Building a corporate mentoring program

Why build a mentoring program? It’s a win-win situation. Employees in corporate mentoring programs are able to network directly with corporate decision makers, and mentors gain perspective in their own careers by grooming promising employees. For the company, this translates into skill diversification, talent retention, improved job satisfaction, and increased productivity. According to Dr. Lillian Eby, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia and an authority on corporate mentoring, “a key benefit of mentoring is retention. Turnover costs can be staggering. That’s one reason why organizations include mentoring programs as part of their business objectives.” (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Wed 11-Oct-2006)

With so many companies forced to downsize, cross training and retention of promising staff is all the more essential. Fewer employees are left to shoulder the burden of maintaining operations. These employees are faced with stresses over job security and far fewer opportunities for professional growth or advancement within their organization. A corporate mentoring program offers a cost effective way for cash strapped companies to create an amicable environment within the organization, transfer knowledge and, perhaps most important, share practical experience. Setup costs and budget requirements are minimal, as the company uses its own employees, instead of outside consultants, as internal experts for professional development.

There are many methods and approaches for creating and managing a mentoring program. Regardless of which approach is taken, management support is fundamental. Put simply, in order for a corporate mentoring program to work, managers need to be committed. Without that commitment the program will not succeed.

Establishing a corporate mentoring program

The first step in the implementation of an effective mentoring program is to define the objectives. The objectives establish the framework of the program and provide a means for management and staff to evaluate the success of the program. Objectives need to be concise, measurable and aligned with the overall corporate strategy. For example, if the mentoring program’s primary objective is to lessen attrition in middle management by X percent, then the program’s target audience is clear.

A good place to start this process is to review the organization’s key strategies, and conduct a gap analysis to determine the shortfall in needed talent to execute the strategy, and from this create the mentoring plan for employees.

The below project management Work breakdown Structure highlights key deliverables for this first phase of establishing a corporate mentoring program.

    1. Needs Identification

      1.1. Corporate training / mentoring survey
      1.2. Program goals and objectives
      1.3. Program policies
      1.4. Identify mentees
      1.5. Identify mentors

Define the program

Once the overall program goals and objectives are defined, the next key step in establishing a mentoring program is to define the program components. This includes definition of a mentoring methodology (e.g. one on one, group mentoring). Each methodology will require unique resources (human resources, technical, educational materials, etc.). These must be accounted for before a program budget can be accurately defined.

The project management Work Breakdown Structure would include the following deliverables as part of the program definition task.

    2. Program Definition

      2.1. Mentoring methodology

        2.1.1. Supporting activities
        2.1.2. Supporting materials

      2.2. Technical requirements
      2.3. Print / electronic materials
      2.4. Location definition
      2.5. Schedule

Budget

The mentoring program budget can be developed once an understanding of the resources required to establish and manage the program have been fully defined. Companies that choose to employ outside consultants to facilitate the mentoring process or design activities and materials can expect to pay as much as $5,000.00 per participant. For those companies looking to control costs, start by implementing a small pilot program. This will enable both the mentors and mentees to evaluate the efficacy of the program as well as provide feedback on the program materials.

Mentor Selection

Mentors should be selected based on their desire to participate as well as their ability to devote the time required by the program. When identifying mentors, it’s important to establish expectations. This would include discussing their role, time commitment and program requirements.

Mentors should be paired with employees who are not part of their functional group within the organization. Many programs also suggest that mentors be at least 2 levels on the organizational hierarchy above the employee being mentored.

Mentor and mentee selection should include the following project management deliverables:

    3. Mentor selection

      3.1. Recruitment
      3.2. Training
    4. Mentee Recruitment

      4.1. Interest questionnaire
      4.2. Marketing

        4.2.1. Company intranet
        4.2.2. Management support

Program Management and Review

It is important to capture feedback during the course of the mentoring program and enable program managers to modify the program based on this feedback. Both mentors and mentees should be surveyed to obtain qualitative and quantitative program data.

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