by Dr. Susan G. Weinberger
Companies contemplating the implementation of an internal employee mentoring program should consider the benefits. Such an initiative matches selected employees with a colleague serving as their mentor to provide support, encouragement and personal and career growth. The effort is popular for new employees but is also appropriate for veterans wanting to gain long term personal development, advice about their future, networking and good connections.
Formal mentoring programs are long-term. They have minimum requirements including screening and selection of participants, known as the mentor and mentee; training, matching, support, frequency of meetings, and recognition. They are different from coaching programs--where one employee serves as the “coach” and assists another colleague known as the protégé--in order to improve their job performance. Mentoring programs are all about collegial friendship and guidance. For more on the differences between mentoring and coaching, see our first article in this series.
Role of Mentor
Mentors foster a personal and friendship-based relationship, offering non-judgmental, confidential support as a positive role model. They focus on the mentee’s long term personal development. The relationship is neither formally evaluated nor connected to job advancement, but rather mentors play a critical role in offering advocacy and advice. The right mentor may help a mentee during a challenging time, providing much needed support. Mentors create learning, social, community and developmental opportunities for their mentees. They seek resources to assist their mentee when identified and needed.
In a survey conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, 77% of companies reported that mentoring programs are effective in increasing employee retention. When asked to name the single most important component of their success, Fortune 500 CEOs listed having a mentor as their #1 answer.
Implementing an Internal Mentoring Program
Formal mentoring programs follow quality assurance standards. The time and effort to develop such a program are worth the investment. A program begins with long range planning, establishing what will be the program goals and objectives, and what methods will be used to recruit the mentors and ensure that they are suitable for the task at hand.
Not all employees make good mentors. They must be patient, caring, committed and confidential, have an outstanding employment record and truly enjoy assisting another employee to share what they know. Selection of the appropriate mentees who could benefit from such a program and are willing and eager to participate is another important consideration.
Both mentors and mentees are trained on the policies and procedures of the program including dosage of mentoring (how often the matches meet and for how long), location, limitations and other parameters including expected outcomes. Companies will need to consider the need to support the matches to ensure sustainability over the prescribed length of the program. There are even formal steps to bring closure to formal mentoring relationships and build in a process and outcome evaluation. Companies need to ask an important question: How do we know that this program is working?
Designing and Staffing a Mentoring Program
Companies wishing to implement a successful mentoring program that will benefit mentors and mentees must invest staff time to make it work. Below are just some of the questions about the program design that HR and/or others leading the effort will need to consider:
- Is the program open to all employees?
- Who is the right employee to facilitate the program, serving as liaison or coordinator to handle all the mentoring details? Typically but not always depending on numbers of employees, this person is housed in Human Resources.
- Can mentors pursue informal mentoring programs independently in the workplace as well?
- Is participation voluntary for both mentors and mentees?
- How are all employees notified about the program creation?
- What is the role if any of those not participating?
- What application process must potential mentors and mentees complete and do they understand their roles? Is there a Memorandum of Understanding between the two?
- How is confidentiality handled?
- How are mentors and mentees matched?
- Who conducts training and on-going training opportunities?
- How are program participants recognized? Is there a marketing plan?
- What if the match does not work?
- How is the program evaluated? What are anticipated outcomes?
Mentoring Program Outcomes
Companies who create, implement and evaluate an internal corporate mentoring program can expect significant outcomes. Below are some extraordinary benefits for the mentees as well as the company that have been reported.
- Increased skill levels
- Expanded leadership capabilities
- Improved career success
- Increased morale and satisfaction
- Improved productivity and client services oriented environment
- Fostered pride in the organization
- Positive retention and attitude toward the company
- Enhanced self confidence
- Increased individual creativity and idea generation
- Improved image in the community
- Enhanced social responsibility
- Improved organization communication
- Increased mutual loyalty between employee and employer
Dr. Susan G. Weinberger, President of the Mentor Consulting Group in Norwalk, CT USA is an international expert on internal and external business mentoring and coaching programs. Susan has a B.S. degree from Carnegie-Mellon University and her doctorate from the School of Business and Public Management at the University of Bridgeport. She is widely published, and a consultant to numerous corporations, community agencies, schools and four federal agencies. Affectionately known as Dr. Mentor, Susan can be reached at MentorConsultingGroup.com or DrMentor@aol.com