How to Set Up a Mentorship Program for Your Company

Mentorship programs can bring great things to any company. Not only is it a way to give back, but it is also a way to hone potential future executives for your company and field.

“First and foremost, mentoring expresses value to employees. It tells younger employees that their growth, their development, their experiences are valuable and respected in the workplace,” says Ken Rupert of life coaching program Financial Black Belt and author of “The Financial Black Belt Academy’s: Financial Self-Defense Training Guide.”

He adds, “Second, mentoring provides older workers the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with those who will move the company forward. Finally, mentoring helps older workers the opportunity to pass on ‘tribal knowledge’ and helps a multi-generational workforce to collaborate on business problems.”

Before launching a mentorship program, make sure to have a clear mission statement for the program.

“The key ingredient for a good mentoring program rests in the intentionality of the company. Mentoring must take place during business hours and many industries just do not make time for such programs. Companies can also encourage the mentor-mentee relationship to be fostered outside of work hours by supporting and sponsoring team-building opportunities. These should be company sponsored , company paid opportunities that focus on working together as a team to accomplish a common goal,” explains Rupert.

When setting up your program, contact the colleges in your areas. It’s a great way to find young people interested in your industry and looking to get first-hand experience.

“Make sure there is a pipeline of mentors. In my experience, people often put their hand up to be mentored, because the benefits to them are obvious. But senior managers who would be great mentors don’t have enough time – or aren’t allowed to prioritize – to act as mentors. If you don’t have enough people with protected time to do the mentoring, the scheme will fail,” advises Elizabeth Harrin, director of Otobos Consultants, who runs the mentoring program Project Management Rebels.

Set up a plan with guidelines and goals

“Decide how formal you want the scheme to be. Are you going to create mentoring agreements between mentors and mentees? Or are you going to let people self-match? And what are you going to do when a partnership doesn’t work out? A mentoring scheme is not ‘set it and forget it’. You need someone dedicated to keeping the relationships going, dealing with people who want to switch partners, and sourcing enough mentors and mentees to keep the program running. You should be prepared to commit HR time (or time from another source) to maintain the program over at least a year to see how it goes,” Harrin points out.

Mentorship programs can be a win-win for all involved

“The benefits can be substantive. It’s an opportunity for people not yet in a line management role to mentor others and gain those leadership and communication skills. There is knowledge transfer between teams, both up and down the mentoring partnership. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to be in either role, so it helps with employee retention. Employees grow in confidence and skill so it’s a cost-effective way of growing internal talent to take on senior jobs in the future, which reduces hiring costs,” says Harrin.