Why and how to set up a mentoring programme

Why and how to set up a mentoring programme

Mentoring is an effective way to help employees develop their skills and increase their desire to keep growing within the company. It’s becoming an increasingly popular tool within the business world; 71% of all Fortune 500 companies now offer a mentoring programme to their employees and 75% of private executives credit their mentor with helping them reach their current position.  But why is it so popular and effective and how would you go about setting up a programme?

The benefits of mentoring

Creates high performing employees
When employees are mentored they quickly get to grips with the culture and aims of a company and better understand the unique intricacies of their department. Along with the additional professional skills they develop, this helps develop them into outperforming employees. Sun Microsystems, an American computer company, decided to look into this. Their analysis used data from over 1,000 employees over a five-year-period and found: “mentoring has a positive impact on mentors and mentees, producing employees that are more highly valued by the business.”

Unique knowledge transfer
It’s commonly cited that 80% of corporate learning is informal; it takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts and managers. Mentoring is the perfect way to facilitate this as it naturally cultivates an atmosphere of informal learning. It allows mentees to learn in a way that formal training programmes and manuals can’t; it allows them to learn quicker and align their new skills with the businesses strategy.

Creates engaged and happy employees
Having the chance to learn and develop is a top driver of employee engagement; according to some studies it trumps leadership, culture and pay. Mentoring programmes offer both participants the ability to learn and develop professionally and makes them feel valued. By working closely with a mentee, a mentor will be able to ascertain what they want to learn and how they want to develop within the company. Their mentorship can then centre on these goals, making both mentee and mentor feel more engaged with the company.

Attract and retain employees
Mentored employees are much more likely to stay with the business compared with talented staff who aren’t mentored. The Sun Microsystems study found that in addition to the other benefits, retention rates were much higher amongst the mentored group; both mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) retention rates were much higher than employees who weren’t in the programme (49%).

A recent survey found that millennials intending to stay with their company for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). And while the CIPD says that mentoring can have a significant impact on recruitment and retention in general, it cites that the loss of graduates in that first crucial (and expensive!) year was cut by two thirds if the company introduced mentoring. Clearly businesses who fail to develop eager young employees will struggle to retain them.

Reverse mentoring
Mentoring is usually considered most beneficial for younger employees, but it can be a worthwhile strategy for all ages. Reverse mentoring is the idea that younger employees have skills which would benefit typically older executives e.g. best practices on social media. Giving younger employees the chance to mentor also broadens their skillsets and makes them feels valued and invested, because they are making a significant contribution to the improvement of the business.

Steps to consider in setting up a mentoring programme:

 Who are the target mentees: Consider the needs of the business and who is most likely to benefit from being mentored.
Who will mentor: Are there highly skilled people within the business who would be keen to mentor? If so, speak with them to see if they feel they need any training prior to taking on a mentee.
Find a manager: You will need a person to act as the overall manager for this project. It may well be suited to someone from the HR department, but whoever they are they should be genuinely interested in mentoring and invested in the benefits of the programme. The project manager can work on matching pairs and working with them to make sure the mentoring programme is proving worthwhile.
Devise a process: The project manager, along with other senior staff members, should determine the programmes goals to make sure they are in alignment with the business. This will include everything from choosing the right mentoring model to agreeing on frequency of meetings. Once this has been devised it should be put into a guide so the mentee and mentor have a framework to work within.
Pair up: How will you match mentee with mentor? The project manager is best placed to match people together. They may use a combination of strategies to achieve this such as individual interviews as well as taking into account more practical reasons, such as location.
Pilot programme: It’s no small feat setting up a mentor programme, so you might want to consider launching a pilot programme first with just a few participants. This will allow you to work through any initial knots and refine the process.

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Mentoring is one way a company can help their employees develop and feel professionally fulfilled. By improving employee skillsets as well as retention levels, mentoring can also help businesses achieve their objectives. Which positives of mentoring benefit your business the most? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn using #mentoringrocks!

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.