Mentoring programmes can have a hugely positive impact on staff morale, employee retention and satisfaction, and can greatly increase the appeal of your company to graduates seeking work. Mentoring harnesses the skills and resources already present in your business and, unlike other learning incentives like external courses and training programmes, it’s free.
Here’s how to start your company mentoring programme.
The first thing you need to consider is the objective of the mentoring programme. Are you looking to improve retention figures in a particular section of your workforce, develop leaders or teach a specific skill to new employees?
Once you’ve established an end goal for your programme, you can begin to build a structure the nature of which will depend to a large extent on the culture of your company. Your programme could be very formal with a formal application process, set timescales and quantifiable goals or it could be more relaxed and freestyle. Whichever style you choose it’s important to have some structure and control to make sure that the programme stays on-track and the end goal is achieved.
There are different forms of mentoring programmes. Some use groups, others prefer peer mentoring or employ experts to mentor specific sections of the workforce. However, the most common form of mentoring programme is one-to-one pairs.
The most successful mentoring partnerships are those where both mentor and mentee have a degree of input in the matching process. A good strategy is to ask both parties to complete questionnaires setting out what they hope to achieve from the programme and to use this information as the basis for a decision. Another way would be to offer both mentors and mentees a selection of partners. For a pairing to succeed, they must get on well together and you will also need a ‘get out’ mechanism in place, just in case of problems.
Before your mentoring programme can commence in earnest, it’s important that the participants understand what ‘mentoring’ is all about. Consider the following points:
- Mentoring is not a waste of time. A key factor of mentoring is that it makes mentees accountable which in turn means that they will learn and improve. Many employees will just see a mentoring programme as an unnecessary addition to their workload and it’s up to you to explain why it isn’t.
- It can be helpful to ask former mentees to speak at your training sessions to explain why their programme was so valuable and what they got out of it.
- Manage people’s expectations. It’s really important that participants understand exactly what they are going to get out of the programme. Some might assume that it’s a way of guaranteeing promotion, and if that’s not the case, it’s up to you to make that clear.
- Suggest a format. Each pairing in the programme might have their own preference for how to spend their time but it’s useful to make a suggestion as to how the partnerships can maximise their time in the programme.
An introductory period is important so that the partnership can get to know each other and can discuss what the end goals of the programme should be. They should then decide how they are going to work towards those goals and how the end deliverable is to be measured. When the programme concludes, there should be a ‘debrief’ during which both parties can reflect on what they’ve learned and how they plan to use the experience in their future roles with the company.
There’s no doubt that a mentoring programme provides multiple benefits for your employees and for your business. Make sure that effective communication is maintained and feedback is encouraged throughout the process, and be prepared to make any necessary adjustments as the programme progresses.