The benefits that a mentoring program can offer your company are many and we have even covered them here before on Suzzanne Uhland’s blog. The importance of mentorship programs to employee career progress and advancement of company leadership is evident and an opportunity that every organization should seriously consider as a stepping-stone of its own success. One of the most alluring aspects of a mentorship program is the fact that is relatively free for the company because it utilizes resources the company already has in order to offer employees a training opportunity.
So how should you go about it? What is the best way to get your mentoring program started in a way that will cause the most impact and positively motivate your employees to actively participate and proudly promote?
The very first thing to do when you are thinking about implementing a mentoring program in your company is to take the time to clearly define what is the exact purpose of the program. What specific benefit do you wish to achieve from creating the program and offering it to your team? Identifying the needs of your company is absolutely crucial to defining the goals of your program and tailoring those aims to answer the demands of the current status of the organization. A mentoring program cannot be created thinking it will be a one-size-fits-all solution for your company, instead, you should focus on a particular aspect and you will most likely see that other benefits will come as inevitable but welcomed side-effects. If you want to create a mentoring program to welcome new employees and help them get acquainted with the culture of the organization and their role in the company, you need to plan that strategy differently from that of a program geared towards conserving top talent or developing leadership skills from your potential future managers. A successful mentoring program should be planned with both flexibility and structure in order to give participants the clarity of goals to be achieved while at the same time cater to their specific individual mentoring needs.
Finding participants for the programs is the next logical step after the structure of it is set in place. It is obvious that the novelty of a mentoring program will create a lot of expectations and normally these initiatives are met with enthusiasm and curiosity. However, it is important to take advantage of this momentum and turn it into actual participation. Don’t believe for a second that simply being interested in the program means that possible participants are already aware of its benefits. One of the main reasons these programs seldom fail is due to lack of promotion, so putting in place a strategy to let team members learn about the existence of mentoring initiatives is just as important as actually educating them on the many benefits of participation. Stakeholders and key personnel at the top of the organization also need to be properly introduced to the concept of the program and its advantages.
Making the program attractive to mentors is also of high importance. In a way, mentors are the most valuable assets a mentoring program has, so you need to be focus on strategies that make participation attractive for them in such way that they are motivated to make time out of their busy schedule and dedicate it to mentoring interested individuals. Remember mentoring is a two-way street and those being guided are getting a benefit that is comparable to those that are given the opportunity to set an example and provide advice on someone else’s professional development; a commendable endeavor that can teach them a lot about their own skills and setbacks.
Matching participants is something else that requires planning, dedication and it can be considered one of the most challenging aspects of creating a mentoring program.
Those interested in being part of a mentoring initiative will bring all kinds of backgrounds, skills, learning styles and individual needs that must be considered in order to provide them with the best environment for growth and also the best opportunity to give back. Instead of simply finding a way to dictate matching from high up the chain, it would be a lot more beneficial to allow for the process to be more organic by allowing mentees to have a say in the pairing process. Regardless of how you go about this, it is important to consider profiling participants and gathering enough information about them individually in order to best find strategies for matching to at least have a place to start. Sometimes people like to work with others whom they share interests with, graduated from the same alma matter or at least have similar views on some subjects.
In some cases, one mentor can be assigned to a group of individuals instead of simply pairing them with one single person, all of that depends on the organization and the desires of those involved with the program.