Implementing a Mentoring Program at Your Office
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By Caroline Whitney

Adding mentoring program at your office is a tried-and-true way to make your employees even more talented. So how do you start a new program?

A mentoring program is a tried-and-true tool that you should consider implementing in your office.  “Why”?  The benefits are numerous.  Among other things, mentoring programs can:

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  • Help train new employees.
  • Build leadership, interpersonal, and development skills for both senior and junior employees.
  • Help employees connect with their coworkers, which allows them to feel more willing to speak their minds and communicate ideas.
  • Contribute to dynamic organisational office cultures.
  • Build employee loyalty and morale (and we all know how important boosting employee morale is!).

It’s a win-win: efficient use of resources the company already has – talented employees, to make your employee base even more talented! Any type of business, big or small, new or old, can make use of one.  This means you!  So how do you start a new mentoring program at your office, or revamp an old one?

     Define Your Mentoring Program’s Objectives

First, it’s important to define the objective of your mentorship program.  What do you want to get out of it?  Would its primary purpose be to teach newer employees skills over time?  Or do you want more cross-departmental collaboration?  Or maybe you would like a more cohesive workplace?  In what ways do you want your employees to grow professionally?

A great way to find out what your office needs is to take an office survey.  Send an anonymous questionnaire around asking what people might want to get out of a mentoring program.  What skills do they feel they need to work on?  What do they admire about other employees?  What are their professional goals, and what do they see as the company’s goals?  What skills do they have that they feel they could teach others? It could give you some great insight into what people could teach each other in a mentoring program.

Pick the Format

Once you’ve figured out what the goals of your mentorship program will be, it’s time to pick the format. When you think of mentoring, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a one-on-one, with a seasoned professional guiding a young, eager-to-learn newbie.  That could work out well for your business.  But you’re not restricted to that typical mentor-mentee relationship structure!

Consider the options:

  • Group mentoring: One mentor, multiple mentees
  • Peer mentoring: A mentor/mentee relationship between people on the same job level.
  • Reverse mentoring: Where a senior employee is a mentee and a junior is a mentor. Useful for teaching senior employees about newer technologies, and imparting other information which younger generations are privy to. These kinds of mentor relationships do more than teach – they build a relationship of openness and “dissolve barriers of status.” Teaching that Baby Boomer how to use Twitter could help your company feel more cohesive!
  • Team mentoring: Multiple mentors working with a single or multiple mentees. Similar to group mentoring, but there are more mentors contributing knowledge.  More brains equal more ideas!
  • Supervisory: The classic, one-on-one mentor/mentee relationship. The guidance could be super structured, meeting once a week or once a month, or it could be relaxed, with the supervisor contributing their guidance whenever they see fit.
  • Or, a combination of the above!

In considering all of these options, it’s important to match the format to the culture of your company.  You work at a cool, casual startup, with limited resources, where no employee is over the age of 26?  You might want to consider a group mentoring program where the batch of new hires who JUST graduated can learn all at once from someone more seasoned.  Peer mentoring is also a great idea in a more casual workplace, where participants can bounce ideas off each other and grow together.  If you work in a traditional corporate environment at an older company, perhaps you should consider classic supervisory mentoring in a structured environment with a set schedule.  Or, you could mix it up and implement some reverse mentoring, bringing your company into the future.  Once you’ve picked the basic structure that fits within your culture, figure out the details: how long will the program be?  How often will participants meet?  Will they work on specific projects together?  Of course, the more structure your program has, the more work goes into the planning of the program.  But fret not; there is a lot of advice out there that can help you with that.

     Emphasize the Program’s Importance

You’ve created a great program, now get people to participate!  Employees may not feel as if they need a mentor or might think they don’t have the time to be one.  Or, the whole prospect might sound dry or awkward to them.  Let people know about the program well before you’re going to implement it, and explain why it’ll be great for all involved.  Tell them about the benefits of mentoring!  Top people at your company should also advocate for the program, and participate.  And assure your employees that the mentoring meetings will be efficient, effective, and fun!

Pair People Up

This is another instance in which an office survey would do some good: pairing people together as mentor and mentee.  Asking participants what they hope to get out of the program, what their goals are, and who they admire at the company could make it easier for you to pair people up.  You might also want to consider asking employees what their hobbies are.  Then, you can pair people who may be compatible and have something else to talk about besides work. There are many strategies you could use for matching mentors and mentees, but just make sure it’s not random.  Put some thought into the generational differences, skill sets, and personalities of your employees to foster an effective working relationship.

     Get Feedback and Evaluate

After your program is up and running, make sure to evaluate how it’s going.  The constant checking in will help you tweak and tailor the program, so it works best for employees.  How do participants like the program, and what are they getting out of it?  What do they think should be improved?  When the program is finished, look back at the goals you set; has there been an improvement at your company in the areas you were hoping to improve?  Have you gotten positive feedback?

It may take some time to work out the kinks and for everything to be smooth sailing with your mentoring program, but there is no doubt that programs like these will benefit your company.  Put the time and effort into designing a program that works for you, then nourish it so it can grow with your company.  Employees will learn from their colleagues, feel closer, and care more about their work.  And employees who care will, in turn, be happier – and do great work for your company.

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