The year is quickly winding down, and as you look ahead to 2015, you might want to think about ways to improve your mentoring program. Why? Well, if you’re honest, you’ll admit it really hasn’t gone over that big.
And you had such high hopes when you rolled the program out, too, because mentoring is important! Mentoring is key to preparing your company’s future leaders for your business’ future challenges, and you know that.
You seem to be the only who knows (or cares), however. Managerial participation has been lackluster, the mentee evaluations haven’t been terribly positive, and no one seems to understand what a successful program should look like anyway. But you’re not ready to give up just yet! You believe in the cause, and you’re prepared to give it another shot…right?!
One of the first steps in any effective program implementation is getting buy-in of key personnel. A mentoring initiative can’t thrive without devoted mentors—be they managers or other recognized subject matter experts within the organization—so these folks have got to get on board with senior leadership’s plans. Of course, it’ll be difficult to get buy-in if you haven’t communicated clearly the benefits of the program and why it’s important to the organization, you, and the mentors themselves. Which brings me to …
When mentoring goals are tied to individual performance, you’ll have a much better chance of people giving it their all. On the other hand, if you present the program as a nice little “extra” to the “real” work of your employees, well, they could be forgiven for not showering it with the attention you’d like.
Be sure and appoint someone to manage and track all the program details. This person should be detail oriented, organized, enthusiastic about mentoring, and possess great communication skills. This employee does NOT have to be the “front man” (or woman) for the program. Instead, his or her job is to handle all the “behind the scenes” tasks inherent in a good mentoring program.
Mentoring comes with significant responsibilities and a few risks. Be sure to inform your mentors of the do's and don'ts associated with the activity. This is also a good time to reiterate what everyone involved stands to gain by participating.
Without good matches, a mentoring program is doomed before it starts. What makes a good mentoring match? Well, some of the same factors that make for a good friendship or romantic relationship, actually, including mutual interests, mutual affinity, and mutual respect. What this means for you is that matches strictly by assignment probably won’t work. If a mentee is going to accept guidance and counsel from someone, he or she must deem the individual worthy of it.
There are organizations and even software programs designed to help companies like yours develop top-notch mentoring initiatives. Why not check them out? Omnia behavioral assessments are a good online tool to help match mentor and mentees. There’s nothing wrong with seeking information you don’t have.
Make sure your program incorporates opportunities for mentors and mentees to socialize and have fun! Whether the venue is a Happy Hour after work, a catered or brown bag Lunch and Learn, or a swanky evening affair, the better mentors and mentees get to know each other, the more successful the program will be.
Know what’ll happen if a match turns out to be a serious mismatch, or if a mentor or mentee moves on.
You could probably learn something from another organization’s experiences, so don’t hesitate to reach out to other companies for advice. Everything doesn’t have to be a competition, now does it?
Got a problem to solve? Of course you do! Put your mentoring teams to work and provide recognition and token gifts for those who come up with the best solutions. This will be a fun (see earlier) way for mentors and mentees to spend quality time together while taking care of business.
There are so many benefits to a mentoring program, including career development, leadership development, diversity training, and knowledge transfer. And, when the match is right, mentoring increases the engagement of both mentee and mentor.
So don’t be discouraged if your previous efforts didn’t yield all that you’d hoped they would. You can try again, making 2015 the year your mentoring program rocks!