Your organization wants to develop its people. That’s a given. The question is how to do it well. That’s where a workplace mentorship program can make a difference. Workplace mentoring has gained momentum over the last few decades as a way to grow employees and gain other benefits. But, making your workplace mentorship program a success takes work. This article shares strategies and risks to avoid.
To begin, a successful workplace mentorship program requires organizational commitment. Put people in charge of managing and monitoring the program and give them the resources to do the job well. Your business also needs to establish goals for its mentoring program in advance. The Olson Group suggests some questions to consider include:
- What do we want this program to achieve?
- Why do our employees need mentors?
- What type of mentoring would best suit our staff? Options include one-on-one, electronic, group, and peer.
Also, don’t expect the program to make a difference in just days. “It has to be a long-term program with frequent meetings, and the meetings have to be meaningful, not arbitrary. You can’t just meet to talk about ‘stuff’ three times a year,” says Wharton’s Jennifer S. Mueller.
Brad Bunt, Small Business Development Center at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Tex., told Entrepreneur that it is a good idea to wait six months into the program before measuring impact. That’s when the program is established enough for mentors and mentees to get over their insecurities “and see the benefits of the program.”
Pick effective mentors
Of course, the success of workplace mentoring will rest also on the quality of the mentors participating in your program. Gallup identifies five talents that can make people effective as mentors:
“Belief. Mentors high in the Belief theme value facilitating the growth of another person. They take a satisfaction from seeing another person’s success, specifically individuals with whom they have a relationship.”
“Arranger. Mentors strong in the Arranger theme resonate to setting others up for success. They can design growth experiences for others by helping them have the materials and equipment they need or by teaming with others who have complementary talents.”
“Self-Assurance. Mentors high in the Self-Assurance theme have the inner strength to know that they have something to offer to their mentee, can help them know the right things to do, and can be a role model for them.”
“Developer. The developer not only knows that building a relationship with a person is essential to his is or her growth, but actually takes satisfaction from helping the individual grow and resonates with the building of the relationship.”
“Relator. Mentors high in the Relator theme care enough to do things with the mentee for the mentee’s own good. As the relationship develops, the mentor recognizes what is confidential to the relationship and then is absolute in maintaining that confidence. At the highest level of relationship, the mentor shares confidences and risks with the mentee. Trust grows.”
Mentoring is not something an individual just knows how to do. Sure, they have experience in the job and background at your company. But mentoring requires someone to be an effective communicator, provide constructive criticism, and support the mentee’s goal setting. The training can also help participants to get onboard with the program by communicating the objectives and why mentoring matters.
Training can also help manage the mentee’s expectations. Tammy Allen, co-author of Designing Workplace Mentoring Programs: An Evidence-Based Approach told Inc., “Because the word ‘mentoring’ has a lot of connotations associated with it, people might think, ‘this is the person who is going to get me promoted, get me this, get me that,’ so it’s really important to identify to participants what the objectives are and what to expect, as well as not to expect, from it.”
Match mentors and mentees intentionally
“Even the most robust mentoring efforts can produce unimpressive results if you get the mentor-mentee pairings wrong,” UMass Global notes.
Surveying employees about their skills, communication and learning styles, and objectives for the mentoring relationship can help to pair (or group) people effectively.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to only match mentors with mentees in their specific area of your organization. It can be useful to have people meet with individuals in other disciplines to get different perspectives.
Make sure mentees are ready
The National Center for Women & Information Technology suggests a protégée is ready for mentoring if that individual:
- “Has ambitions to advance and increase [their] contribution to the organization”
- “Actively seeks constructive feedback and acts on it”
- “Is able to commit time and effort to professional growth”
- “Is willing to explore new behaviors and skills”
With mentoring programs so popular in the workplace, it is not surprising that a Harvard Business Review study found “it is easy for mentoring programs to become stale and bureaucratic.”
You’ll want to avoid this with regular monitoring and communication with your mentors and mentees. Also, be sure to provide an exit plan for mentors or mentees to safely exit the relationships without hurting the other individual’s feelings. If the people don’t get along or aren’t getting any value from the relationship, there needs to be an established way to let people start anew with someone else.
Making mentoring happen at work
Mentoring makes a difference. An ASTD study cited by MentorCloud, showed that “managerial productivity increases by 88 percent when managers are involved in a corporate mentorship program, as compared to only a 24 percent increase when managers received only training but no mentorship.”
To get your workplace mentoring program up and running you’re going to need people to be mentors and mentees. That’s next in this series.
One good way to find out how people are feeling about mentoring in your workplace? Employee Pulse surveys! SoGoEX can help you get started by assessing the overall sentiment across your organization, capturing critical feedback and analyzing the data to better inform your strategies.