Updated: Jun 22
Mentoring is a general term that is used to describe any relationship in which one person (a mentor) provides expertise and guidance to a less experienced individual (a "mentee" or protege).
Having a mentor can be an excellent medium for employees to advance their careers and generally serve as a motivator to improve in all aspects of the workplace.
This article provides some tips on what to consider when implementing a mentoring program within your organization.
There needs to be consensus on defining the primary objectives of the mentoring program and what the organization is hoping to achieve for both the employee and the organization. Having clarity in what you want to accomplish will be helpful in designing a successful program.
Ensure that the objectives are measurable and determine what measurements you want to use for each objective.
Get buy-in from the mentee/mentor
No one wants to be talked into going through a mentorship program if his or her heart isn't in it. Once both the mentor and mentee are given the appropriate information and understand the commitment required, give them some time to decide whether they want to participate in the program.
Decide on how frequently the mentor meetings should occur, the duration of each meeting and whether the mentor program will run for weeks, months, or years. This, of course, will depend on the availability of the people involved and the objectives set. The meetings should take place frequently enough for momentum to build around the mentoring program.
Prior to meetings, think about the content and the time allotted to each topic. A well thought-out agenda will be helpful in maximizing the benefits of the program.
Both the mentor and mentee should commit to meeting regularly and hold each other accountable to meet as scheduled.
Depending on factors such as the physical location of the parties involved, a decision needs to be made about whether the meetings should be in person, by phone, or via video (e.g., skype).
Consideration should be given to keeping an employee's mentorship confidential from other employees, especially if it's to address a weakness on the part of the mentee.
Letting employees know of the existence of a mentorship program within the organization, however, can help keep employees more engaged with their employer.
Selecting the Mentor
Choosing the right mentor is probably the most important decision you need to make.
An inside mentor will better understand the dynamics of the organization while at the same time help keep costs down.
A benefit of having an external mentor is that the employee may feel more comfortable sharing negative situations. The mentorship program will generally be more effective when the employee can be as honest as possible without fear of repercussions.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be better if the mentor doesn't have a direct stake in the mentee's work. In this situation, the mentor could be one or two levels above the mentee's boss or from another division/location within the organization.
It's important that the mentor has succeeded in the mentee's field or in another similar area so that the mentee has respect for the mentor right from the start.
A mentor also has to be someone who will be honest with their mentee.
Where to Find Mentors?
A mentor can be anyone peer, boss or a contact, either formal or informal. Consider who might be a good mentor or ask for referrals for mentors from both your internal and external contacts.
Unlike a coach, who is someone skilled at asking questions to get someone to uncover their inner self, a mentor provides expert advice based on their experience and is typically there to do more of the talking.
Be Aware of Personalities
The personalities of both the mentor and mentee need to be matched properly. For example, a quiet mentee may not respond well to an overbearing mentor, and similarly, a strong-willed mentee may lose respect for an introverted mentor quite quickly.
Who Should be the Mentee?
Decide on who should be offered a mentorship program - new employees or those who have been with the organization for a long time, or both. Should it be for a certain level of employee? Should it be when someone gets promoted to a new position? Should it be offered for all employees or just to those specifically in need of assistance? These are all questions that need to be considered when setting up a mentoring program within your organization. Once you know what the objectives are, you should be able to answer these questions.
If you're using a mentor external to your organization, there may be a cost involved, so be sure to budget accordingly. In addition, you should consider paying internal mentors an additional allowance, separate from their regular wages, for their time as this will encourage them to spend more time preparing for, and making sure, the mentee benefits as much as possible.
Support for the mentoring program in your organization should also happen at the senior management level so that employees understand the importance of the initiative.
Is there a downside of having a mentoring program? For example, how will employees feel if their peers get picked to go through a program and they don't? What other potential negatives might there be to your employees, division or organization? You should consider these factors when setting up a program.
Qualifications of the Mentor
Assess the qualifications of the mentor prior to engaging them, particularly if it's someone outside of your organization. What is their track record? Have they done mentoring at other companies? Ask for and check references.
Being able to measure the results during and at the end of the program is important. Was the program successful? Did it meet the initial objectives? Should it continue to run? Does it need to be changed in any way? What will be the trigger to know when it should end? The measurements should be reported back to the mentee's manager and to senior management so that any follow-up can be arranged.
There are many pros and cons to having an employee mentorship program. Think of both angles prior to committing to program. Have a good plan in place and assign the appropriate mentor to ensure the program is as successful as possible.