Building a mentor program in the workplace facilitates educational opportunities within a supportive workplace environment. A mentorship occurs between the mentor, who provides guidance and valuable experiences and the mentee who takes on the role of a learner. A successful mentor program will create a welcoming corporate culture in your workplace and will boost employee retention, workplace satisfaction, and professional growth.
What is a professional mentoring program?
A mentor program usually is initiated to assist new hires and those beginning in their careers to find experienced mentors who can guide them on their professional journeys. A well-planned mentorship program offers structure and guidance to maximise the benefits to its participants. Such benefits include:
- Skill development
- Better decision making
- Increased self-confidence
- Exposure to new and different perspectives
- Improved goal-setting
Starting a mentoring program
Before initiating a mentor program for your business, consider the needs of the company and its goals. By defining what you hope to achieve by mentoring your staff, you can ensure that your program is on the right track. It's also important to talk to your team and determine if they will be receptive to a mentoring program.
By clearly understanding your mentoring program's goals from the beginning, you can ensure everyone has a clear idea of their expectations and guidelines. Here are five steps to follow when developing a mentorship program in your workplace:
Define your goals
An excellent mentoring program will align with the overarching business goals. Usually designed to improve performance, there are many routes to reach this goal. You may choose to create an onboarding mentorship program that promotes the acclimation of new hires, or a leadership development program to improve the productivity of managers and workplace leaders. Whatever route you choose, the end result must be one that assists the overall business's goals.
Once you have decided where your company will benefit from the mentorship, you need to elect your mentees, the individuals who will benefit from such a program. To do so, begin by asking questions like:
What needs will the program address?
How can you motivate these individuals?
Where are they in their professional careers, and how will a mentor benefit them?
Assigning a persona for your mentor program will give you an idea of the type of person that will benefit most. Setting clear, measurable and attainable objectives around this persona will help you organise leaders and give mentors clear goals to reach.
Get everyone onboard
Promoting your program begins with getting leaders on board. A ripple effect will occur throughout the organisation when a leader speaks about the program's benefits and importance.
The enthusiasm of early adopters, mentors, and leaders will drive word of mouth about the program. Word of mouth will get people onboard to participate and increase the likelihood you have motivated mentees.
Many programs begin with an onboarding process that allows the mentee to meet all prospective mentors and determine whether they work well together. By facilitating this in the early stages, you can ensure that a relationship is formed based on choice rather than an elected, unknown mentor. Allowing options will also enable potential mentors to see they are part of a larger company-wide initiative, encouraging them to maintain their relationship.
Here, you will use your program's goals to guide your selection process of pairing mentors and mentees. You may invite people directly or have it as an open option for anyone in the company to join. In both cases, you want to facilitate meaningful pairings. To do so, identify qualities of good mentees and mentors and encourage them in all participants. These qualities will help you achieve your goals and include:
- Drive to succeed
- Positive attitude
- Openness to learning and new perspectives
- Leadership skills
You want to gather valuable details about your participants, such as professional experiences, skill sets, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Professional information will help you decide if the candidate is good for the role, mentor or mentee. Ideally, you will select candidates dedicated to their job and in a position of continuous development.
Once you have found your candidates, it's time to pair them up. You want to carefully match your mentors and mentees to facilitate enriching mentorship opportunities. To do so, consider balancing their strengths and weaknesses against one another. One mentor may have experience in the places that the mentee wants to improve on. Look at interview notes, professional files and individual applications to pull information to make the most effective pairings.
On the other hand, you may allow the mentees to select their mentors by offering them several candidates you think would be a good fit and allowing them to choose. Allowing candidates to do so gives them a sense of control over the situation and makes them feel motivated as they had a role in the decision process.
It's helpful to train your mentors, so they clearly understand your program goal and why they are playing a role in it. Moreso, it allows them to understand your expectations of them and how to support their mentees best. Asking questions will help you know where the mentor is and how to get to where they need to be. Questions may reveal their current understanding or what they expect in their role; these include asking:
What is a mentoring program in the workplace?
How can mentors best support their mentees?
What are the benefits of a workplace mentor/mentee program?
How often should the program run?
Understanding where the mentor is and how they expect the program to take place will give you insight into the attitudes and opinions of the mentor and if they are appropriate for the task at hand. The more questions you ask, the better you come to know your mentors and the expectations of their roles.
A mentor/mentee relationship promotes the knowledge of those with experience so others can learn faster and more effectively than on their own. It allows networking with leaders and provides an opportunity to prove leadership skills. Businesses with formal mentoring programs benefit from building a strong workplace culture. Starting a mentor program isn't difficult; just follow these simple steps, and you'll be on track to a successful mentoring program for your workplace.
By developing your mentor program you are one step closer to building your workforce for the future. Want to explore the strategic trends of workplace upskilling and how your company can continue to thrive? Check out our Webinar: Building the Workforce of the Future on November 22nd, 2022.