Employee mentoring programs are an important aspect for companies to foster connections between junior and senior employees. Large, successful brands, such as Time Warner, General Electric, and Deloitte, run these type of programs to keep employees informed, engaged and happy.
However, the success of a mentoring program is not guaranteed. Just putting the word out there and hoping that people will sign up is a recipe for a disaster.
So how you can you improve your employee mentoring program? There are multiple ways to do this, but in this article, I will list the 5 most important aspects of how you can improve your employee mentoring program.
Design your employee mentoring program for success
This starting point is often where a mentoring program succeeds or breaks. Without a proper vision of what the program will bring to the company, the mentors, and the mentees, you won’t get very far.
Successful mentoring programs offer both structure and flexibility. To get you started on improving the structure of your program, think carefully about the following key questions:
- How can the employee mentoring program help the company reach their business goals?
- What is the added value of this program for both mentors and mentees? Many executives, for example, are asked to become a mentor simply for the organizational benefit, which can be highly demotivating. Make sure that each participant gets something out of the program.
- Will enrollment be open for everyone, application-based, or invite only? There is some merit in focusing on high potentials as it may help their internal career path and help in succession management.
- How long will the program run for?
- Who will collect feedback from the participants?
- What will be the focus of the mentorship relationship?
- How often do the mentor and mentee meet? Will it be once a quarter, once a month, or once a week? Or will it be up to their own preference?
- What are the preferred channels of communication between mentors and mentees?
Make sure that everyone is aligned with the established guidelines for the mentoring program. This includes management, mentors, and mentees.
Make careful matches
When introducing the mentoring program, most employees will want to be paired with someone who has the most impressive title, rather than someone who might be a better fit. You could opt for random matching, but this is often a hit or a miss. Rather, you should pair mentors with mentees according to a number of criteria, namely:
- Similarity in interests and hobbies
- Compatible personalities
- Experience and skills that complement the mentee’s career goals
Matching mentors and mentees according to these criteria will go a long way in improving your mentoring program.
Set mentors up for success
Whilst it’s a noble goal to be a mentor, many mentors are not equipped with the skills to be a successful mentor. As successful mentors are an important component of the success of your employee training program, make sure that you’ve set up appropriate training for your mentors. You can think of training skills such as:
- Listening and communication skills
- Constructive feedback skills
- Knowledge of company policies and procedures
- Understanding different coaching and teaching methods
Training mentors on these skills will enable them to be prepared for a successful mentor-mentee relationship. This, in turn, will lead to more satisfaction for all parties involved.
Measure your progress
When your program is underway, it’s important to frequently checkup and measure its performance. Gather feedback from both mentors and mentees to see how they are experiencing the program and if they have any suggestions for future improvements.
Furthermore, it’s important to make sure that your program is actively contributing to the business goals you set in the designing phase. Set up several key metrics that will enable you to track the results of your employee mentoring program. For instance, if you set diversity as a business goal, track to see if the mentor program will allow for a faster career growth for people from minority groups.
Measuring the success of your program should happen through specific HR key performance indicators. Monitor these metrics and be quick to adjust the program, as an unsuccessful program can quickly diminish participants’ enthusiasm for it. This is tied in with the final point.
Spread the success
Once it’s clear that your employee mentoring program is a success, don’t keep it under wraps; spread the good news! As almost no mentoring program has mandatory participation, it’s important that people are enthusiastic about its possibilities. Employees are more likely to join the program once they are aware that their peers are finding great success with it.
To enhance this, convert the people who contributed to the success, such as business leaders, mentors and mentees, into advocates for the mentoring program. Enable them to spread the enthusiasm about the program to others in their circle. They can do this through workshops, one-on-one conversations, and talks to their departments.
Erik van Vulpen is the founder of Analytics in HR (AIHR). He is writer, speaker, and trainer on people analytics. Erik is an instructor for the HR Analytics Academy and has extensive experience in the application of HR analytics.