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The Key to Creating Successful Mentoring Programs in the Workplace

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Ten Thousand Coffees Team
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
January 5, 2021

Successful mentoring programs in the workplace require strategy, forethought, and having solid systems in place.

While mentorship programs often start with great intentions, they just as often fall flat because of a lack of realistic expectations and practical tools for achieving the end goal. In other words, they fail to ensure the passing on of knowledge, insight, and practical advice within an organization.

The result, of course, is missed opportunities for employees to learn and grow….and for leaders to build higher engagement, satisfaction, and even employee retention.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to implement a realistic, effective system for building relationships between mentors and mentees–and how to create a company culture that encourages and promotes healthy mentoring programs and professional development in the workplace.

First, the Benefits of Mentoring Programs in the Workplace

Before diving into how to implement mentoring programs in the workplace, let’s reiterate the benefits of why workplace mentoring programs are so powerful.

1. It attracts talent

A report by Monster found that 72% of millennials wanted opportunities for career advancement in the workplace, compared to only 52% of boomers and 64% of Gen X-ers. In fact, 30% of millennials said they would take a salary cut of 6-12% to work for an organization that offered great mentorship programs.

The bottom line? Millennials value mentorship and career development, and will actively look for companies that can help them reach their long-term goals.

2. It improves retention

Employees who feel they are being invested in will be much less likely to look for opportunities elsewhere. With that in mind, we can see a direct link between corporate mentoring programs and improved retention rates – a serious challenge in industries like advertising and tech, amongst others.

Of course, higher retention not only improves the knowledge base of your employees and quality of work; it also reduces costs spent on hiring and onboarding.

3. It increases employee morale

Finally, a good mentorship program in the workplace will increase employee morale, satisfaction, and loyalty. When professionals feel they’re reaching their long-term goals and being equipped for professional growth, they’re far more likely to enjoy their jobs–and do their best work.

Providing an environment in which employees can be their best selves serves everyone.

Tips for Creating Successful Mentorship Programs

As mentioned above, successful mentoring programs in the workplace require strategy and forethought. More than just a good idea, effective mentorship adds to your corporate culture, and needs long-term planning to achieve success.

That being said, there are certain things you’ll want to keep in mind to successfully implement and sustain mentorship in your organization. Here are 8 tips to help you create effective mentoring programs in the workplace:

1. Set goals

What are the goals of your mentorship program? Would you like to improve employee satisfaction? Increase retention? Connect 100% of new hires with long-term mentors or senior leaders?

Whatever your goals are, think through how you can connect them with measurable metrics that would indicate success in your mentorship program. Then, make a plan for gauging how successfully you’ve met both short- and long-term goals.

Similarly, think through how you can encourage employees to set individual goals that they can work towards in their mentorship programs. A large part of meeting with a mentor will be strategizing on how they can meet goals – such as developing communication skills, or learning new skills for leadership development.

2. Use intelligent matching

While it might be tempting to match mentors and mentees according to personality or cultural fit, the best mentor-mentee relationships come out of having shared goals or ambitions. That way, mentors can give insightful, informed advice to mentees who want to follow a similar career path.

That being said, matching is easier said than done. Not only do you face the challenge of adequately matching employees without bias; you also face the time-consuming hurdle of assembling those relationships, most likely on some type of monstrous spreadsheet.

Ten Thousand Coffees is an employee engagement platform that helps intelligently pair mentors and mentees using goal-based algorithms. Mentors and mentees meet for “virtual coffee” and get an opportunity to build a relationship and share insights and advice. The result? Better, more productive mentorship relationships, higher employee engagement, and less time (and labor) spent on clunky spreadsheets.

3. Build a culture of encouragement

Healthy mentoring programs in the workplace must begin with an organizational culture that's characterized by encouragement, positivity, and valuing all employee voices. Employees aren’t going to buy-in to the idea of mentorship if they don’t feel like they can be transparent with their colleagues, especially with those in senior management positions.

