One of the most frequent complaints on employee satisfaction surveys is lack of training and development opportunities. Yet, when budgets are strapped, training and development is often the first thing to go. The result is that employees don’t see a means to move forward and either become disengaged or go elsewhere. One way to help employees grow in their careers and thereby stay engaged is to create a mentoring program. A mentoring program is typically a low cost way to retain employees and encourage employee development.
A mentoring program involves matching a less experienced employee or manager (mentee) with a more experienced employee or manager (mentor) for guidance and development. In most mentoring programs mentees do not report to their mentor, which often allows a relationship where the mentee can be more open and candid about issues and concerns.
There are different schools of thought about the process for matching mentors and mentees. Some recommend that the pairings be allowed to evolve naturally. Others ask for volunteers to participate and then manually match mentors and mentees based on function and/or location. Others use software tools to do the match.
Whichever method is used, most participants would agree that there are multiple benefits for both the mentor and mentee. Mentors build their leadership and communication skills and often attribute to the experience an enhanced or revived motivation for their role or the business. Mentees develop new skills and corporate knowledge and learn how to navigate their career. Talk to any CEO and he or she will credit at least one mentor with helping them get to where they are.
If you are thinking about developing a mentoring program, here some tips to help it succeed:
- Select mentors who are positive role models and enthusiastic about the program.
- Establish clear expectations for the mentoring partnership, such as minimum number of meetings, length of partnership, who is responsible for initiating meetings and driving the relationship, etc.
- Include at least one check-point to evaluate the relationship.
- Encourage mentors and mentees to create specific goals for the partnership.
- Orient mentors with best practices and guidelines around goal setting, giving feedback and basic relationship skills such as open communication, active listening, being accessible, building trust, sharing knowledge and ideas, and working together to resolve differences.
- Develop a process for obtaining and incorporating feedback from both mentors and mentees about the program to ensure continuous improvement.
I had the privilege of starting a mentoring program many years ago. The program was very successful and we were able to track the progress of the participants. By the end of the 6-month pilot program, we had several mentees get promoted to different jobs. Another mentee decided to go back to school to obtain a masters degree. Another mentee decided to make a lateral transfer to different position that would provide the experience he needed to achieve a promotion. The mentors also benefited from the program. They felt more engaged and motivated in their jobs. They were very proud of their mentees and the progress they saw.
Have you considered developing a mentoring program? If so, please share your tips below on what has worked and what to avoid. What are your best success stories?
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