What is the purpose of an employee mentorship program?
Professional mentorship usually involves pairing an industry junior with a senior (although it can also be done in a group setting). The two work closely together over a number of months to help the mentee achieve a set of predetermined career goals.
The mentor can be from the same organisation as the mentee, but that’s not always the case. In fact, Westney says they don’t even have to work in the same industry.
“Sometimes the most appropriate mentor will be somebody within your profession who’s doing what the more junior employee wants to be doing,” he says.
“Or it can be somebody who isn’t connected to the profession, but who perhaps has a lot of experience in general business and can bring the mentee a different perspective and broaden their business understanding.”
When done right, professional mentoring can be a win-win-win situation:
- It assists the mentee with their professional and personal development
- It introduces fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking to the person conducting the mentoring
- Best of all, it’s a boon for the business. As well as facilitating collaborative learning, the diversification of skills and the sharing of knowledge, it increases employee engagement, builds future leaders and improves new-hire retention rates – research indicates that these are 25 per cent higher for employees who participate in company-sponsored mentoring.
- Productivity is up to 2.5 times higher in organisations with employee-development programs
How do you structure a mentoring program?
Workplace mentoring programs allow for fast and effective onboarding of new employees via the sharing of knowledge, skills and best practice.
Here are some important tips to establishing a successful program within your organisation:
- Be effective: Programs need to be carefully designed, with clearly defined objectives to suit specific needs.
- Build a plan: Decide who will receive the mentorship, who will do the mentoring, who will benefit and how the scheme will run. For example, will participants choose their own pairings, or will you use a computer program to find ideal matches? Programs such as Mentorloop and River match mentees with mentors based on competencies, company structure and individual goals. They can also track and facilitate the mentorships.
- Structure the program: This should be measurable and provide a loose workflow that participants can follow to achieve their desired outcomes, while remaining flexible enough to adapt to different learning styles, situations and goals.
- Secure leadership support early: “I always start with leadership teams, because you’ll often find people there who could do with mentoring as well,” Westney says. “It can be good to get external mentors for leadership team members so they can see the value in it, and then they can be role models and advocates for mentoring when it comes to more junior staff members.”
- Promote the benefits of mentoring: Clarify that you’re there to offer guidance and support to mentors and mentees throughout the process. Assist participants who want to sharpen their objectives, provide training on the program’s goals and participant roles, and help everyone get the most out of the experience.
A final word
Ultimately, Westney urges HR professionals not to approach their mentoring program too rigidly or seriously.
“I think internal mentoring programs work best when they’re fairly informal, so it’s something that’s encouraged rather than a defined framework,” he says.
“I know a lot of organisations that are experimenting with things like coffee dates, where you get matched with somebody in the organisation you don’t know and you have to go and have a coffee with them.
“What a great idea – you’re meeting people in different parts of the business and you’re learning from them, and they’re learning from you, and you’re suddenly building a relationship!” he finishes.