How Mentorship Programs Improve Culture and Performance at Work (+ 5 Steps to Create Yours)
Like most things in life, starting any new venture is easier when you have experienced help to guide you. Mentorship programs in the workplace are no exception, and the numbers prove it.
Mentorship programs enable competence development and workplace relationship building, leading to increased productivity.
A Deloitte survey of millennials discovered that employees with workplace mentors were twice as likely to stay with a company for more than five years.
So, mentorship programs come with added benefits, boosting employee satisfaction rates, with employee retention rates following suit.
It's clear, then, that investing in new-hire mentorship programs is well worth it.
- How to launch a mentorship program in 5 steps and
- How to scale it with the power of softwaretools.
👥 What are mentorship programs?
Workplace mentorship programs are exactly what they sound like: structured workplace relationships that help employees achieve goals unique to their level of career development.
The best of the best know this, too, as over 70% of Fortune 500 companies attribute part of their success to robust workplace mentorship programs.
🏆4 Benefits of having mentors in the workplace
While there are hardly any downsides to having a good mentor in the workplace, there are certainly a few significant advantages.
A positive company culture
Perhaps the best benefit in a post-COVID business world, mentorship programs can foster a positive company culture–even remotely.
For example, 91% of this survey's respondents said they're happy with their job because they have a mentor within their company.
This compelling statistic highlights just how effective mentorship programs can be.
If there's one thing we can appreciate here at Zavvy, it's a solid onboarding strategy.
A robust mentorship program can considerably strengthen your current onboarding process by using intra-company talent.
Tip: You will spend less time educating mentors on the program's mission and goals, as they'll already be familiar with your company culture.
Opportunities for reverse mentoring
You'd be mistaken to think the mentor-mentee relationship only goes one way.
One of the best (and perhaps least expected) benefits of mentorship programs is that they allow for two-way growth.
Tip: If you're looking to foster a company culture that promotes experiential learning or a lateral leadership style, mentorship programs can help you achieve this.
If a growth-oriented work culture and streamlined onboarding process aren't enough to convince you, consider the money you'll save on training costs.
Tip: When you design a mentorship program that utilizes current talent, you can drive down costs and develop standout employees within your company.
These are only a handful of benefits that a mentorship program can offer your organization.
Now let's talk a little more about how to launch one successfully.
🛠 How to launch a mentorship program in 5 steps
Don't worry if you've never designed a workplace mentorship program before, either.
Use these five steps to create a strategy that works well for your organization.
👀 Note: Effective mentorship programs depend on role clarity for your employees. And if you want to go to the next level, a competency model for all organizational roles is the way to go.
Define the goal and purpose of the program
There's no sense in creating a list of whats and hows for your mentorship program without a solid, well-defined why.
Your company's culture and mission are usually a good starting point to finding your whys. But if you're not quite sure where to start, begin by asking questions like:
- Is current employee engagement high or low?
- What departments have the highest turnover rates?
- How do our employees feel about management styles within the organization?
- What are collective employee goals in [a specific] department?
- What training needs do our employees declare?
The questions themselves can vary, too. However, the point is to ensure that you have clear objectives for your mentorship program before designing it.
Tip: Remember that different employees will likely have different motivations for joining a mentorship program. Your program design and objectives should reflect that.
Give it structure
After you've defined and clarified your goals for your mentorship program, start fleshing out the modules. Once again, you should be asking yourself several key questions here, including:
- Is the program open or invite-only?
- If it's open, how can people sign up?
- How many spaces are available?
- What will the sign-up process look like?
- How can we encourage employees to sign up?
- What level of commitment should we expect from participants?
- How will we match mentors and mentees?
- What's the best way for participants to communicate with each other?
- How long will the program last?
- How will progress be tracked?
- How will progress be reported?
- How will the program be launched?
While this list isn't exhaustive, it does touch on the essentials you'll need to consider when structuring a mentorship program.
Tip: You may discover that you'll have to adjust your program as you go. Still, try to have as much mapped out as possible before starting.
Onboard to your program
Just like your need onboarding for new hires, you'll also need to onboard for your intra-company mentorship program.
Fortunately, onboarding current employees to a mentorship program should not be challenging. You'll need to:
- make sure that company stakeholders are on board;
- clarify the program's goals and benefits to your employees;
- prepare resources and materials for the program, and
- focus on keeping the program as accessible as possible to all participants.
Once that's all done, you can begin the matching process.
Match your participants
So you've got your mentorship program structured and ready to go. Now what?
The next big step is to match your mentors with their mentees.
Finding the right match might be easier if you have a relatively small company where most people know each other. However, you'll have a big task if you're doing this for a large corporation.
You can consider allowing your employees to self-match.
Ask your employees to nominate a few possible mentors, and then select the best one for them. This will lead to better satisfaction, as employees themselves have a say, reducing the administrative burden of finding and nominating mentors with no input.
Another option is to do an administrative match without asking for employee input. Running the nomination process administratively would streamline the process. You no longer depend on asking for employee input, compiling the data, and following up.
Even if you want to take the administrative route, you should not drown in manual work and spreadsheets. Our suggestion is to use matching surveys.
We created onboarding buddy matching surveys, which you can quickly adapt for mentoring partnerships.
Track your success
Tip: There's no point in designing a comprehensive mentorship program if you aren't going to measure its progress.
While there are plenty of metrics you can track, the two main things to keep an eye on are:
- mentees' personal development (e.g., if they're reaching their goals for the program, etc.) and
- whether you've hit your business-related KPIs.
These metrics will tell you whether the program works for the mentees and your organization.
