How To Build a Successful Mentoring Program

Organizations are facing some unique challenges when it comes to talent. The Boomer generation is planning to leave the workforce (or at least transition to part-time or semi-retirement). Companies want to make sure their organizational knowledge and history is passed along to new employees, who will lead the organization forward.

This isn’t a short-term process. As much as we might like the term Vulcan mind meld, that’s not an effective way to pass along knowledge. Not yet at least. So, for now, organizations should pass along knowledge over time, give people the opportunity to process it, use it in the daily operation, and ask questions about it.

The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina just published a mentoring guide. It’s designed to help business leaders build internal mentoring programs. You can download a copy here. In talking with the school, they explained that they like to cover current topics that align with their core values. Mentoring does just that. It incorporates teamwork, leadership, honesty and a lot of trust. It’s a great overview and something you could distribute throughout the organization to gain support for building a mentoring program.

Once you have senior management support, you’ll want to get your hands on some specific resources to help you design the program. One of my go-to resources for design ideas is the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) Infoline series. They have one titled, “Tools for Effective Mentoring Programs” that includes a program outline, matching process suggestions, mentor position descriptions and skills questionnaires.

For more detail, ATD also offers a book, “Creating a Mentoring Program” that includes how to conduct activities such as the launch meeting, celebrations, check-ins and closures. And if your organization isn’t the mentoring program type, check out Randy Emelo’s “Modern Mentoring”, which focuses on building a mentoring culture versus a mentoring program. I really enjoyed the section on the advantages (and challenges) of using gaming techniques in mentoring.

The point here is that mentoring has value and it’s very flexible to your culture and business needs. The UNC guide is a great place to start the conversation. And the ATD resources can help you develop a program that works for your organization.

One last thing to consider is developing the metrics for evaluating the mentoring program. This ties directly to the program goals. Most mentoring programs have three goals: 1) to assist in career development, 2) to increase staff retention and 3) to improve employee engagement. So the metrics should correspond to those goals.

Examples of metrics that can be developed include:

Part of program design should include what metrics will be used to evaluate program effectiveness, what data will be gathered to create the metric, how often will the data be gathered, and what data points will be considered acceptable / unacceptable in evaluating the effectiveness of the program.

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The beauty of mentoring programs is being able to tap into the organizations current talent to develop future talent. Luckily, there are many resources available to help develop programs that can have tremendous workplace value.

Does your organization offer a workplace mentoring program? Share your experience.

Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby

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