At a time when employee experience is at the top of HR agendas, mentorship programs are an effective way to attract and retain top talent and encourage professional development. Such programs promote meaningful connections between teams and enable employees to share their experiences and knowledge with one another. When implemented in the right way, they can provide a significant competitive edge as well.
However, more often than not, mentorship programs — especially at early stage, high-growth companies — lack structure and accountability. As such, many either fail to launch or simply fall into the background as employees fail to engage. Or, valuable resources could be misdirected to programs that are not well structured nor well implemented, resulting in a missed opportunity to nurture talent for long-term growth. To clear the first hurdle, consider some of the best practices to follow when implementing mentorship programs.
Leading by example
The support of one or more senior leaders is critical to a mentorship program’s success. Make sure that the senior leadership team or a senior figure within the business is dedicated to bringing it to life, gathering feedback and reporting on progress. Leadership buy-in and active involvement will allow for a much more fruitful mentorship scheme. At Dataminr, members of our senior leadership team are actively involved as mentors, encourage their team members to participate, and provide a budget for the program. Their support reiterates to employees that this program is not only a valuable investment of time for employees, but a critical success factor for the company’s continued growth and expansion.
Setting clear expectations
Putting in place clear expectations is another best practice that organisations can follow to ensure the success of their mentorship schemes. Both mentees and mentors may begin the process with differing expectations for how their mentorship relationship will work. Without clear guidelines, it is likely that engagement will falter, meetings will get pushed back, and chances to give meaningful feedback or provide a pivotal piece of advice at a critical time will fall to the wayside. Establishing a framework that creates a balance between structure and employee ownership helps increase program effectiveness and satisfaction for mentors and mentees. For example, at Dataminr our mentorship program is designed to last six months, and we encourage mentorship pairs to hold at least one meeting a month. We emphasize that the relationship should be mentee-driven, putting the onus on the mentee to set the specifics of the agenda, meeting times and goals. In addition, to help set the direction from the beginning of the partnership, mentees fill out an application outlining what they wish to achieve from the program – giving both the mentee and mentor clear initial goals.
For any organisation, when evaluating new schemes or initiatives, it is important that progress is tracked and feedback provided. Establishing short surveys for employees to answer gives those building the program quantifiable data that they can use to see exactly what is working and what needs changing. This will help ensure an organisation’s mentorship program is most suited to their employees, ultimately securing the success of the scheme in the long term and the wider buy-in of the business.
Cultivating meaningful connections
Understanding the crucial role mentorship can play in the development of our employees, we’ve worked hard to develop an initiative that fosters meaningful impact at Dataminr. We are thoughtful and intentional when forming mentorship matches, ensuring that the specific goals of employees are listened to and taken into consideration. Participants have given feedback that these relationships have not only helped them gain knowledge in their current positions but also have been useful in helping them gain a better understanding of the company has a whole. For some, the mentorship program has even opened doors for them to pursue new career paths at Dataminr.
Engaging and retaining top talent
Organisations that fail to safe proof their mentorship programs and allow them to collapse risk leaving their employees feeling disenchanted and unsupported. In times when employees highly value companies that invest in their continued growth and success, facilitating a thriving mentorship program can be a powerful way to drive employee engagement and retention. Concurrently, a company’s growth plans can be fueled by employees who feel empowered to participate in a program that is designed to nurture their talents for the long term.
Interested in using L&D to retain talent? We recommend the Recruitment and Retention Conference 2019.