The purpose of a mentorship program is to match up a manager or other experienced employee with someone new to the company or position. The mentor takes a mentee, or protégé, under her wing and helps groom his professional career. A mentor program can be formal, as in the case of assigning a mentor to a protégé and following specific guidelines for the program, or it can be informal, such as to encourage people to volunteer their services or seek out a mentor and meet on their own terms. A successful mentoring program will not only help retain employees, it will assist your training efforts and help boost employee morale.
A mentorship program will be successful only if both parties want to participate. This is most true for the mentor because she will be doing most of the work. A person with an overloaded calendar who isn't too keen on mentoring somebody will resent the program. This is why it is not a good idea to require mentors to participate. However, if you consider a mentorship program part of your training efforts, it is reasonable to require mentees to take part.
A successful mentor is someone who takes pride in teaching others and has a sincere desire to see a coworker succeed. She is patient of amateur questions and is not judgmental. Her listening, communication, and coaching skills are excellent, and she is able to multitask. Murphy's Law dictates that the times her protégé needs her most will be when she is juggling a few of her own deadlines.
What can cause a mentorship program to fail?
It may fail if it is viewed as a “hand-holding” program, isn't supported by upper management, or if the two people paired up are not a good match. The unwillingness by either party to devote enough time to the program is another obstacle, as is a consensus in the workplace that people chosen to participate are receiving preferential treatment.
The ideal mentee is someone who looks up to people in management or seniority and will respect that person's guidance. She is able to accept constructive feedback well and wants to learn everything she can about her new position and the company she works for. Her time spent with her mentor will be put to good use, as she will implement what she learns into her normal workday.
Formal Mentoring Program
To set up a formal mentoring program, consider the following:
How will mentors and mentees be nominated or selected?
Will there be specific criteria required for participation?
How many hours per week will be put aside for mentorship purposes?
Will mentors receive an incentive for their work?
How will the success of the program be measured?
Will there be a budget for mentoring expenses?
Who will oversee the program?
How long will the program last?
What are the goals of the mentoring program?
To get started, try a test run. Compose a plan in writing and try it out with two people first. Ask them to document what works and what doesn't throughout the program. Troubleshoot any obstacles and make necessary changes, then try again with another pair. The first run may be just what you are looking for or just need a quick fix.