Long gone are the days of the shadow of a workplace hovering over the employees making them feel as though they must keep their heads down and do their job. The workplace has quickly become an environment of person and professional growth. Companies are investing time and money into not only the quantifiable accolades of those who work for them but their character traits and thought processes as well.
On top of this, a culture similar to this one is really a symbiotic relationship. The employees are given the opportunity to advance themselves while companies have been shown to have higher retention rates, employee satisfaction, and internal promotions. All in all, when a company actively works towards the betterment of its employees, it is a fantastic outcome for all who were engaged in the process.
Looking at the history of business we can see that some of the best ideas have come from unique thinkers and doers. Company’s thrive on the backs of individuals who do more than simply check the boxes. A mentorship program is an effective way to nurture this aspect within people as evidenced by director Steven Spielberg, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
How do you build an inspiring workplace mentorship program? We connected with a few business experts to gain their answers to this question.
What are your goals?
Ray Leon is the CEO of Pet Insurance Review, a brand offering access to more pet insurance providers. He believes the first step in creating a mentorship program is to clearly lay out the desired goals.
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“In a vacuum, mentoring employees is a wonderful thing to attempt to do. But, human error and oversight exist and a mentorship program may not always be the most fruitful endeavor. Why are you starting the program? What are you hoping to accomplish?
Furthermore, you should consider your program from the potential participants point of view. What about your program makes them want to participate? Is it only because of the potential promotion or are they seeking true growth? These are the types of questions you should attempt to answer before you prepare to get your program off the ground.”
Create a format
Fighting For You specializes in personal injury law firms. Their CMO, Max Schwartzapfel, suggests taking the time to design a concrete plan for how the program will operate.
“A good mentorship program strives to better the people who are a part of it. A great mentorship program is structured in a way that makes it simple to understand and navigate. Mentorship programs can be whatever you want them to be.
They can require a college class level of engagement or they can be as simple as a cup of coffee on a slow afternoon. While the former is probably a bit extreme on top of a normal workload, I tend to lean more in that direction.
Anyone who is part of your program should know what they should be focused on, what they need to bring to the table, and when. This way, your employees are more engaged and both of you can understand where they’re at in the growth process and where they need to focus their attention moving forward.”
Consider your mentees
A well-planned out mentorship program is only as effective as the people who utilize it to its full potential. Attn:Grace is a business providing sustainable wellness brands designed for women. Their Co-Founder, Alexandra Fennell, considers this approach wise when deciding who to select for a program.
“Just like there are people who are better qualified for a job, there are those who are better qualified for a place in a mentorship program. Some people are content to work their job and then go home to their lives without anything ever-changing in their professional world.
Others are chomping at the bit to get ahead mentally and organizationally. This second group of people are the types you should look to add to the list of people who are a part of your program. These people will make the time together more enjoyable for those leading it and will elevate any activity to a new level because of their level of passion.”
Find the right mentors
Chandler Rogers is the CEO of Relay, a brand offering a strong support system. He advises any program creator to vet any person who will take on the role of mentor.
“In business, everyone has a role. From accountants to sales to HR, every person has a responsibility because they’re qualified for it. This idea extends to mentors – some people are qualified for it and others are not. Between the amount of personal interest and their style of interpersonal communication, there are many factors to consider when trying to decide who should take on the role of mentor.
Choosing an ill-suited person for this role could spell doom for the program and misery for the participants. You want a person who can connect, motivate, and educate simultaneously.”
Cleared specializes in personalized care for people who suffer from mild to severe allergies. Their Co-Founder, Ryan Rockefeller, believes that one of the strongest influences on any mentorship program lies in getting participants acclimated.
“If you’ve designed a thorough program for your employees to seek mentorship, then it might take a little bit of explaining to someone who is unfamiliar with it. From exploratory conversations to the actual orientation process, everything about what your program is and what will be asked of the participants should be communicated simply. If people are lost or overwhelmed then they’re much more likely to mentally check out.
Just as your program itself is thorough, so should your orientation be. Benefit explanations, any necessary technology walkthroughs, and even a Q and A session are good ideas for getting things going in this regard. Just remember that your employees know nothing about your program and it’s your job to guide them through it.”
If you cannot clearly identify the levels of success your mentorship program is achieving, it may be time to reevaluate this aspect. OSDB is a business providing an online sports database. Their Co-Founder and CEO, Ryan Rottman, proposes finding ways to go about this.
“No matter how you slice it, launching a program to mentor your employees will not be free. Seeing as business is a numbers game, there will have to be demonstrable evidence on the other side to convince a company to continue to invest in the program. This is why it is important to track the results of the program itself. This idea contains a lot of potential metrics but employee work efficiency, learning, and retention rates are all things that deserve to be looked at in this regard.”
Stephen Skeel is the Co-Founder and Executive Producer of 7 Wonders Cinema, a brand offering full-service branded video strategy, production, and delivery. He cautions others not to shy away from celebrating any victories mentees have within the program.
“If you run the program well and empower employees to step into a fuller version of themselves, you’ll probably witness success on the other side of any training or education. When this happens, take great care to emphasize, reinforce, and praise anything representing this success when an employee achieves it. Not only does this promote a better atmosphere for training and learning, but it also invigorates the person who received the praise to keep striving forward which is what a mentorship program is all about.”
Train your mentors
Christina specializes in real estate investments. Their Chief Financial Officer, Vincent R. Chan, considers it important to give those in educating roles a solid foundation for teaching others.
“Some of us are natural teachers and others are not. This portion of teaching is not as essential as its partner piece – a teacher can only reach the same level of the material they are basing their lesson on as well as the training they have received. For these two reasons, you must be sure to provide anyone who will be mentoring with the tools necessary to do so in a way that is helpful and leaves an impression on recipients.”
A mentorship program is no small undertaking as evidenced above. That being said, it can prove to be one of the most worthwhile things your company does. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, put it best, “If you ask any successful business person, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road.”