Mentorship is about sharing skills, best practices, knowledge, and more. It’s a wonderful way for employers to help relatively junior employees come into their own professionally, for less.
What is a mentorship program?
First off, it’s important to understand that mentorship is different from professional coaching or training, where the emphasis is on the technical aspects of the job. The goal with mentorship is to provide an employee (the “mentee”) with support and help them grow into their role both professionally and personally by pairing them with a more experienced employee (the “mentor”). This obviously goes beyond learning a specific skill, as with coaching or training.
The benefits of mentorships
Mentorships can have a really positive impact within a company. They:
- Create a sense of teamwork and trust between colleagues
- Foster a sense of belonging and company loyalty
- Are motivating for employees
- Help employees gain skills, knowledge, and abilities, and even adjust their behaviour
- Show that your business has a corporate culture of learning and improvement
- Provide an opportunity to instill professional ethics, and more
Clearly there are plenty of good reasons to set up a mentorship program, but you need to have a solid strategy in place if you want to reap the benefits.
Setting up a mentorship program
The first thing to do is get employees interested in the program. It can be a good idea to talk about the benefits and come up with a program that’s just as relevant for long-time employees as new hires. The last thing you want to do is spring a company-wide, mandatory mentorship program on unsuspecting employees. Not everyone is going to share your enthusiasm right out of the gate. So take the time to get people onboard.
Next, you’ll need to pick a mentorship style. What’s going to work best: structured or casual?
This is different for every organization. Do you want to see results and improvement on specific points or do you prefer to have the mentor/mentee pairs set their own objectives and assess their own outcomes?
There’s also the matter of pairing the right people. This is a critical consideration. Mentors need to have many more years of experience than their mentees and need to be model employees. It’s also a matter of working style and personality. So take the time to study your candidates and find the optimal match.
I tend to think that letting mentees choose their mentors can be a winning strategy. That way the sense of trust is baked right into the relationship.
Finally, setting goals, a timeline, a schedule, a format, and the expected results for your mentorship program is absolutely essential. For it to be effective, you’ll need a plan that defines how it’s going to happen and how you’re going to collect feedback. That’s when you want to ask questions such as: What could the mentee improve? How are you going to help them get there? What benefits/results are we looking for? and so on.
When it comes to career planning and skill development, mentorship programs have a lot to offer. In an industry where good candidates are fewer and farther between and people don’t hesitate to switch jobs for a bigger paycheque, mentorship remains an excellent way to retain and motivate employees. Of course, you need proper planning and good judgement to define and implement the program, but I can assure you the results are well worth the effort. So how would you like to make a mentorship program part of your company’s recipe for success?