Mentoring is an excellent way to help new hires grow, learn, and embrace the organization’s culture. It can give new managers the skills they need. It can provide employees from diverse backgrounds with exposure to company leaders. It can help senior managers hired from the outside to get up to speed quickly.

In short, mentoring can benefit any employee in an organization. Here’s how to encourage mentoring in your organization, build a successful, robust mentoring program, and how mentoring programs can help hires.

An Incredibly Valuable Tool

Mentoring is an inexpensive and valuable tool at management’s disposal to accelerate the development of staff. Smart organizations realize that investing in mentoring helps their staff reach their full potential. This is especially true for organizations who are investing in employees who come from diverse backgrounds. When those employees have ongoing access to senior leaders, leaders gain a deeper understanding of the talent within the organization.

Mentoring programs can help hires by also eliminating issues before they occur. When a new leader is hired from outside the company, a mentor can help the leader to acclimate to the culture quickly and potentially prevent the resignation of a valued individual who may not feel he or she “belongs.” In addition, mentors can supplement the learning experiences of employees who work for managers that are less skilled at developing and coaching people. And a well-designed match between a high-potential employee and a mentor who excels at developing people can sustain the employee’s growth and commitment while awaiting promotion. In the current employment environment, good mentors can reduce the loss of talent to competitors.

What Mentoring Is (and Isn’t)

Many people use the terms “mentoring,” “coaching,” and “training” interchangeably, but they’re different processes and should be treated differently. Training is used to help people develop specific job-related skills, such as how to use a specific machine or piece of software. Coaching helps employees learn the skills they need to overcome specific challenges, such as personality challenges, interpersonal challenges, or special skillsets.

Mentoring programs can help hires by providing a way for a more experienced or senior person to pass on what they’ve learned to a new hire. Much of that involves the unwritten rules of an organization: how the culture operates, how to succeed in that culture, how to connect and network within the organization and the industry. Mentoring is particularly helpful to people and groups who haven’t traditionally been embraced by corporate cultures, such as women and people of color.

Goals of Mentorship

Designing a successful mentoring program begins with a simple step: defining what you want to achieve.

While not every goal can be tied to a specific metric, certain goals—such as increasing the diversity of leadership or reducing turnover and increasing employee loyalty—have measurable metrics that mentoring can support.

Goals that can’t be easily measured include acclimating employees to new roles or helping outside hires fit in and become strong teammates. These situations can’t always be quantified, but they certainly can be perceived as valuable. Mentoring can help new managers become comfortable and help their teams succeed.

In some cases, surveys and evaluations taken before mentoring begins and a few months into the process can measure progress. As mentioned above, measuring goals relative to turnover or diversity, if applicable, can be used to evaluate progress as well. Employee surveys can also measure employee morale and how connected employees feel.

Formal and Informal Mentoring

Informal mentoring often happens within an organization without any structured effort. Adopting a structured program with specific goals allows an organization to reach a greater audience, while demonstrating commitment to employee development. There are several ways to structure an effective mentoring program.

When establishing a mentoring program, one best practice is to make it voluntary. Once the goals have been defined, structured guidelines can be established for program selection, time commitment, confidentiality expectations, sample agendas, and training for both mentor and mentee. Employees will likely be interested in joining if they understand the program goals and the support they will receive.

Once the guidelines have been established, the rest is up to the mentors and mentees to define. It is important to ensure that relationships and discussions between mentors and mentees are confidential. If the relationship isn’t working, for whatever reasons, mentors and mentees should have the ability to walk away without repercussions.

In some instances, participation in a mentoring program may be a required component of professional development. For instance, all new hires may be enrolled in a mentoring program and assigned a mentor. The mentor may be someone with a longer length of service or a different area of expertise who can help the new hire with onboarding. Another best practice is to use mentoring to develop high-potential employees. The exchange of information and experience that happens through the mentoring relationship is invaluable and can accelerate careers. If the program is required, it is important to make the selection criteria transparent. This will ensure that employees perceive the program as fair.

Above all, make sure all participants understand the desired outcomes of the relationship, so they can work together towards success.

A successful mentoring program requires clear objectives and thoughtful decisions to ensure that that it achieves organizational goals. Engaging an outside expert like the Lindenberger Group—two-time recipient of the national Excellence in Mentoring Awards—will help your organization initiate and manage a mentoring program that advances your strategy.

For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.