The U.S. is facing a widening skills gap.
Caused by a lack of tech training to keep up with growing AI (artificial intelligence), retiring Baby Boomers, and the lack of soft-skills development in students, skills shortage is a pressing concern amongst employers.
If your business suffers a skills gap, you may wonder how mentoring could benefit your organization.
Would it work for a small business?
In this article, we’ll explain what a mentorship program is, how it could grow your business, and reveal the seven steps to success.
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What is a Mentorship Program?
Mentorship programs are structured learning relationships to help new hires or employees at the bottom of the career ladder find experienced mentors to teach them invaluable skills and knowledge to further their careers.
If the mentorship program is structured well, it can help employees grow professionally, but only if mentors and mentees are well-matched.
These are fundamental qualities for mentors:
Being an active listener.
Able to analyze the mentee’s situation.
Able to provide constructive solutions.
For mentees, it’s essential to:
Have a positive attitude.
Possess a willingness to learn.
Be prepared to move into a higher role.
There are different types of mentoring:
One-on-One: focused on relationship and individual skill building
Situational: designed for a specific skill-building
Development and career: long-term mentoring to meet career goals
Group-based: small groups where members learn together
Peer-based: where members learn from each other, sometimes without a mentor.
Reverse mentoring: new employees can teach the more experienced staff a specific skill.
Two great examples of mentorship programs are EY’s reverse mentoring program that gives senior leaders the opportunity to gain perspective into their employees’ roles and unique experiences, and GE’s diversity-focused program to drive women empowerment.
Why is a Mentorship Program at Work Important?
Mentorship programs are an effective tool for employee development. Successful programs have a ripple effect across the organization, benefiting both the mentees and the mentors.
If you need to make your workplace more inclusive, a mentorship program could be the solution, considering 41% of women say a mentorship would ensure they stay.
But there are more benefits for your organization.
A mentorship program helps your business:
Close skills gaps – employees learn new skills through knowledge transfer. And reverse mentoring helps senior staff acquire technology insights from Gen Z workers.
Increase retention – with 41% of workers citing lack of career development and advancement as a reason for quitting their previous job, mentorships will make staff less likely to leave.
Foster leaders – mentors will learn leadership skills through mentoring, and mentees will learn to become better team players; both will benefit your company’s growth.
Attracts talent – with a successful mentorship program in place, you will attract high-potential talent hungry to learn and help your business grow.
Improve engagement – an effective mentorship program will help workers feel valued, increasing their engagement.
Foster feelings of belonging – starting a new job can make staff feel lonely. A mentorship program will make them feel supported and foster a sense of community.
Increase productivity – mentoring will show employees the company is invested in their professional development. Increasing confidence and sharper skills will result in higher productivity.
Steps to Start a Mentorship Program at Work
Setting up a mentorship program may sound daunting, but following the steps below will set you up for success.
1 – Define Your Why
Consider why your organization needs a mentorship program.
Do you have a:
Difficulty attracting high-quality talent
Lack of diversity in leadership roles?
Once you have identified your reason(s), determine why your staff would partake in the mentorship program, either as a mentor or a mentee.
Using a company-wide survey to uncover the needs of your people and company will help your program last.
2 – Set Goals and Metrics
Use your insights to set goals and define the Return on Investment (ROI). Also, define goals and metrics for employees partaking in the program.
Personal progression metrics
Establishing benchmarks will make measuring the program’s effectiveness much easier.
3 – Design The Program
If you haven’t identified a program leader, do so now. Assign this staff member to run the program, design it, and promote it.
The program outline should address these questions based on the input from your research:
What kind of program do you envision?
How long will it last?
How can mentors and mentees apply?
What information do you need from the application forms?
Who will conduct onboarding interviews?
How many spaces are available?
Will the meetings be online, offline, or both?
Will you reassign new mentors if mentorships don’t work out?
How will you promote the program?
How will you measure success? (Think surveys, interviews, measuring productivity).
You should map the entire process, including the end evaluation, to visualize how it will work and identify possible barriers ahead of time.
4 – Select Participants
Let your goals guide you when choosing mentors and mentees.
Decide whether your program is open to anyone or to carefully selected employees.
Attract participants by communicating the program’s benefits and removing any obstacles they may view on their path. You may have to lighten their workload to make space for entry.
After selection, you’ll need to identify goals, needs, weaknesses, and strengths to match participants up with the right person.
Choosing mentors with a good reputation and mentees who have high potential and are willing to work will improve your chances of successful mentorships.
5 – Match Your Candidates
Use the information you gleaned from their application form, file, and onboarding interview to match mentors and mentees carefully.
There are three ways to match:
Giving the mentees a choice of, say, three candidates.
Allowing the program leader to select a mentor for each mentee.
Using an algorithm that takes into account personality and career compatibility.
Each organization requires different methods. Providing staff with choices will increase the chance of success, but planning for candidates’ potential rejection is vital.
6 – Provide Ongoing Training And Support
Once you have launched the program, share your expectations with all participants. In addition, let the mentors and mentees share their goals and metrics for success.
Then, provide training to get the best performance out of your candidates. And support them when they need it.
7- Measure Success
To make the program successful, avoid losing momentum.
Create a community around the candidates and facilitate regular events to maintain relationships.
At the end of the experience, you will need to track its success to determine whether you need to adjust your program for the next cohort.
Gather feedback by interviewing the candidates and sending out surveys. And remember to track the metrics you defined at the beginning.
If your mentorship program is highly successful, consider making it mandatory. A case study where the management of an inbound call center made their mentorship mandatory reported an ROI of 870%.
The U.S. workplace suffers from a widening skill gap.
Companies are turning to mentorship – a highly effective tool to upskill, engage, and develop staff.
Setting up a mentorship program might seem daunting. But, if you follow our steps -including setting goals and measuring for success- your organization will soon reap the benefits.
These benefits include higher productivity, better retention and inclusion, and an improved employer brand.
If you’d like to speak to an HR representative about your business, contact us.