Three Keys to Mentoring Programs

Creating a mentoring program for your company is a great way to accelerate the growth of key talent.
Mentors have been shown to decrease stress and increase commitment to an organization while helping protégés navigate their professional career journeys. But, it can be very easy to underestimate what goes into an effective mentoring program. I have helped many organizations design mentoring programs to have maximum impact. Below are three keys to getting mentoring programs right.
  1. Know your goals. Be clear about why you want a program. Are you looking to accelerate the growth of high potentials or retain talent through a time when they are vulnerable to leaving? Who is your target audience of protégés and what needs of theirs are you trying to meet? Once you know what problem you are trying to solve, make sure that mentoring is the solution you need. For example, establishing a mentoring program for new hires is often overkill and doesn't make the best use of seasoned mentors. Consider upgrading your on-boarding program instead.
  2. Be selective. Once you know your goals, be selective about giving people mentors. The best mentoring programs are driven by the protégés. You want to find protégés who are eager for mentoring and are willing to put the work in to get the most out of the experience. Look for employees who are actively seeking development or career guidance. Ask prospective protégés to apply to your program through an application that requires thoughtful response. If an employee cannot devote the time to complete an application, she or he may not be willing to put the time into mentoring.
  3. Train your mentors and protégés. Mentoring is about establishing a trusting partnership between a senior and junior focused on the protégé's learning goals. The power difference can sometimes be intimidating for protégés, and many mentors struggle giving guidance without taking over. Provide training to participants to help them get the most out of the experience. Teach your mentors skills to engage with a protégé by creating a safe place and teaching through questions. Prepare your protégés by helping them articulate their goals and establish common expectations for their mentors.
Help your organization create a culture that supports informal mentoring by showing people the way through a formal mentoring process. Take these three keys to heart when considering how to design a program that will achieve your goals and engage your employees.
By Rik Nemanick, Ph.D., The Leadership Effect