The Best Practices You Need to Know for Establishing a Solid Mentorship Program

Posted on Apr 19, 2019 - By Jenna Cartusciello

The mark of a successful mentorship program is one that has well-defined goals. However, not every successful program is the same. Some companies want a concrete method for integrating new employees into the community in order to boost company morale and increase employee retention rates. Other mentorship programs are designed to develop employee skills and establish career paths. These programs, which are more interactive and participation-based, aim to retain skilled employees as well. Both types of plans must be carefully organized and executed in order to optimize success.

A mentorship program also sees success when it fits the company’s business style and culture. For instance, a group mentorship model may not work well for a business that wants to hone the skills of each employee individually. Thus, if you choose to model your mentorship program after another successful program, be sure to modify or adapt it to your company’s specific needs. Ultimately, mentorships will introduce employees to coworkers with different experiences and backgrounds, which may lead to innovative thinking and unique ideas that can set your business apart.

Group Mentorship

The goal of your mentorship program can determine its very structure. If you intend to improve the company culture and maintain inclusivity, consider implementing group mentorship. This format is often praised for its efficiency and ability to introduce employees to each other in a positive setting. In addition, it may solve the problem of finding enough qualified mentors for the one-to-one model.

Group mentorship can be adapted to the experience levels of the mentees. For newer employees, you may choose to have an experienced mentor lead the group. He or she may ask thoughtful questions, give helpful feedback on project ideas and answer any questions on company goals and projects. Group mentorship may also be valuable to more experienced employees. Instead of having a leader, however, consider creating a peer group where each participant has the same level of influence. Peer groups work well when they are comprised of employees from different departments and cultural backgrounds.

One-to-One Mentorship

One-to-one mentorships are a more common and traditional method of integrating new employees into office culture. Companies often choose to structure mentorships in this way because the meetings are more intimate and potentially less intimidating. In addition, they give the mentee the chance to develop a relationship with his or her mentor, ask questions, solve problems, set goals and celebrate achievements.

Research has shown that a one-on-one mentorship can help a mentee develop his or her career and feel valued by the company. This, in turn, can lead to higher employee retention and increased satisfaction. Furthermore, the mentor can gain a sense of fulfillment, develop his or her leadership skills and include the role on a resumé. It is important that both participants benefit from the pairing, as this will foster a positive relationship.

How to Get a Mentorship Program Started

To set up the groundwork, you must create a fully developed plan. This may involve the formulation of a flow chart to establish a time-frame for the project. In general, your HR department will work closely with you on the project in order to optimize its success. The HR department may ask questions to determine the need for the program, such as the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) goal formatting questions. If HR decides that mentorships will benefit the company, it can help establish official objectives and a program structure.

To establish the program structure, HR must decide the length of the mentorships, what kinds of experiences will help mentees achieve their goals and how to match participants. Communication with the entire company is essential at this stage, because the program will not succeed if it does not attract enough qualified participants. Qualified participants include employees with skill sets that match the needs of potential mentees.

What to Do During Mentorship Meetings

In general, positive mentorship meetings will have a relaxed atmosphere. Going out for a coffee break or a lunch break during the week is a simple way to set the tone and establish an easygoing yet professional relationship. It also gives the mentor and mentee a place outside of the office to get to know each other. It is important to remember that the conversation does not have to focus entirely on work, but it does need to benefit the mentee from a professional standpoint.

Some companies believe in mentorship meetings that focus on hands-on learning. In these programs, the mentee develops new skills with the goal of specializing in the same work as his or her mentor. Depending on the program, the mentor may even train the mentee in certain aspects of the profession. If training is involved, the company must define the difference between a mentor and a coach.

Training a Mentor

Oftentimes, it is important for mentors to go through training, even if they have already held leadership positions. Training may focus on maintaining purpose during meetings, strengthening communication skills, creating trust, addressing conflicts in the workplace, tracking progress and establishing a positive and professional relationship. In addition, the mentor must learn how to give and receive feedback.

A qualified mentor will know how to monitor and support a mentee while cultivating a positive atmosphere. The mentee should therefore feel comfortable asking his or her mentor for advice. Finally, a well-trained mentor will understand how to continue the relationship past the mentoring stage and how to close or end the relationship if necessary.

What to Do When a Mentorship Does Not Work

Sometimes, mentors and mentees are not a good match. An imperfect match may be the result of very different personalities, or it may point to larger conflicts. It is important to have a mentorship committee or program leader check in with each group periodically to make sure things are running smoothly. If a mentor and mentee are having difficulty connecting, the leader may suggest ideas or different tactics for the pair to try. Alternatively, a new pairing may be suggested.

To prevent failed matches, the program leader or committee must prepare participants before they are matched by clarifying the mentorship expectations and goals. If mentors are properly trained and mentees have a clear understanding of what to expect, the chance that participants get disappointed will decrease. Another way of preventing failed matches is to have participants fill out compatibility questionnaires before they are matched.