|We receive a lot of questions
about starting (or improving existing) formalized mentoring programs.
Examples: I want to start a mentoring program for new employees.
Where do I start? Weve had a mentoring program
for a while, but it isnt working very well. Any suggestions?
Following are some key considerations for new programs.
Lets assume youve concluded that formalized mentoring
makes sense for your organization. For example,
- you have support from top officials and the target
audience; you and your task force have time and resources
- the organizational climate is healthy (business is
good, youre hiring or at least not laying off, and people
have expressed interest in developing and learning);
- some informal mentoring is already happening, and people
speak well of it;
- you have some specific goals in mind for the mentoring
- mentors and mentees have time to meet and work on development
activities together (even if most of their exchanges will be
If you arent certain about what to do, order The
Coordinators Guide (listed in Product List) for
many more details to consider.
As you plan a new initiative, here are some musts:
- Start small. You want to be successful in all respects,
so focus a pilot effort on a group (and part of the organization)
that is likely to do well. Two good targets are new hires and
- Consider postponing a formal program (with matched pairs
or groups) in favor of what The Mentoring Group calls Enhanced
Informal Mentoring. Conduct orientations on what effective
mentoring looks like, make mentoring self-study materials available,
provide some informal coaching for people seeking mentors and
to be mentored, circulate anonymous examples of effective mentoring
activities, and watch the progress of this less formal effort
for a time.
- Plan ahead. Take at least six months to plan your
initiative and get buy in.
- Link goals to the mission and values of your organization.
As organizational and mentoring expert Dr. Kathy Kram has emphasized,
mentoring efforts that arent linked to the goals of the
organization will not be taken seriously and will fail.
- Dont do everything yourself. Create a dynamic task
force thats excited about mentoring. Be sure everyone
has a key role and set of tasks.
- Dont re-invent the wheel. Good materials for
designing programs and for training mentors and mentees exist.
Check out listings on the Web. Consider bringing in one or more
consultants to help you think through your strategy, train everyone,
and evaluate the impact of the mentoring effort.
- If you opt for a program with mentor-mentee pairs (or mentoring
circles), plan a great deal of structure. Have a formal
application process, clear roles for participants, competencies
on which mentees will focus, forms to turn in, formalized training,
materials, scheduled ongoing activities, etc. You can always
loosen up, but its harder to tighten up if a formal program
begins with a too-casual approach.
- Evaluate everything you do. Dont wait until
the year is over and try to pull together some results to decide
if youll do it again. Go beyond feel good
data that say the training was enjoyable. Try to get some baseline
data before you begin on mentees competencies, knowledge,
attendance, satisfaction with the organization, etc. Then measure
Mentoring initiatives (and formal programs) take much time and
effort. They look deceptively simple, yet theyre not. Mentoring
isnt rocket science, and yet its far more than common
sense. Its better not to organize formalized mentoring unless
we can do it right. You and I will kill an incredible concept
if we contribute to giving mentoring a bad name.