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How to Start a Mentorship Program

Managers often ask job candidates what they see themselves doing in five years. But, if you’re not asking yourself, “how is our organization going to help these people get there?” you’re not doing your part in growing your employees' skills. Good candidates want to progress and improve in their jobs, so you need to make a mentorship program part of your normal company operations.

How do you start a mentorship program? The temptation is to assign mentors and mentees and walk away. Finished. The mentorship program is started. But that’s an ineffective way. It will only work if the mentors make it work, and senior people are busy and may resent you roping them into a mentorship program.

Instead, use these ideas to increase the probability that you develop a positive, contributing mentorship program.

Define Mentorship for Your Employees

You can’t ask people to participate in a program that they don’t understand. What happens when an employee is a mentor? What is expected of the mentees, the employees who work with a mentor? What are the goals of the mentorship program?

The answers to these questions depend on the nature of your business and the people involved. You may want your mentorship program to prepare employees for specific jobs in the future. In this case, you will want an established program that defines what you want people to learn and how the mentors need to interact.

You may want a program where the mentors directly help employees to achieve their own goals, whether that takes them up the ladder in the company or out the door. You may think that the latter program is a waste of time because you aren’t preparing employees for your business needs, but in fact, you may find it is useful.

Your employees will know that you support and respect them. This will make them happier and more satisfied with their current jobs. Additionally, they will see that it’s okay, to be honest. As a result, if their talents and skills start going in a different direction, you will know about it and perhaps retain employees you would have otherwise lost.

Choose Your Mentors

While it’s tempting to say, “Everyone who has the job title of Director or above is now a mentor,” that’s not the best route. First of all, not everyone wants to become a mentor and forcing a senior manager to mentor is counter-effective and unfair to the mentee. No one likes to have to work with and listen to a senior manager who resents an assigned mentorship.

Instead, you want to encourage volunteers, and you may not want to limit the mentorship program to high-level people.


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