How-To: Start a Corporate Mentoring Program

10 tips to help ensure your new program’s success.

Starting a corporate mentoring program can seem like a huge task, and for that reason alone, many organizations simply don’t do it. They talk themselves out of it and rationalize that the “informal” mentoring taking place organically in the organization is enough. But it’s not.

Here are 10 tips to help you get your program off to a successful start:

  1. Align your mentoring program objectives around your organization’s HR strategic goals. These can include developing high-potential employees, speeding up new hires’ time to productivity, strengthening workplace diversity, preparing future leaders for succession, increasing employee retention, and facilitating knowledge transfer from future retirees.
  2. Find your executive champion. A senior-level executive who will sponsor, participate in, and encourage your mentoring program can prove invaluable to the program’s success. When recruiting mentors and mentees, communication from the executive champion will help generate enthusiasm.
  3. Ensure an appropriate budget. A mentoring program doesn’t have to break the bank. Small programs can be started with paper or electronic form profiles, manual matching, e-mail communication, and spreadsheets for tracking. Programs with 100 participants or more will save time and money by using technology to assist with matching, tracking, and reporting. You don’t need expensive mentoring manuals, kick-off orientations, and all-day training.
  4. Determine who will participate in the program. Target specific participants or create a general program. A targeted pilot program provides an excellent opportunity to get it right with a smaller group and pick up lessons learned along the way. You then can build on the enthusiasm to expand the program.
  5. Determine the structure of your program. Mentoring programs can be formal or informal or a combination of the two. Formal programs often are used for grooming and coaching your high performers and can be part of your leadership development of future leaders. They may include contracts and commitments to reach specific goals. An informal program facilitates connections between mentors and mentees with ideas, guidance, and tools but with minimal rules and requirements.
  6. Match your mentees and mentors. Research suggests that the greater the involvement of the mentee in the match, the better the outcome of the mentorship. Therefore, look for ways to allow mentees to select their mentor or at least provide input. If you utilize mentoring technology, look for flexibility to allow mentees to self-match based on search criteria, plus opportunity for administrators to make the final selection of the matches.
  7. Find your mentors. Mentors can be nominated by management, encouraged to voluntarily participate, or made part of managers’ development goals. If you are short on mentors, consider adding a group mentoring component to your mentoring program.
  8. Publicize your program. Use as many communication avenues as you can. Some examples include an e-mail invitation from the executive champion, posters on the lunch room and other bulletin boards, an “ad” in the company newsletter, and a link on the company intranet or employee portal.
  9. Launch your program. Start with adding mentors into the program first, so when the mentees join in, there will be a significant number of mentors for them to consider.
  10. Track success and get feedback from participants. Use surveys and metrics to track and report on your mentoring program’s success. Highlight big wins and positive feedback. Celebrate individual pairings that have made significant progress toward reaching mentees’ goals. Share how the mentors are benefiting from participating in the program, as well. The more you publicize the success, the more the program will grow and meet its intended objectives.

Laura DiFlorio is the regional director of Sales at Nobscot Corporation’s Mentor Scout Division (http://www.mentorscout.com). A sales manager and human resources specialist since 1997, she is known for building customer and team rapport.

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