The Value of Establishing a Mentoring Program Within Your Organization
Organizations are continuously faced with the challenge of retaining top talent. Establishing a mentoring program is one value-add that can extend the longevity – and loyalty – of employees. A mentoring program ensures a win-win-win: The mentee wins. The mentor wins. The organization wins. As I see it, there is no downside to hosting a mentoring program in your organization…only an upside.
The Mentee Wins
- Learns from the mentor’s experiences
- Values and appreciates the mentor’s insights, guidance and advice
- Receives important feedback about personal style or career skills that may not be shared by a direct supervisor
- Experiences a sense of accountability to a trusted advisor
- Gains an objective “third party” perspective
- Expands critical thinking about self, career and the organization
- Establishes a new relationship with a senior-level manager within the organization, which could lead to potential opportunities
- Shortens the career learning curve
Beyond the bullet points: In my work with mentees, I continue to value the excitement, enthusiasm and fresh ideas that they bring to the organization. Every young person today deserves a chance to shine professionally. A mentoring program could make all the difference in an employee’s attitude towards work. Mentees will forever remember the impact that a mentoring relationship has on their lives.
The Mentor Wins
- Shares subject matter expertise
- Feels a sense of accomplishment and professional validation when chosen to serve as a mentor
- Rekindles a sense of purpose within the organization
- Demands a higher-level thinking
- Uses a new skill
- Serves as a positive role model to new talent
- Learns something new about self from the mentoring experience
- Establishes a new relationship with junior-level talent within the organization
Beyond the bullet points: The Center for Creative Leadership created an informative, at-a-glance look at the benefits of mentoring – for managers as mentors – through a creative infographic (link: https://www.ccl.org/blog/mentoring-matters-for-managers-infographic/) that highlights how mentors can be seen as better performers.
The Organization Wins
- Positions the organization as innovative and forward-thinking
- Symbolizes an investment the organization is making in its talent
- “Rounds out” the cultural diversity of the organization, as talent of all types and backgrounds partner together
- Instills pride in the organization and its talent
- Expands and uses the internal knowledge base of the organization
- Develops and fast tracks identified high potential talent
- Serves as a means of succession planning in the organization
- Cost savings enhances the bottom line:
- Saves the organization dollars by using internal (rather than external) mentors
- Improves retention rate and lowers turnover costs
- Attracts talent to an organization with an internal mentoring program
- Enhances talent productivity
Beyond the bullet points: Some of the most successful mentoring programs within organizations last, on average, one to two years. Within the structured program, mentors and mentees engage in one-on-one sessions, shadowing experiences, training programs, and assignments that offer value to the organization and to the individuals.
How to Create a Winning Mentoring Program for the Organization
- Ask “Why?” Why is your organization developing a mentoring program? What is the rationale behind it? Don’t do it just because other organizations are doing it. Do it for the right reason that matters to your organization and its people.
- Learn from other mentoring programs. Within your professional community, seek out organizations and individuals who have initiated successful mentoring programs. Also, a quick internet search can lead you to other local, national or global organizations that have launched and maintained successful mentoring programs. Key search words like “mentoring best practices,” “American organizations with successful mentoring programs,” “best international mentoring programs,” “creating a mentoring program for an organization” can provide great insights into what has and hasn’t worked in other organizations. Learn from the best and shorten your learning curve. Case in point: Cisco Services successfully launched a reverse mentoring program (link: https://blogs.cisco.com/diversity/the-results-how-reverse-mentoring-can-enhance-diversity-and-inclusion) where junior employees mentored senior employees.
- Decide who’s in charge. Some organizations hire a person specifically to design, organize and run a mentoring program. Other organizations add that task to an individual’s existing job description. Decide what is right for your organization. Criteria for selecting the right mentoring program leader could include: A person who has benefited from a mentoring relationship (as mentor and mentee), has credibility within the organization, is a proven talent, a positive role model, a bona fide champion of mentoring, a person of integrity, and someone who will do an exceptionally fine job to keep it running and aligned to the organization’s vision, mission and values.
- Start with the end in mind. What outcome is desired – for the organization, the mentor and the mentee? Build the program with that outcome in mind.
- Decide on the application process. Is the mentoring program open to all employees? Must applicants be recommended by people in the organization? Is there a limit to the number of applicants each year? How will the mentees be selected?
- Look at the cost-benefit ratio. How much would a mentoring program cost the organization? What is the value? The benefits of an internally run, well-designed mentoring program will far outweigh any cash investment.
- Consider the big picture. How does a mentoring program support your organization’s vision, mission and values?
- Manage expectations. Closely aligned with outcome, managing expectations of a mentoring program are critical to address on the front end. Openly address what the program means to the mentees, the mentors and the organization rather than letting assumptions drive the process. Some people may assume that completing a mentoring program guarantees a promotion or certain perks. That may not be the case.
- Collaborate. A mentoring program requires employee buy-in. Getting more people involved in sharing ideas as the program is being developed ensures that the program will be well received when it is launched. Reach across silos, and maneuver up, down and around the organization to design a comprehensive program.
- Decide what role coaching and training will play. Many mentoring program leaders cite that adding structured training or coaching adds to the program’s success. How will coaches and trainers be used in the program?
- Measure results. Determine how progress/improvement/positive change is measured. What criteria are being used?
- Tweak when needed. Remain open to making needed changes throughout the mentoring program, especially when launching a new program. Seek feedback from mentees and mentors so the program remains vital and viable.
When an organization values mentoring, employees feel valued, engaged and empowered. They appreciate that you have made an investment in them. That investment will continue to benefit the mentees, the mentors and the organization in the years to come.