Strong mentorships leave a lasting imprint on the careers of many young professionals. Lessons learned can greatly influence performance, career paths, and accomplishments. We’ve all seen unsuccessful mentorship programs...To build a successful employee mentorship program, companies need to first understand why they should consider one.
Why should you consider building an employee mentorship program?
In recent years, millennials have comprised most of the workforce. In addition to being a generation known for feeling entitled and being difficult to please, millennials are also notorious for job hopping. A recent Gallup report on the millennial generation says that “21% of millennials say they've changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same.” So how can an organization begin the process of attracting and retaining top talent especially in this millennial era?
To do this, companies will need to rebrand themselves to be “destination” organizations. A destination organization is a company, where people can view themselves as long-term employees due to a culture that caters to their wants and needs. To truly attract and keep the best employees, organizations need to focus on creating a culture that shows employees that they are valued. A mentorship program is a strategy can do exactly this.
What type of mentorship program is best?
Think about whether your program should be formal or informal. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Formal programs offer stability and actionable results but can result in pressured interactions between participants. Informal programs permit mentors and mentees to pursue mentoring on their own terms but lack the structure to be as productive.
There are numerous types of mentorship programs that fit both styles. Below is a list of the types of mentorship programs that you could offer employees:
The oldest type of mentoring, where mentors and mentees are matched and entered into a short or long-term mentoring agreement. Under this arrangement, both individuals work together without a detailed learning plan.
An expert leads several discussions about a specific subject or issue with a group or team, such as a skill training seminar.
Consists of an expert entering an organization to advise on the project. Similar to a consultant, they oversee a project and advise employees before the project starts and/or as the project progresses.
Lower-level employees offer new ideas to higher-level employees. Example: the executive team at a company is having trouble getting employees out to social events, so they advise lower-level employees (the majority) on how to increase participation rates. We cover this topic in a recent blog post: 4 ways to increase employee participation at company socials.
A type that models a speed-dating environment. If you were to choose this type of mentoring, you’d want to choose specific topics and/or objectives beforehand to make the small time employees have with each mentor worth it.
How do I build a mentorship program?
While mentorship programs might sound simple to create, they really aren’t. A large number of mentorship programs fail due to poor program structure and execution. At Humi, we discovered 6 strategies for developing a viable mentorship program:
1. Adhere to company goals
Don’t just decide to create a mentorship program because it sounds like a good idea. Instead, make sure that the program is aligned with company goals, otherwise, you’re likely to not stick to the program. For example, if this year one of your company goals is to increase your sales three-fold, it would be wise to create a mentorship program that supports this goal. You could have your sales and marketing team leaders mentored by professionals who have experience in doing something similar and who could guide them.
2. Determine why quality employees left your organization
Try talking to former employees to gain some insight as to why they decided to exit your organization. Whether it may be due to low salary, poor culture, or boredom, all of it is constructive criticism that you can use to create a strong mentorship program that combats the above organizational weaknesses. The best mentorship programs offer challenges and plenty of opportunities for career growth, all of which help retain quality employees. For example, if a good employee left due to a lack of variety in work tasks, try creating a mentorship program that allows an employee the opportunity to job shadow other departments within the organization. This would ensure that the employee is constantly being challenged, while continuously learning new skills that can be a value-add to your organization.
3. Incentivize your employees to mentor
It can be challenging and tedious for higher level employees to take on the responsibility of mentoring. With an already busy work-day combined with personal responsibilities, the added obligation of mentoring isn’t on everyone’s bucket list. This is why many companies choose to create incentives to mentor by offering prospective mentors monthly honorariums or a variety of company perks, such as stock options, gift cards, or tickets to major sporting events.
4. Evaluate results
Like anything, it is imperative that companies conduct both quantitative and qualitative analyses to evaluate the program’s performance. Consider conducting surveys to evaluate how mentorship programs are helping to retain employees, boost morale, and increase productivity. Also, have one-on-one meetings with your mentees to gather feedback and to determine areas for improvement. For example, if your mentee is expressing concerns about the lack of work-life balance within the program, try lessening the workload or allowing the mentee to work remotely a few days per week. This might actually lead to an increase in work productivity and employee morale.
5. Make sure you are supported by the top
A team is only good as its leader. No matter the type of program, policy or procedure you develop, it will only be sustainable if it is supported by organizational leaders. So make sure that you are backed by top management before seeking to develop a mentorship program. Many mentorship programs are short-lived because oftentimes top management was not included in the program formation or was not aware of its benefits.
6. Involve your employees
Ask your employees what they are looking for in a mentor. As they get to know potential mentors, ask for honest opinions whether they get along with the prospective mentor and if they find connecting with them useful. You want to make sure that your employees connect with the individual and are gaining from the experience, otherwise, it’s a waste of time on all fronts.