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What Is a Mentorship Program?
A mentorship program connects employees of tenure (mentors) with employees seeking guidance (mentees) with the goal to have the mentors provide counsel, insights and answer questions the mentees have. The mentor serves at the mentee’s go-to for anything they want to know about working for the company or filling a certain role. This ranges from questions regarding the mentor’s experience with the company to where the best coffee shop is.
Why Are Mentorship Programs Helpful?
Not only do they help individuals become more quickly integrated with their job, but mentorship programs also have a measurable impact on a business. Taking a look at this 2021 study, we can see that a mentorship program contributes to:
- Decreased burnout. Decreased burnout is augmented with decreased isolation and stagnation. In fact, according to the study, 50% of respondents state burnout isolation and stagnation are the very reason they are introducing a mentorship program.
- Higher engagement. Particularly for new employee mentorship programs, having a mentor available to a mentee helps the new employee acclimate faster to the new environment and feel more welcome and needed right off the bat. This directly impacts employee loyalty and retention.
- Driven learning and productivity. Having a mentor as a resource helps mentees improve their learning curve. This means the employee is able to grasp new systems and responsibilities faster for more efficient overall performance.
- More satisfied employees. This study found 9 out of 10 workers with a mentor said they were satisfied with their jobs. More than half rated themselves “very satisfied.”
Types of Mentorship Programs
There are many forms of mentorship programs that can take place at different points in one’s employment. These can vary in length of time as well as the desired outcome. However, what all mentorship programs need to be impactful is structure, proactive training, organization and strategy. This looks like having periodic mentorship reviews to check in on current goals and set new ones. Additionally, mentors and mentees should meet regularly outside of these reviews for productive conversations where the mentor offers insights and resources to the mentee.
A new employee mentorship program (sometimes referred to as a buddy system) starts as early as orientation and continues for an unset amount of time. Typically this type of mentorship persists until there is a reason to halt the partnership (such as an employee leaving the company). The primary purpose of this type of mentorship is to:
- Help a new hire feel welcome
- Answer a new hire’s questions or point them towards someone who can
- Prevent isolation and overwhelm
- Build skills
- Encourage engagement
- Develop and accomplish career goals
In this type of program, the mentor becomes the mentee’s go-to for all questions surrounding the company and their position. If the mentor cannot answer directly (such as questions that are too position-specific), they can point the mentee in the right direction to get the information and resources they need. Mentor and mentee might also meet up periodically to discuss how the mentee is adjusting, career paths and potential goals.
This form of mentorship is formed when an employee moves to a new position, particularly moving to a different department or an upper management position. In this scenario, the employee taking on the new position is the mentee whereas the tenured employee or member of upper management is the mentor. The goals of this type of mentorship program is to:
- Acclimate the employee to their new position
- Improve the learning curve and productivity
- Prevent overwhelm and burnout
- Provide the mentee with guidance
This type of mentorship typically lasts for the first few months of the new position but can be carried on as long as the mentor and mentee deem it to be helpful.
Career Path Construction
These programs are less involved and more temporary involving an employee mapping out their career path (mentee) and a more experienced employee occupying a position the employee is considering (mentor). The primary aim is to:
- Give and gain insights into the position in question.
- Help make decisions regarding the mentee’s career path.
- Assist in goal setting.
- Give advice and provide resources.
How to Start a Mentorship Program
A fruitful mentorship program doesn’t just happen. It takes time, dedication and some trial and error to test and see what works for your company and what doesn’t. As each organization has unique areas of development, determining an effective mentorship program for your business depends on the systems currently in place as well as employee response. Here’s a basic outline to start creating a plan to meet your mentorship goals.
Step 1: Research and Evaluate the Need
First and foremost, determine the gap a mentorship program would aim to fill in your company’s specific circumstances. Poll your employees, have board discussions and look into different types of programs to answer these questions:
- What need will this seek to meet and how great is that need?
- What are the ultimate goals of bringing on a mentorship program?
- Who are your mentor and mentee candidates?
- Who will you want on board to help head this up?
- How will mentors be compensated (how will you make mentorship appealing)?
Answering these questions will give your mentorship program a defined sense of direction, which is foundational to determining the specifics of how this program will be designed to work.
Step 2: Define Policy and Construct Training
With a mentorship program, you will want a policy in place before you roll it out. This sample policy is an excellent place to start. When it comes to training, here are some points you might want to include:
- Mentor Training
- Listening and questioning techniques
- Company programs and resources
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Goal setting
- Fostering mentorship relationships
- Becoming a positive role model
- Mentee Training
- Personal responsibility
- Being motivated and committed to learning and development
- Receiving and applying feedback
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Goal setting
- Fostering a mentorship relationship
Step 3: Trial Run
At this point, you should be ready for a trial run! Be selective when choosing employees to take part in the initial trials. Choose employees you know will provide honest and constructive feedback as well as employees who would genuinely benefit from the mentorship relationship. With the constructive criticism from your trial mentor/mentee, fill any cracks to prepare for the actual roll-out.
Step 4: Roll Out
Your roll out will look different depending on what program you decide to implement. Rolling out your program might include:
- Informational staff meeting
- Mentor sign-ups
- Mentee sign-ups
- Constructing a waiting list
- Scheduling mentorship evaluations
It’s also worth noting that how you lead up to your roll-out can impact how effective your mentorship program will be right out of the gates. Creating hype by doing a countdown which can include activities or polls which spark interest and increase the number or employees willing to participate. Another factor to keep in mind is the “when and where” you choose to announce the new mentorship program. Unveiling the new program as the “big announcement” at a company party or retreat for example is a strategic way to boost involvement. The environment these company events present is naturally disarming, removing any pressure that may cause some to hesitate becoming involved.
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Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.