditional one-on-one approach. No matter the strategy, allowing some degree of input from the participants as to what they want out of the program will make the pairing process more effective.

Your program will ultimately only be as good as you can measure it. Use both qualitative (participant surveys and mentor interviews) and quantitative data (retention rates, advancement rates) to gain insights into the direction your program is heading. Even if your program is structured to have a time limit, the benefits of a successful mentorship will continue, and these benefits can and should be measured and evaluated for future endeavors.

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