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How to Introduce a Mentorship Program to Your Organization

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Erin Cushing
on September 28, 2016

We’ve discussed before how important mentorship opportunities are for informal, continuous learning in your organization – and how useful a tool it is for leadership development, succession planning, and employee retention. However, if one doesn’t already exist in your organization, it can be daunting to try to build a mentorship program from scratch. Here’s how we would do it:

  1. Organize the Program

    First, establish who will own the mentorship program administration and measurement. For most organizations, this will be someone from your Learning or Training Department, or someone from HR. Next, you’ll want to shape what the actual program will look like. How long will the formal mentorship portions last? How will you decide which employees are eligible to participate? What does a successful mentorship relationship look like? How are you defining success? These are all questions you’ll need to answer before you can launch your program. Using a next-generation learning management system to collect employee data and connect mentors to mentees can help make some of these decisions easier.
  2. Establish Mentor and Mentee Requirements
    Once you have the shape of the program designed, you’ll need to concentrate on what a good mentor and a good mentee will act like within the program – and lay out a set of expectations for each role. While mentee requirements to participate can hinge on factors like performance data and manager recommendations, it can be a good idea to lay down more stringent rules for mentor participation. For example, it can be smart to make the rule that the mentor must make initial contact with the mentee to kick off the relationship, as it can better set the tone for the mentor/mentee relationship. Outlining which activities you expect mentorship pairs to complete, how often they are expected to communicate, and other sample requirements, make it easy for participants to understand what is expected of them and what they can expect to gain from their experiences with the program. Additionally, it helps you better measure the effectiveness of the program and the engagement of the participants with it. 
  3. Focus on How to Match Mentors to Mentees
    There are multiple ways you can pair mentors with mentees. Should it be by business unit or area of professional interest? Should it be cross-functional, in order to create better interdisciplinary relationships and skills win business leaders? Should participants be in the same office or geographic locations? With social technologies, you are no longer constrained by geographic limitations – taking advantage of global and remote workers can help expose mentees to more diverse mentor relationships.
  4. Communicate Early & Often About the Program
    You need to attract enough mentors and mentees to the program to make it successful. The good news: most employees are willing and eager to participate in mentorship programs, particularly in their workplaces. The bad news: when organizations cannot effectively communicate about their programs, employees are more likely to assume that they do not exist. Make sure that you are taking advantage of your communication channels and clearly advertising the program itself, as well as the timelines and requirements for participation. I also wouldn’t hurt to communicate the expected benefits of participation as well.

Why should formal mentorship be a part of your continuous learning program? Learn more here.

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