Most companies prefer to administer post-program surveys to gather this data. However, you can also use data collected by HR (i.e., promotion rates, retention rates, etc.) or feedback software that lets you collect other important information.
👀 3 Types of workplace mentoring programs
Depending on your company's infrastructure, you might encounter different types of mentorship programs. While the list below is far from exhaustive, it touches on some of the most common examples.
Most companies have peer mentorship programs, where new hires receive mentoring from longtime employees who can address their questions and concerns.
Peer mentorship programs make the most sense for new hires, as they can integrate more quickly into the company framework by developing an organic relationship with a current employee.
Some companies go one step further and offer career mentoring and development for their employees.
When designing mentorships programs to help employees meet their professional goals, they should include the following:
- group and individual coaching sessions,
- leadership workshops, and
- a professional development plan.
As mental health in the workplace becomes increasingly relevant, some companies now offer "life mentoring," or life coaching, to their employees. Life mentoring can help employees prioritize their daily and long-term commitments, especially when deciding how their career will mesh with their other obligations.
➡️ Build a scalable mentorship program with Zavvy
When a mentorship program is scalable, its design allows for growing company needs.
In other words, a scalable mentorship program can meet the needs of an entire organization rather than just select departments.
From idea to execution, we can assist you in creating a solid mentorship program that develops employees at all stages of their careers.
Use workplace mentoring workflows
Zavvy allows you to create a workflow for the entire program simultaneously.
For example, you can use the automatic messaging function to share important information with both mentors and mentees:
- meeting reminders,
- discussion topics, and
- other important memos.
Zavvy allows you to dispatch these automated messages across all major corporate communication platforms, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Automate wherever you can
You can even go as far as programming the software to automate mentor-mentee matches.
You can always review and tweak the automated matches afterward to ensure optimal matches.
You can also test possible matches by creating a discussion topic bank before matching. You will facilitate mentors and mentees having some icebreakers to get things started. You can also automate this stage, for example, by automatically creating custom Slack channels.
Of course, the deciding factor in how effectively you scale your mentoring program is how well you track your program's progress.
Continue measuring KPIs throughout the program to see which areas of your program are hitting goals and which could use some finetuning.
If you're interested in designing a mentorship program that'll grow and strengthen your organization, let us help.
Our employee development software offers framework creation and management for development processes, course design for employee mentorship programs, and more. And to top it all off, we can help companies cultivate robust work cultures, whether in-person or remotely.
Reach out for a free 30 minutes demo to see it all in action.
❓Workplace mentoring program FAQs
Below is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about workplace mentorship programs.
How do I know if my company or organization needs a mentorship program?
While there isn't an objective list of telltale signs, per se, there are a few signals of growth opportunities.
For example, low new hire retention or sluggish promotion rates may indicate a need for more individualized professional development among your employees. A workplace mentoring program can help you promote people's development.
If you're looking for more specific areas to target, consider administering an employee pulse survey first.
Knowing precisely which areas your employees would like to see improved can help you design and structure your mentoring program.
Can departmental managers be mentors?
Any senior employee in your company can technically serve as a mentor.
The key is establishing these relationships as safe spaces for mentees to be transparent about their professional goals and progress.
Pairing employees working in the same, or even adjacent, departments could create a conflict of interest that later hurts both parties.
Plus, not many employees feel comfortable sharing their workplace concerns with a more senior employee they work closely with.
As a result, you may need to get creative when partnering mentors with their mentees.
Tip: To minimize the risk of these conflicts, opt for program mentors who don't have anyone in the program answering to them (be it directly or indirectly). If this is unavoidable, pair mentors with mentees who work in departments they don't interact with much.
The stronger the sense of psychological safety for your mentees, the more likely you are to hit your program goals.
What makes a good mentor match?
There are three essential elements to consider when matching up mentees and mentors. First and foremost, there has to be a mutual interest. The mentee wants to learn about a key feature/tool/topic, and the mentor has the information and is willing to teach it.
Secondly, the mentee and the mentor should have common or complementary goals. For example, you wouldn't want to pair up an employee with an area of expertise in HR to mentor a junior marketing analyst.
However, there can be scenarios where the department or team is not essential. For example, you can consider matching a team lead as a mentor to a high-performance employee with leadership potential.
Thirdly, constructive feedback and open communication must be at the mentor-mentee relationship's core. Mentees should be open to hearing constructive critique, and mentors should feel comfortable offering it.
What's the difference between a buddy and a mentor?
It's worth noting, too, that mentorship programs are different from buddy systems.
Your mentorship program will match lower-level employees with more senior employees for career mentoring and development.
Your buddy program will match newly hired employees with more senior employees to facilitate their start in the company. The focus is on social and cultural acclimation.
Keep this in mind when conceptualizing and developing your organization's mentorship program.
Isn't mentoring most effective when it happens organically?
There's no denying the value an organic mentor-mentee relationship can add to both participants' working lives. But even so, workplace mentorship programs can significantly improve communication and functioning at all levels of your organization.
There are plenty of advantages a mentoring program can offer your company, such as:
- boosting productivity;
- closing skill gaps;
- developing current employees for more senior roles.
When is the best time to implement a workplace mentoring program?
The truth is it's never too early to start developing your employees through a workplace mentorship program.
Ideally, such mentoring should begin whenever an employee starts a new position within your company.
Gauge a new hire's professional goals and development plans. You can do that at the end of onboarding with an onboarding survey. Or, you can encourage managers to be proactive and discuss development in one-on-one meetings.
However, other career checkpoints might call for additional development, for example, when considering employees for a promotion.