Best Practices for Designing an Employee Mentorship Program

  • Author: Melanie Haniph

Mentorship is a powerful tool for helping employees overcome work challenges and meet their career goals. But making employee mentorship a reality takes more than matching employees with company leaders and hoping they gel. You also need a robust employee mentorship program that helps everyone involved get maximum value from the mentorship relationship.

7 Best Practices For Designing an Effective Employee Mentorship Program

As discussed in an earlier blog post, mentorship delivers several benefits to employees and employers. Most notably, it contributes to higher job satisfaction and engagement, more support for women and minorities, and higher employee retention.

Some mentorship relationships form naturally and progress informally. But to ensure more employees have access to the benefits of mentorship, it often takes a more formalized approach. In fact, a recent study found that about 56 percent of organizations have a formal mentorship program.

By creating a structured framework for mentorship, you can help employees develop meaningful connections that help them grow. To get started, incorporate these seven best practices into the development of your company’s mentorship program:

1. Determine the goals of your mentorship program

Before you assemble the nuts and bolts of your mentorship program, you should determine what you want the program to achieve. That way, when you evaluate your program’s future success, you’ll be able to assess how well it meets its objective.

Common mentorship program objectives include the following:  

  • Boost the development of early-career hires
  • Provide additional support to women and underrepresented minorities
  • Provide leadership experiences for those who will serve as mentors

2. Establish guidelines for participation and the matching process

Depending on the size and structure of your workforce, you may need to establish criteria for who can act as mentors. For example, perhaps managers at a specific level are eligible to become mentors, while all other employees will be mentees. 

You’ll also need to establish a process for matching mentors with mentees, including how you will honor employee match requests. If you have a smaller workforce, you can make matches manually, but there are also mentor-matching software platforms available for larger teams. Some of the factors to consider when making matches include: 

  • Mentee stated objectives for a mentoring relationship
  • Work performance
  • Job function
  • Logistical issues, such as location and time zone differences

3. Get senior management support

Of course, no worthwhile employee initiative can succeed without management support. Make sure there is a senior leader who can champion your mentorship program and get support for the proper resources and budget. This person may also be the program manager who is accountable for the overall success of the program, or it could be another person. 

4. Provide guidance and training to program participants

Employees can have different ideas about what it means to be a mentor or a mentee. Therefore, make sure you define what it means in your organization. To help employees understand mentorship and how to make the most of their mentorship relationship, you can provide training and make program resources easy to find on your company intranet.

5. Publicize your program

Once your program is up and running, make sure employees know about it. Discuss your program during employee onboarding sessions and ask managers to remind employees about it in staff meetings and one-on-ones. You can also highlight mentorship program successes on your intranet and employer branding communications.

6. Measure your progress

Understand the impact of your mentorship program by tracking the number of participants over time as well as the career growth of mentees. Gathering feedback from mentors and mentees can also help you identify any areas with room for improvement.

Over time, as mentors and mentees leave the company or change roles, some mentorship relationships will end. Moreover, mentors or mentees may periodically request a new partner. These changes will provide more opportunities to gather feedback and strengthen your process for assigning (and sometimes, reassigning) new mentorship partners.

7. Consider some program enhancements

After a few cycles of matching employees with mentors, you may choose to expand your program beyond traditional matches. For example, you could try reverse mentorship, where leaders and more experienced employees learn from younger generations. Another option to explore is peer-to-peer mentorship.

Given its many benefits, creating an effective employee mentorship program is a great way to improve the employee experience. By building a program based on thoughtful and repeatable processes, you can help employees grow through meaningful mentorship connections.

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