Employee mentoring programs can enable you to get more from your most valuable resource, your employees. Further developing the talent you already have through mentoring could lead to a variety of business benefits, including company growth, increased innovation and higher profits. On the flip side, it also proves to employees that their employer values them and wants to invest in their potential future with the business. In fact, millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not, according to The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey.
Along with improved retention rates, I’ve found that mentoring programs within businesses can increase employee job satisfaction levels and boost productivity. After successfully building and implementing a mentoring program at my company, a tech and digital marketing staffing agency, here’s what I learned about making it work for your business.
What Does A Successful Employee Mentoring Program Look Like?
It’s best to find inspiration from ongoing programs with similar goals at the enterprise level to understand how to develop a successful employee mentoring program. For example, according to an older Fast Company article, Intel’s employee mentoring program is built around the goal of knowledge transfer.
According to Deloitte’s website, the company focuses on building a leadership talent pipeline — as evidenced by its employee mentoring program, entitled the Emerging Leaders Development Program. The mentee is assigned a mentor for at least two years who helps them focus on how to further their career.
At my firm, we’ve recently doubled down on our people-centric culture to improve retention and employee satisfaction levels and drive business growth. A big part of redefining our culture was implementing an employee mentoring program to help build the bridge between our recent trainee graduates and senior leaders. We did this by supporting mentees in reaching their full potential, faster, through targeted one-on-one, peer-to-peer mentoring, coaching and development. With feedback provided directly from the field through various committees and surveys, we clearly defined the requirements of mentors, incentives for mentees and the frequency of mentor-mentee meetings, along with monthly and quarterly group discussions and check-ins on progress.
We’ve seen a lot of success with the program since launching in early 2018. Almost 50% of our sales and recruiting teams became mentees, with 31% of them graduating from the program and 28% of mentors receiving promotions by the end of the year. We also saw improved retention rates that were driven in part by the mentoring program and our focus on an employee-centric culture.
How To Build An Effective Employee Mentoring Program
Now that you know why it’s crucial to implement an effective mentoring program within your business and the results it can produce, here’s how to make sure you do it right.
● Define the purpose of the program. First things first: what is the objective for your mentoring program? This will determine the structure you need to produce the results you’re after. What works for some teams might not work best for others. We developed a program for the sales side of the business initially. When we found success there, we then developed a similar but tailored program to suit the needs of our internally-focused teams, which differ from the support and guidance employees needed on the sales side. Each time, I worked with management to clearly define the purpose of the programs and how we hoped mentees would benefit. From there, you can finalize the requirements for mentors, determine a graduation timeline and establish how mentees can apply.
● Generate participation at all levels. You can’t have a successful employee mentoring program without support and participation from employees at all levels. It’s important to drive support for your program from the top down. Executives and management should be vocal about why they think the program is beneficial and encourage their direct reports, teams and departments to participate as either mentors or mentees. I found the support at the management level goes a long way in driving adoption and interest in the field. If you’re still struggling to generate the participation you need, consider providing incentives to generate interest from potential mentors, like formal recognition within the business, monetary rewards when mentees hit milestones, or career growth opportunities. After all, mentors are taking time from their busy workloads to support mentees, so it’s not a bad idea to reward that effort.
● Be thoughtful with mentoring pairings. A key element of any successful employee mentoring program is the pairing process. Implement a process to ensure this is done thoughtfully and that pairings are best suited to each employee’s skill sets and experience. Incorporate both mentor and mentee interviews with a set team of coordinators to best match them based on their needs. We first sent out surveys to gauge the interest and size of our mentor and mentee groups. From there, we instituted mentor interviews with the employee’s immediate manager, along with all department heads and program decision makers. For mentees, we took a dual approach by having them complete both surveys and initial interviews to find their best match. Take your time with this step, as I found it was the most important for the long-term success of the program.
● Incorporate monthly and quarterly assessments. Last but not least, you should establish clear timelines on a monthly and quarterly basis to evaluate how each pairing is going and the overall effectiveness of the program. These assessments can be in whatever form works best for your business, whether that’s personalized feedback surveys, discussion groups or roundtables. I’ve found that both surveys and roundtables work best for our program’s goals. The worst thing you can do is create an employee mentoring program and then think your work is done. Instead, an effective mentoring program should require regular check-ins, assessments and updates as needed to ensure it remains impactful and aligned with your business goals.