How to Start a Mentoring Program

Gone are the days of medieval apprenticeships when young men would join a master craftsman to train in the art of bread-making or cobbling. In our modern age, the practice of apprenticing has taken a new form: mentoring.

A mentoring program can be an excellent way for organizations to retain top talent to lead the company in the future. It can also lead to increased productivity, less stress, and higher levels of employee satisfaction.

Here’s how to get your mentoring program started:


Define the Purpose

The first step to any successful mentoring program is to clearly define the objective of the program. Maybe you want to groom your top talent for future leadership. Maybe you want to teach new skills. Whatever the purpose of your mentoring program, make sure it’s defined before you do anything else.

To help you determine the purpose of your mentoring program, meet with the leaders of your organization’s different departments. You’ll want everyone’s input. You’ll also need your company’s leaders to promote the program, making sure everyone buys in to this new initiative.


Define the Structure

Once you’ve decided the overall purpose of your mentoring program, you need to decide how your employees will achieve that goal. Along with your organization’s different leaders, develop a structure for the program, defining different goals and benchmarks that will lead to the achievement of the overall goal.

When you begin your mentoring program, give your mentors the freedom to adjust and tweak the structure. Different people learn better in different ways, and your mentors may want to tailor the structure of the program to accommodate their mentees’ learning style.


Mentors and Mentees

You’ve got your purpose and structure defined — now it’s time to play matchmaker. But pairing mentors and mentees isn’t always cut and dry. Some companies do it randomly; some have management or human resources decide the pairs. But one of the best ways to pair your mentors with mentees is to let those involved give their input. Conducting a survey about participants’ personalities and hopes for the program will give you a good idea of who would make good pairs. And always offer participants a way out of their mentoring match. You could have a great mentoring program, but if a mentor or mentee is unhappy in his or her relationship, the program won’t work.


Monitor the Program

After investing your time in creating a mentoring program, you want to know it’s working. Check in with your mentors once a month or once a quarter to see how things are going. Make sure your mentors are helping their mentees achieve the goals and benchmarks you developed. But be patient. Most mentoring programs won’t create measurable results for six months to a year.


Developing your mentoring program is one of the most difficult parts of the mentoring process. Once your program is up and running, it will become a part of your company’s culture and be easier to implement in the future.


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