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How a Workplace Mentoring Program Can Benefit your Company

How a Workplace Mentoring Program Can Benefit your Company

By: Dona DeZube

Millennials consistently say they want feedback, so it makes sense that starting a workplace mentoring program can help you attract and retain them.

When Deloitte recently surveyed Millennials, it found the ones that planned to stay with their employer more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent).

At small or growing organizations, senior staff benefit too, because mentoring develops coaching and management skills, points out Laura Kukulan Baker, an HR business partner at ClearCompany, who started a successful mentoring program for the Boston-based business transparency software firm.

Ready to start a mentoring program in your workplace? Try these five strategies:

1. Decide what challenges the mentoring program will tackle.
A business mentoring program can target any level of employees and a plethora of challenges, so it helps to focus on a few clear goals. Will the program help new employees understand the company culture? Improve retention rates? Develop middle managers’ leadership skills? Build stronger inter-generational relationships?

“Having goals makes it possible to measure the program’s success,” says Bill Sanders, principal and senior consultant for Roebling Strauss, Inc., and mentor-in-residence at Wearable IoT World Labs, a startup accelerator in San Francisco.

For a program targeting employee retention, you could look at before-and-after retention rates of employees who did mentoring. Or, you could measure employee satisfaction, engagement or promotion rates.

2. Keep it simple.
A mentoring program needs leadership, whether it’s one person or an advisory board. Your timeframe depends on how big the program is and how many people you want to participate. The bulk of the work occurs upfront to get it running, says Lori K. Long, a business management professor at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio and consultant to organizations starting mentoring programs.

A mentoring program doesn’t have to be complicated, says Lars Sudmann, a former chief financial officer of Procter & Gamble Belgium, and current executive coach with Sudmann & Company BVBA. “Often individuals in charge of setting up a mentoring program do so in a highly elaborate fashion, even sometimes with software solutions or huge manifestos. Not only is this costly, it is, in my experience, also counterproductive,” he says.

Remember that the most effective mentoring happens at a personal level.. Have one person in your growing company map and match potential mentees and mentors, then initiate the mentoring relationship.

3. Show you value mentoring by evaluating and rewarding mentors.
It’s great to mentor for altruistic reasons, but people in a growing business do a lot and mentoring is extra work. To show you value mentors, include their efforts as part of their annual performance review and find ways to reward them via recognition throughout the year.

“The mentor needs to know what’s in it for them, whether it’s part of their performance appraisal or a reward is offered,” says University of Indianapolis assistant professor Terry Schindler, who himself mentors new faculty.

4. Have mentees manage the relationship, but give them an assist.
Mentorship programs often fade away after a few months. “One reason that I heard often from mentees: ‘My mentor never contacted me,’” Sudmann says. “Well, of course not, that’s not the role of a mentor. It should be crystal clear for mentees that they are in charge of the process: in charge of setting up meetings, in charge of putting questions together, etc. That clarity often helps keeping it alive.”

Often neither mentees nor mentors know what to discuss in a mentor/mentee meeting, so both find it awkward at times. Give them each a one-page overview (no big manuals) with potential questions they can discuss, such as career topics for the protégé and areas of support for the mentor.

5. There are lots of ways to get what you want, so consider alternative mentoring options.
Millennials are online more, and maybe your mentorship should be, too. If needed, consider using external mentors, who can match employees with mentors. Find them through your industry’s trade associations, local business groups or mentor-matching websites like FindAMentor.com or Micromentor.org. While you’re looking, get yourself a mentor through SCORE.