Finding the right team members can be difficult, and keeping them is even more challenging. During the Great Resignation, a record number of employees are leaving their jobs for new positions in droves for new jobs that they believe will offer more growth and development.
More than ever, employees and future leaders want meaningful roles with advancement opportunities. A strong mentorship program is one way that your company can retain employees while helping them build skills, become more engaged, and become more productive while meeting their career goals. Mentorship can also be a powerful tool for succession planning, ensuring a stronger future for your workforce. Here’s how to build a strong, effective mentorship program.
1. Understand the program’s purpose and goals.
The first step to creating a successful mentorship program is to understand what you want it to accomplish. Examples may include:
- Increased employee productivity
- Lower turnover
- Establishing succession
- Building employee skills
Make sure your goals are specific and measurable. They should also match your company culture. Once you outline your program’s purpose and determine its goals, you can then decide how you will measure success.
When launching a new mentorship program, it may help to start small. Choose one specific goal and a few partnerships, and make sure it is successful on a small scale before expanding it.
In addition, choose a person or two to oversee the mentorship program. These individuals will be responsible for matching participants, being available for feedback and resolving issues, and keeping the mentorships on track with their goals.
2. Determine your matching process.
Pairing up mentors and mentees is a crucial decision. How you make that decision will depend heavily on your program’s goals.
Don’t be afraid to be creative. For example, you might give a mentee a choice between several mentors, or allow them to receive mentorship from more than one person. Group mentorships may suit your goals better than one-on-one mentoring. Additionally, the mentor does not always have to be a senior staff member. Newer employees with unique skills and experiences could provide mentorship to more established employees.
Your organization may ask potential mentorship participants to complete an application process. Mentors and mentees may self-select and establish a more informal mentoring relationship. Some companies hire consultants and vendors to create a precise, custom matching process. Others create completely randomized matches, or depend on department recommendations.
“At a minimum, you really need to manage expectations with these programs,” says Tammy Allen, Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida and co-author of Designing Workplace Mentoring Programs: An Evidence-Based Approach. “Because the word ‘mentoring’ has a lot of connotations associated with it. People might think, ‘this is the person who is going to get me promoted, get me this, get me that,’ so it's important to identify to participants what the objectives are and what to expect, as well as not to expect, from it.”
3. Set participants up for success.
Both mentors and mentees should understand their roles within the mentorship program. Your organization should make the program’s goals and expectations clear to everyone involved.
In addition, be sure to provide training for mentors to help them succeed in their roles. Discuss how mentors can best communicate and interact with mentees, such as teaching new skills or providing feedback. Be sure to provide guidance while allowing for flexibility.
Remote employees can benefit from mentorship as well, so don’t neglect them in your program. Going remote with your program also has some advantages, such as a wider pool of mentoring candidates and less bias regarding physical features. Encourage a variety of communication techniques so they can participate to the same degree as in-person employees. This may take some creativity, but companies such as America Needs You and The Data Incubator have found great success in remote mentoring.
4. Evaluate the mentorship program regularly.
Strong communication between program participants is crucial for a successful mentorship program. However, that communication also should include the program leaders. Be sure to solicit feedback from all participants during every stage of the program. This will allow your organization to address problems as they emerge, increasing the likelihood of success.
Starting a mentorship program the right way can help employers strengthen their organization and better prepare for significant changes. Mentorship can provide direction and connection for employees in a period of widespread disruption. Employers will benefit from a more skilled, engaged workforce, with clearer options for succession planning.