The building blocks of a successful mentorship program

The building blocks of a successful mentorship program

Over the past years, mentorship programs have become increasingly important in the workplace.

According to Sarah Kessler in her Inc. article “How to Start a Mentoring Program,’ mentoring can enhance employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. It can also attract more talent, supplement onboarding, and provide employees with all-important guidance in their career trajectories. It can serve as an inexpensive yet effective way to transfer company-specific knowledge. Finally, it can provide potential leaders with additional leadership training and experience.

A successful mentorship program can become a valuable asset for your company. That’s why you need to know which building blocks are critical to the program’s success. Let’s take a closer look.

Building block 1: The objective

Before you start, you need to decide what the objective of the program will be. Possible choices include:

  • training or education of new employees
  • transfer of company-specific knowledge
  • retaining a more diverse workforce
  • improving upward mobility for minorities

Another approach is to allow your employees to choose the objective of their mentorship. For example, working mothers might want guidance in advancing their career without sacrificing their family, or a Baby Boomer employee might want technology training in social media or online collaboration tools.

Building block 2: Participants

Knowing which employees can participate is important to understanding the scope of the program. Some companies limit enrollment to new employees; others make participation a requirement; while yet others allow their people to decide for themselves.

The program’s objective will have an impact on the target group. For example, if you want to retain a more diverse workforce, voluntary participation could either encourage or deter employees, depending on their individual reactions to their personal experiences in the workplace. Required participation could be the best approach. Similarly, if the objective is to transfer company-specific knowledge, the most logical approach is to make participation in the program a requirement for all employees.

Building block 3: Duration

The length of the pairing will depend in large part on the objective of the program. Initial training and the transfer of company-specific knowledge are both goals that can be attained within a predetermined period of time. For employees, knowing that this kind of mentorship relationship has a limited duration can be a relief.

Objectives such as retaining a more diverse workforce or improving the upward mobility of minorities can be indefinite. To a certain extent, the mentor will be the mentee’s career counselor and confidant, so that’s a relationship that should become fruitful over time. When a mentee becomes discouraged or doesn’t think he or she will get a promotion, it’s the mentor’s responsibility to find a way to motivate and inspire him or her to continue on.

Building block 4: Coordination

The program will need to be coordinated properly in order for it to be effective. Coordination will involve registering and pairing participants, training, providing the necessary tools, and periodic evaluation. It will also involve dealing with participants’ concerns or complaints.

The SHRM article “Creating a Mentor Program” advises appointing one person as a program coordinator, and if necessary, a committee that assists the mentor in the implementation of the program.

Building block 5: Tools

Though it’s possible to run a program without any formal tools, it’s more efficient and effective with them. Online collaboration tools that allow mentors and mentees to interact with each other, as well as in peer groups, can form a solid support to periodic face-to-face meetings. In addition, they facilitate progress tracking.

Building block 6: Participant guidance

In order to meet expectations, both mentors and mentees need to understand their responsibilities in the mentorship relationship. The coordinator will be responsible for informing them about this. He or she will also provide handbooks or instructions as needed for any tools the program utilizes.

Building block 7: Evaluation

For any program to be successful, it needs to be regularly evaluated. Distributing questionnaires among the participants can yield insights on how it’s working for them. Applications designed to track data pertaining to the company’s objective(s) can help provide a view of what’s working and what’s not, as well as areas that can be improved.

Keep these building blocks in mind to establish a successful mentorship program that will benefit your employees, your company, and yourself.