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The Employer’s Guide to Building Effective Mentor Programs

The Employer’s Guide to Building Effective Mentor Programs

Even though casual mentor relationships have existed for a long time, formal mentorship programs are relatively new in the workplace. They seek to offer employees the best chance at succeeding in their role with the hope of increasing retention rates, company culture, and individual career growth

In this guide, we’ll discuss what a mentorship program is, how it differs from other forms of coaching, and how you can establish an effective one in your organization.


What Is a Mentorship Program?

A workplace mentorship program aims to help new employees as they begin their professional journeys. Mentors seek to share with new employees the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to improve their performance and grow in their roles. 

Onboarding and training can, at times, feel overwhelming. Mentors are capable of relieving much of this stress. It is in the organization's best interest to establish a mentorship program as it will allow new employees access to educational avenues that can help them develop and grow their potential. 

These mentorship programs can also provide employees with a positive role model who can help them define, set, and accomplish their professional goals. When employees know that an organization has their best interest in mind and is willing to provide them with resources to succeed, they are less likely to leave that organization. 

Employees who engage with more tenured employees at an early point within an organization may be more likely to feel comfortable and engage with the established culture. Employee engagement can correlate to an overall increase in retention rates. The long-term outlook can include increased retention rates, better-trained employees, and improved productivity.

Mentorship has the potential to make a positive impact on your organization. Still, it is crucial to fully understand what they encompass and how they differ from other forms of employee assistance.


How Does Mentorship Differ From Coaching?

Coaches are similar to mentors in that they both can help employees identify, set, and achieve goals. 

The initial difference lies more in the process than the concept. Coaches work with employees specifically to achieve goals and better themselves professionally whereas mentors typically help new employees navigate the how-tos of the organization. Mentors generally have gone through similar experiences within the company and can help newer employees through that experience. Mentors also provide employees an outlet to address concerns with their experience. 

A significant difference between coaching and mentoring is the timeline involved. Coaches are typically employed with the specific job of helping employees achieve certain goals over a particular length of time. Mentors can last for a long time, even years. Some programs might persist as long as employees are with the company. 

Coaches are typically brought in externally and require licensing or specific qualifications. Mentorship doesn't usually require any qualifications outside of training. This makes it relatively easier for organizations to implement a new mentorship program.


How Can You Create an Effective Mentorship Program?

Mentorship programs should be well-organized, and all expectations should be clear, concise, and informative. The program must be built to support a positive experience for employees and ensure that all involved fully understand the guidelines. 

Here are 5 steps to help you establish a successful program:

  1. Formulate clear goals: There are different reasons an organization might wish to begin a mentorship program. Whether they use it to support the onboarding process, help current employees, or groom employees seeking a managerial position, a clear goal will be the foundation of the decision. Understand where your need lies, what you seek to accomplish, and what areas you wish to target with the program. Once you have determined your overall goal, set objectives to achieve those goals in a manageable way.

  2. Ensure the program is functional: After you have determined your reason for the program, you must ensure the process is operational. Be sure employees understand how they can sign up for the program and what they can expect once it begins. You will need to educate your employees on all of the necessary details they will need before signing up for the program as well. These details can include how long it will last when they will be matched, where and when they can meet with their mentor or mentee, and what to do if they have any program-related concerns.

  3. Determine which employees to include: Once you have ensured that your program is ready for take-off, it is time to determine who you would like to be a part of the program. Some mentor programs may include every new employee that is hired. However, you may choose to establish a more specific mentor program for select employees. In this case, your goals should help you to understand which employees to target. Employees that might be a good fit could include those who are interested in pursuing management positions in the future, are new to the industry, or who express interest in the program. Determined employees, as well as those eager to learn, may also be a good fit for the program. Go back to the purpose of starting the program and determine which employees should be involved. Be sure to gather as much information as possible about each participant so that you can pair them with the best mentor.

  4. Choose a mentor for your participants: You will now need to assign them a mentor. Mentors should be someone well-established with a good track record. Your mentors should have strengths that complement the mentee. By carefully choosing which mentors best fit each mentee, you can increase the chances of success within the program. It may be worthwhile to allow mentors a say in who they choose as their mentee. They may have a sense of which employee they would best match. However, this method may not always be effective, as sometimes mentors may choose someone they are close with already, rather than the employee who might be the best match. Be sure that you have analyzed participants fully to make the best decision.

  5. Establish consistency: Be sure that all mentors receive the proper training before the start of the program. There should be clear expectations and guidance as to what is expected and how the program should function. Provide them with direction as to how they can be the best resource for their mentees and provide them with the best experience. All employees should have equal access to the programs at hand. If they are specific then those specifications and requirements should be clearly laid out. Be sure mentors are offering the same time and energy across the board so that each employee in the program is receiving the same benefits. If that means having a set number of hours each week that mentors must meet with their mentees, all mentors should accommodate this rule for consistency across the program. 


Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with mentor programs and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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