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Recently there has been much discussion around mentoring programs as one key component to developing high potentials. Yet, my belief is that every employee deserves a mentor in the organization because mentor programs provide a support system and a connection to the organization that drives employee engagement. And, when employee engagement increases, retention and productivity rises.

Mentoring programs impacted employee retention rates in 77% of the companies having implemented them according to Leigh Branhan author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late. So why limit a mentor program to just high potentials in your organization? I think that you shouldn't. Every employee should have the opportunity to benefit from a mentor if they desire one.

Developing a Mentoring Program

So if you believe in mentor programs and the benefits your organization can reap from one, what steps do you need to take next to develop and launch a mentoring program?

  1. Determine the business goals of the mentor program. Like any program and project, you need to have a clearly defined mission for the program as well as specific measurable goals and outcomes. Identify the key metrics you will track during the program. Make sure that the goals for your mentoring program link back to the mission and values of your organization. Important: The C-Suite needs to be part of this process!

  2. Identify a small group to pilot the program with, such as new hires or high potentials. A pilot program will help you work through unexpected issues and increase the probability of a sustainable program in the long run. If too many people are taken on a bumpy road, there will be fewer in the future to join the ride.

  3. Identify and train mentors. Just because someone volunteers to be a mentor doesn't mean they have the right skills, techniques, and knowledge to be an effective mentor. A mentor needs to effectively question and listen and be open to new ideas, opinions and perspectives. They also need to have a deep understanding of the organization and some history with your company.

  4. Carefully match mentors and mentees, which will require a system to track the pool of mentors in your organization when it comes time to match mentors and mentees.

  5. Provide an introduction of the mentor program to employees in the pilot group. You will need to outline the program's goals and objectives, the benefits to employees entering the program, and the commitment required of them for it to be a success.

  6. Track results of the key metrics you identified in step 1. Get feedback from mentors and mentees throughout the process and make necessary adjustments. Feedback should be early and often. Your questions should identify potential problems in the relationship between mentee and mentor. Can the problem be solved making process adjustments or is it a personality mismatch?

  7. Communicate success by sharing personal stories as part of your employee communications. One effective technique is a video diary, which provides clips through a portion, such as 6 months, of the mentoring process. It is one way to reinforce the benefits of the program, recognize the mentor and the mentee for their accomplishments. And in turn increase participation of the program.

Mentor programs have been proven to be a valuable component to developing and retaining employees. Make sure you take the necessary steps to successfully launch your program.


Larry Hart

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