Workplace mentorship programs are an excellent way to improve employee retention, engage and train new hires, and help senior employees feel valued. When done right they can be a successful training opportunity for new employees as well as a tool to develop connections among co-workers. Mentorship programs also offer more experienced employees a way to give back. However, many workplace mentorship programs never get off the ground. This is largely due to the assumption that it is easy to start an employee mentorship plan. Many companies attempt to launch a mentorship program in their workplaces with little planning or support, which often leads to failure. Here are some key tips for creating, developing and planning for a workplace mentorship program.
- Ensure company leadership is supportive. While most mentorship programs start from the bottom up (employees requesting a program be established), without support from key company leaders the program will fail. Getting management to support a mentorship program is the only way to secure a budget, resources, and promotion for the program.
- Get guidance from good mentorship software. Designing a program to bring mentors and mentees together needs to begin with a solid plan and seamless integration that only a software program, like Together, can provide. Offering support for the entire mentorship program process, the software has been designed to manage registration, pairing, scheduling, development and even reporting. The digital aspect of mentorship software reduces errors and enhances the opportunity for success.
- Provide training for program participants. Too often companies begin a mentorship program by assuming that if you pair a mentor and a mentee together, they will just 'figure it out.' Unfortunately, this is not the case. Both participants need some training to be able to define how the relationship will develop. How often will they meet? What does each party expect to gain from the experience? What is the best way to handle conflicts or difficulties that come up? These are questions that need to be answered before the program can get underway. By having some ground rules established, the mentorship program is more likely to be successful.
- Ways to determine success. For company leadership to continue offering support for a mentorship program in the workplace, there will need to be a way to demonstrate success. This is another key reason to invest in mentorship software. Together’s platform collects a variety of information that can be used to measure program success. This includes how many active employees are involved in the program, any feedback that has been provided, a feedback rating, which company departments are most involved in mentorship and details on how often mentors and mentees met. Based on these data sets, company leadership will be able to see how successful the mentorship program is and where it may need to be further developed.
- Place it in the hands of a committed manager. Mentorship programs do not effectively run themselves. To keep the program working smoothly, it will need to be overseen by an employee who is invested and dedicated to seeing it succeed. Many times, this is where mentorship programs fail because it lacks a dedicated employee to manage the program. In addition, there should also be an evaluation of the mentorship program manager so that their performance can be measured. This will provide the employee with motivation to see the program succeed.
- Begin with a plan. Define the parameters of your mentorship program and what you hope it will accomplish. Is there a need in your company that you are looking to meet? Your company environment will have an impact on your mentorship program. If you work in a flexible and laid-back workplace, design your program to be more flexible. However, if you work in a more structured environment, keep your mentorship program more structured. The program should be a reflection of the company culture.
- Create a strategy to promote it and encourage employees to get involved. Figure out how you will match mentors and mentees together. Make a decision about how the program will be assessed. With mentoring software, you will be able to set the parameters that define the data the program will collect, and you can also rely on the program’s algorithms to create matches. You will also need to set some structure for the mentor and mentee relationship, such as how often they meet, to help them get started. Determine how much time you need to accomplish your goals. How long will the program run – six months, a year?
- Get senior staff commitment. Mentors are an essential element of a vibrant program. If new employees see that they will be able to learn from some of the best in the company, they'll be more likely to join. Look for employees who have been with the company a long time and are willing to share their expertise with others. When looking to pair mentors and mentees it can benefit both parties if they are not from the same department. This can help create a more unified impression of the company.
- Acknowledge that it is a learning opportunity for everyone involved. Traditionally, a company mentorship program has been seen as a way to pass information from the mentor to the mentee. However, mentees can also pass along their skills or perspective to their mentors. This can be a training ground for new trends or technology for employees who have been with the organization for some time. Empower mentors to speak up and reassure them their voice is important.
Mentorship programs in the workplace have been credited with improving employee retention, cultivating loyalty in new hires and providing a way for employees to give back. It's also an important way of developing teamwork and connection among co-workers. Although many organizations struggle to maintain their mentorship programs, having a good plan in place that defines the purpose, structure, and evaluation will greatly increase the chances of success.