The Best Way to Structure a Mentoring Program

May 28, 2021
Lucy Hudson

Mentoring is an excellent way to support employee career development, from new joiners through to top leaders. It’s also a beneficial way of  supporting employee mental health during such difficult times, providing people with someone to talk to on a personal level if need be.

Any businesses interested in introducing a mentoring program would definitely benefit from doing so. To pull it off effectively though, you’ll want to think carefully about how you structure the program. Here are some tips to help: 

1. Don’t Restrict The Format

When people think about mentoring, they often view it as a one-to-one experience. While this is generally the most popular route and it has its benefits, there are a number of circumstances where group or peer mentoring may be more effective.

Be sure to research the different types and uses of mentoring when designing your program and don't be afraid to use multiple methods to reach your objective. People learn in different ways, and depending on the subject matter, it's good to allow your employees to teach and learn in the ways that benefit them most. This also might mean communicating through a video call rather than face-to-face, or conducting sessions in a group setting.

It’s all about including those you're creating the program for in the design process, and taking their feedback on board to ensure everybody gets what they need out from the experience.

2. Make The Mentoring Topical

It’s tough to be an authority on everything in the business. Even someone that’s been around for years may not know every piece of information that needs to be passed on.

That’s why it’s worth having mentoring be topical. This way, no single person has to play the part of an all-knowing expert. They focus on the area(s) they have the most knowledge and experience in, then leave the stuff they’re less familiar with to someone else.

By establishing this beforehand, mentees can be matched with someone who has the knowledge they are after.

3. Mentor The Mentors

Not everyone who becomes a mentor actually knows what’s required to carry out the process effectively. They may have a good idea of what they need to do, but they won’t necessarily know or remember everything.

When structuring the mentoring program, it’s good to have regular refresher courses to ensure this lack of knowledge doesn’t hurt the program. This doesn’t mean you need to watch over everyone and speak with them every week. You can probably keep it to just a few brief meetings each year.

However often you do it, though, it’s essential to have something like this structured in. After all, processes change all the time, so the best way to mentor someone may be different in two years from how it is now. Plus, these meetings give people a chance to ask questions or bring up unexpected developments that others can learn from.

4. Acknowledge The Mentors

For some mentors, helping others adjust and develop is the only reward that matters. As long as they’ve done a good job, they don’t need anything else.

However, not everyone functions this way. Plus, if someone puts in a lot of effort to mentor another employee, their hard work deserves some recognition. That’s why it’s worth acknowledging mentors where possible and factor this into the structure of your mentoring program.

You can achieve this in many ways, from praising them in a team meeting, to recognizing their achievements in a one-to-one setting. It might be worth advertising their accomplishments in a more public way, such as addressing them in a newsletter. After all, their great work will positively reflect on the business and encourage more people to get involved with the program.

Another way to acknowledge the mentors while also creating community around the program, is to host events. These can be timed with the launch, mid-way point, and conclusion of the mentoring program, allowing the chance to spotlight some mentors and mentees, celebrate successes and share learnings.

5. De-centralize The Matching Process

Matching a mentor with a mentee can be challenging. Some businesses use surveys that identify who would make a great pair, others use mentoring software. However, a strong match on paper doesn’t necessarily mean that both parties will have a connection.

For that reason, it’s worth putting more power into the hands of mentors and mentees. Create lists for both sides that show the attributes and needs/experience relevant to this relationship. Those involved can then decide who they want to work with, and if the mentor and mentee are happy with the pairing, they can take things further. Guider operates on a mentee-led basis because mentees are proven to be more invested in the relationship if they have had a choice in their mentor.

It’s also worth providing a window period where people can change who they’re with. Sometimes the chemistry won’t be there between a pair, but this doesn’t become obvious until the first few meeting. Nurturing the mentor/mentee relationship is essential to the program’s success, so if there are issues, both parties are better off parting ways. That way, they can each find someone they connect with so that everyone gets what they need.

Mentoring programs are a definite plus for any business. For them to work, though, they need to have a good structure. Hopefully, the suggestions here will help you make that possible.

For a more detailed guide to building an impactful mentoring program, download our e-book: 

Guest Author: Lucy Hudson

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