Mentoring-4One of the most frequent comments that comes up on employee surveys is that employees want more opportunities for growth and development.  And studies show that companies who provide those opportunities have more engaged employees, higher retention rates, and better business results.

Providing your employees with learning and development doesn’t have to involve costly training programs. It can be as simple and cost-effective as transferring knowledge through mentoring relationships.

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 the mentee to be more candid about issues and concerns. Mentoring relationships provide development for the mentee and also benefit the mentor by helping them develop or enhance their leadership skills. Often the experience helps the mentor regain passion around his/her work and thus become more engaged and productive.

There are also myriad benefits to the organization. A mentoring program:

  • Shows employees that the company is willing to invest in its people
  • Conveys to the outside world that the company values its employees
  • Reduces turnover by increasing loyalty among employees (saving replacement costs)
  • Creates a more positive work environment
  • Helps mentors develop leadership skills
  • Provides growth opportunities for employees
  • Promotes a sense of cooperation and harmony within the organization

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.

If you are thinking about developing a mentoring program, here are 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 for a large organization some years ago. We established it initially for 6 months, with a kick-off, mid-term event, and Mentor/Mentee luncheon with all participants at the end of the period. The program was very successful, and we were able to track the progress of participants. Several of the mentees received promotions.  Another mentee decided to go back to school to obtain an advanced degree. Another mentee decided to make a lateral transfer to a 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. Several of the mentoring pairs continued their mentoring relationship beyond the end of the pilot.

If you need help initiating a mentoring program at your company, please feel free to contact me. In my next blog, I’ll talk about establishing affinity group mentoring programs and give you some success tips for mentors and mentees.