Building a culture of encouragement should be a multi-pronged effort. First, leaders, managers, and C-suite execs should set an example by being verbally encouraging. They can also practice those valuable soft skills that define great leaders, such as: listening, empathy, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. Next, emphasizing employee wellness helps your team members to know that you value their mental health and holistic growth, not just productivity.

Finally, when you create space for employees to build friendships in the workplace, you help to promote a natural culture of encouragement.

4. Promote feedback

Feedback is a critical piece of effective mentoring programs. Mentors and mentees need to feel safe to give and receive feedback on performance, communication, etc. in order to get results from their mentoring relationships.

That being said, promoting feedback in the workplace doesn’t have to look like one-on-one quarterly reviews (although those can be helpful!). You might also choose to integrate software that includes robust feedback opportunities in your workflow that gives employees a regular, low-pressure opportunity to give feedback to their colleagues. In any case, making space for feedback can also help build a foundation for successful mentoring relationships where advice and insight are freely given and received.

5. Monitor the results

Just as with any organizational effort, you’ll want to measure the results of your mentoring program. Do employees feel they’re well-matched with their mentors? Are they learning and growing? Are they enjoying their mentorship relationships?

Again, Ten Thousand Coffees provides a platform for employees to share feedback and recognition based on their mentoring interactions – giving you an opportunity to monitor results from your mentoring program, and ensure that goals are being met.

6. Remember D&I

Remember to include diversity and inclusion as a part of your mentoring program. This might include placing special emphasis on underrepresented employees, and encouraging mentors to include discussion on D&I as a part of their discussion with their mentee – even if neither individual is considered underrepresented.

7. Go remote

With many teams and professionals having gone remote as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work relationships are now the norm.  And that’s not all bad – in fact, two-thirds of all employees actually prefer to work remotely. Many of them enjoy the flexibility and freedom that remote work offers; others feel that they can work more productively when they’re not in the office.

In any case, workplace mentoring programs should also be remote, giving participants the convenience and comfort of connecting virtually. Luckily, Ten Thousand Coffees integrates with your existing email and videoconferencing platforms to help mentors and mentees connect seamlessly. The result is a more efficient, more productive meeting from which both participants can benefit.

8. Include mentorship in your hiring & onboarding

As mentioned above, mentorship has the benefit of helping to attract new talent to your organization. When you include mentorship as a part of the package, you strengthen your job offers and attract employees that are motivated and goal-oriented. Make sure to present your mentoring program during the hiring process, giving potential hires a clear idea of how they will be matched and mentored in your organization.

Next, you’ll want to include mentorship as a part of your onboarding process. New employees should have an opportunity to set goals, and to be quickly integrated into your virtual mentorship program so that they can get started on the right foot.

9. Have fun with it

Finally, have fun with your mentoring program! Remember that this is an opportunity for employees to connect, learn, share, and grow together. Mentorship should give your team members a chance to step outside of their regular workflows to think through their bigger picture goals, as well as what they have to offer others. Encourage them to develop friendships as well as mentorship relationships, and keep conversations fun and light as well as informative and productive.

What does mentorship do for the mentor?

A final piece of advice on creating a successful mentoring program in the workplace: get mentors as well as mentees on board.

While mentorship has very clear benefits for the mentee – providing informed, actionable professional advice that can help them grow in their career – mentorship might have less-clear benefits for the mentors. In addition, if your mentors already have heavy workloads and stressful positions, adding an additional task or obligation might feel overwhelming.

That being said, mentors do in fact gain much from mentorship. First, they gain an added sense of purpose in their work, which can help significantly increase job satisfaction and even better health – in fact, a sense of purpose has been attributed to better overall well-being.

Next, mentors hone their communication and leadership abilities through mentorship relationships, learning how to communicate what they’ve learned and provide strategic advice to others.

Finally, mentorship gives mentors a more influential, pivotal role in the organization. By mentoring the next generation of employees, mentors help retain talent and build a stronger organizational culture.

The bottom line? Mentoring programs in the workplace are beneficial for everyone involved. And when created with the right strategies, tools, and systems in mind, they can create not only individual success stories, but new corporate growth.

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