How to get Company-Wide Buy-In for Employee Mentorship Programs

Career Advice
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Hiba Amin

One of the best ways to invest in your employees and give the best first impression to new hires while driving engagement is to implement an employee mentorship program.

In any workplace, employees want to feel like they’re cared for, and that goes beyond a competitive salary. In fact, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that employees are more productive and perform at a higher caliber when their professional development needs are fulfilled. These needs include:

  • In the last 6 months, an employee has discussed their progress with someone at work
  • In the last year, an employee has had opportunities at work to learn and grow

Enter the employee mentorship program: a way to satisfy your employee’s personal growth needs by connecting them with mentors.

But, employee mentorship programs can only work when everyone is bought in (and that’s not always the case).

In this article, we’ll walk through how employers can help employees see the benefits of a mentoring relationship and gather buy-in org-wide.

Let’s dive in!

Help your employees see the benefits of a mentorship program

If your employees aren’t bought into participating in the program, it’s important that you clearly lay out the benefits that they’ll experience as a result. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some benefits you can share:

  1. Improved (and accelerated) career development: With access to an expert who they can consult for advice, they’ll be able to fast track their career and growth. They’ll have a go-to resource for whatever area they’re interested in developing (which will also improve employee retention!).
  2. More two-way knowledge sharing: Not only will employees get a chance to learn from a mentor, but they’ll also have the opportunity to share their knowledge as well. After all, great communication is a two-way street.
  3. Expand your network by meeting more people: An employee mentorship program can help improve cross-functional communication and also build more connectivity within an organization. This is great for employees because they’ll be able to meet more people within the company while expanding their network and fostering their mentor-mentee relationship.
  4. Get a raise faster: An in-depth case study of Sun Microsystem’s mentorship program showed that mentees were promoted five times more often than those who didn’t participate in the program, and mentors 6 times more. Developing leadership skills from more senior co-workers is a surefire way to accelerate growth.
  5. They’ll be happier at work: The same study found that employees who participated in the mentorship program experienced higher retention rates (72% vs. 49% for those who did not participate). That’s because they’ll be fulfilling their growth needs, learning new skills, and increasing how engaged they are at work.

Communicate the benefits with your employees

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of a mentorship program, let’s walk through the best opportunities to share them with your employees.

Company town halls

If you run company-wide meetings, it’s important that you dedicate time to sharing details about such an impactful development tool as a mentorship program, including:

  • The benefits for employees and mentors
  • What’s required of those who choose to participate
  • Specific timelines or details required to get involved

Depending on the frequency of your town halls, try to present the mentorship program multiple times to give employees ample chances to participate.

One-on-one and team meetings

Encourage people leaders across the company to discuss the employee mentorship program with their team. By discussing this in smaller groups, as opposed to a company-wide meeting, it becomes less intimidating for employees to open up and ask any questions they need before committing to joining.

It’s also a great opportunity to get feedback on:

  • What they’re hoping to get out of the mentorship program
  • Who, within the company, they’d like to learn more from
  • What their expectations are of the program (and what they’re not)

For those involved in the program, you can check out this quarterly mentorship meeting agenda to help kick off your conversations.

How to make an to make a mentorship program stick

If you want to make sure your mentorship program sticks the whole way through, there are two things you should do: schedule time in your employee’s calendar and set KPIs.

Schedule time in mentor and mentee calendars

We’ve already discussed the importance of scheduling time to discuss the employee mentorship program within your company-wide, team and one-on-one meetings. But, it’s also important that you schedule time for the mentorship sessions as well. This will ensure that mentors and mentees:

  • Are accountable for showing up to these sessions prepared
  • Can plan their week with full visibility into their calendar
  • Can visually see the time commitment involved when joining the program

The time commitment will ultimately depend on how frequently the mentor and mentee would like to meet. Although, those who own the talent development programs within an organization can share recommendations.

It’s also important for managers to schedule check-ins with their team throughout the mentorship program to discuss how mentees are feeling and what they’re learning.

Attach KPIs

Whether these are created by managers or the talent development team, it’s important that you set goals for all those involved in the mentorship program. When you set goals, you’ll be holding your team accountable for participating in the program.

These goals, for example, can focus on:

  • Number of sessions run every quarter or year
  • A minimum rating average of how valuable the sessions were for mentors
  • A minimum number of questions to show up with to each session for mentees
  • Creating a small presentation for the team on 1-3 things that the mentee learned

Goals will ultimately depend on what’s most important for you and each individual on your team.

The importance of leadership buy-in

While we’ve focused a lot on the employee and mentee perspective, it’s also important that companies looking to implement a mentorship program have buy-in from the leadership team.

This goes beyond having leadership approve the budget and resources required of this program, but rather that those on the leadership team actively participate in it as well. After all, there is no shortage of learning regardless of your place in an organization.

When employees see that their leaders are actively participating in the program (and believe in it), they’re more likely to follow suit.

Get everyone excited with internal competitions

While not everything is a contest, creating incentives for mentors and mentees to participate in the program through healthy competition can be a great way to increase participation rates.

According to Skybound, a coaching consultancy firm, healthy competition is oriented towards:

  • Advancing the field or organization: Is your competition ensuring that your mentorship program is focused on improving the knowledge and skills of your workforce?
  • Unlocking personal potential: Will this competition act as an opportunity for individuals to push themselves to a new level of performance? This ensures that you’re focusing more on increasing individual potential and less on people stack up to one another.
  • Honoring mutually held values: Is the competition you’ve created in line with your company's values? Does it focus on improving the overall collective of the organization versus just one individual?
  • The journey and the outcome: Don’t just put all of the focus on the end goal, but also through several milestones throughout your mentorship program.

Here are a few healthy competition ideas you can kick off with your program:

  • Give out prizes to all mentors who achieve a satisfaction rate of 90%+ from mentees
  • Award gift cards for the mentees who provide the most pieces of feedback for mentors and the talent development team
  • Give out an extra vacation day to all mentors and mentees who attend 100% of their sessions throughout the length of the program

Wrapping up

It’s clear that employee mentorship programs can drive up engagement and enhance the knowledge and skills of your workforce. But, to do that, you’ll need to get your team on board.

So, before you launch your first (or next) employee mentorship program, be sure to:

  • Explain the benefits to your team within different settings
  • Gather buy-in from your leadership team
  • Set goals and KPIs for those participating
  • Launch internal competitions to keep everyone excited and engaged

If you’re looking for a solution to help get your employee mentoring program off the ground, Ten Thousand Coffees is the perfect answer. Get in touch with one of our experts today and start building successful mentor stories together.

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