Mentorship programs have been used for generations, and for good reason. Within the mentoring process, learners spend six to twelve months building business knowledge within seven important stages, each filled with surprises.
Although mentoring programs are simple in practice, many businesses struggle to implement them. If you are one such business, or perhaps an organization starting a mentoring program cautiously, you need to know what is involved with a good mentoring process. Keep reading to learn what is involved in a successful mentorship program, as well as useful tips for all formal mentoring programs.
What Steps Are Involved in a Good Mentorship Program?
Of course, all mentoring relationships are different, because everyone responds to mentorship differently. However, most mentorship programs will include general phases common throughout multiple industries.
Knowing is half the battle, and that stands true with mentoring programs. Each program requires varying amounts of time, and each builds on the other in different ways. Understanding these phases beforehand will greatly benefit the process in the long run.
Determine the Business Goals of the Mentor Program
Before you even start your mentoring program, you will need to establish its purpose. You can’t fix a problem if you haven’t identified it! Here are some suggestions:
- To increase employee engagement
- To introduce new employees to the company culture
- To teach long-time employees new skills with technology or social media (a sort of reverse mentorship program, if you will)
- To build a mentor/mentee relationship between long-time and new employees
Last of all, try to connect your mentoring program’s goal with your company goals. A mentorship program can be a great opportunity: use it.
Deciding on the Structure of the Mentorship
Once you have chosen the purpose, you need to choose the structure of your mentoring program.
First you will need to ask yourself whether the mentoring process will be one-on-one or in a group setting. If it’s a group setting, what will be the inclusivity or exclusivity of the program? You will need to know how many spaces are available for the program well before take-off. Take some stress off of the program administrators.
Here are some other questions you will want to ask yourself:
- How will you determine if the process is successful?
- Do you have a formal review, or will there be a casual check-in for the status of the mentorship?
- How will you guide your mentee?
- Will you set tasks and objectives or meet for coffee and discuss your approach?
- How often do you want to meet?
- Should it be only as needed, or should there be specific times?
The more specific you are when planning, the more likely your mentees will experience greater career development.
This step is critical. If mentors and mentees get off on the wrong foot, it can sour the entire relationship. Here, they informally discuss their common values, goals, interests, and even dreams. You don’t need to start teaching at this point; instead take it as an opportunity to match mentors and mentees together and set the foundation for a successful mentoring relationship.
This is where mentors need to put in the effort. Building a foundation isn’t easy, but here are some ways to start. Mentors can…
- Share ideas and encourage future sharing
- Get to know each other on an individual basis
- Practice consistency by being sincere when guiding their mentee
Experts also agree that mentors need to actively lay the foundation of a relationship during the initiation stage. They need to put in the time and take the initiative to communicate effectively and respectfully. Only then can trust begin to grow.
Engagement is not a one-and-done deal; it tends to decline as the mentoring process continues. Try to utilize check-ins and planned communication hours to keep both the mentor and mentee engaged during the program.
Sustained engagement has seen major growth with the many mentoring software solutions on the market. Many of the most tedious parts of mentoring, such as surveying and scheduling, are made simpler with software. Here are a couple of features that also help maintain engagement for both mentor and mentee.
- In-platform surveys
- Automated messaging
- Goal setting and tracking
- Learning plan creation
- Notes and document sharing
This is an area where the mentor has to set boundaries and parameters for what goes on. If not, it may lead to future confusion or resentment, which no one wants.
You have finished the set-up, and everyone knows what’s expected of them. Now it’s time for the meat of the mentoring process—growth. Both mentor and mentee can now start to achieve the goals already set out, and the mentee can start working on professional development.
The mentor is responsible at this point to provide all the resources necessary for their development. This can be done by sharing knowledge with storytelling or by helping mentees overcome challenges. Over time, the mentoring process grows from a formal relationship to that of a guide, adviser, or even friend.
Another important responsibility for mentors is that of providing constructive yet candid feedback to mentees. This feedback is a very important element of the mentoring process. This is what allows mentors to identify mentees’ strengths and weaknesses, which can prove crucial for mentees’ growth.
During this phase, it is also critical that both participants monitor the mentoring process to ensure the goals are being met.
Next, you will need to determine how you will monitor/measure your results. A good place to start is by feedback. Ask the mentor and mentee what was helpful and what didn’t work. Try to get constructive feedback from people outside of the program if necessary.
Sadly, it is not enough to just collect data after the fact. You need to regularly obtain data to see how the program is performing and make adjustments then. Don’t wait for next time; do it right then and there.
Now you get to see the results of your mentorship program. Increased profitability, a more engaged workforce, and higher job satisfaction are just a couple of the benefits that can come from a mentorship program. But what happens next?
After the mentoring relationship has been made and fostered, it is very important to remember when the association should change, or possibly end.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it does not mean that the mentorship has failed. It often simply means that the goals for the mentorship have been accomplished, and it is instead time to graduate and move on.
This isn’t to say that this stage is simply marking the end of the relationship—not at all. Instead, take it as an opportunity for mentors and mentees to recognize and celebrate their success.
Everyone benefits from closure. Not only is it an opportunity to reap the harvest of the learning, but it’s also an opportunity to apply that learning in real-life situations.
Here are some of the key indicators of this stage:
- Passing on knowledge, skills, or other personal development tips to other colleagues or subordinates
- Feeling confident enough to continue progressing without a mentor’s guidance
- Ending on good terms, with both mentor and mentee feeling satisfied with the experience
- Achieving the goals set out at the beginning of the mentorship
The closure is an important phase of the mentoring process, and both mentor and mentee should feel a sense of closure at the end of the mentorship program. Whether you achieve that closure through celebrating your success or by having a sit-down briefing, both mentor and mentee should feel that they have grown because of the experience, and both feel ready to move on.
How Will You Use the Mentoring Process?
While all mentoring relationships go through these phases, there is still no specific recipe for the perfect mentorship. It takes effort and changes from both parties to be able to succeed.
Communication is key for all stages of the mentoring process. Without communication, the relationship will lead to a complete breakdown and overall failure. If the mentoring relationship succeeds in all of the stages successfully, it will lead to learning, accomplishment, cultivated friendship, tremendous growth, and closure.
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