Running a mentoring program

Before you set up a mentoring program in your business, consider your business needs. Review your business plan and work out what you hope to achieve through mentoring your staff. Talk to your staff to find out if they will be receptive to a mentoring program, and, if so, what type of program will suit them best.

The following are some guidelines for starting a mentoring program in your business.

Choose a type of mentoring

The type of mentoring you choose will depend on the culture of your business and your requirements. For example, you may decide to use mentoring as a sort of informal 'buddy' system for new staff. Alternatively, if you have identified staff that have potential to be progressed into senior roles, or staff who need help managing their current role, you may decide a formal program will be best.

You can also use online social networking tools in a mentoring program. This is particularly useful for businesses that operate in several different locations.

Identify staff for the program

Mentees

Work out which of your staff will most benefit from mentoring. You may need to conduct a staff skills assessment. Once you have chosen some mentees, you can then match them with appropriate mentors.

Mentors

Mentors should be staff with good communication and leadership skills. A mentee needs to be comfortable raising a range of issues with their mentor without worrying about repercussions in the workplace. For this reason, it's not usually appropriate for the mentor to be the mentee's immediate supervisor.

It can be difficult to find suitable mentors within a small business with limited resources. In this case, you may consider finding external mentors through your industry association or business networks.

Set goals

Both the mentor and mentee need to work out their goals for the program. They should write them down and share them when they first meet. These goals will be what you hope to achieve with the mentoring program and will be different to your overall business goals.

The mentor and mentee should decide how they will track the progress of their goals, and how they will know when they have achieved them.

Define roles and expectations

Your mentoring program will be more successful if you make sure that both the mentor and mentee understand what is expected of them from the beginning. Mentors may need some training in what they need to do in their role.

Develop a structure for the program

Whether your mentoring program is formal or informal, it's a good idea to set guidelines about how often mentors and mentees should meet and the types of things they should discuss. Be realistic about how much time each person can dedicate to the program.

You will also need to decide how long the mentoring program should run for. This will depend on the purpose of the program, your staff and the goals that have been set. For example, if the program is designed to introduce new staff to your business, it might need to run for only a short time. But if the program is to develop staff so they are able to move into more senior roles, it will need to run until they have achieved their goals.

Record the meetings

Decide who will keep track of the meetings.

For a formal mentoring program, you, as the business owner, might decide to record the details of the meetings. Alternatively, the appointed mentor might record the meetings and report back to you.

In an informal mentoring program, the mentee should keep records of meetings, including notes on what was discussed and what the outcomes were. They should summarise the discussion and record any actions that need to be taken.

Review the program regularly

Plan to review the mentoring program and the work of the mentors and mentees regularly. Assess the mentors and the mentees to work out what impact the program has had on their work performance.

You also need to review the relationships between mentors and mentees regularly - this way you can make any changes needed if a relationship between a mentor and a mentee is not working out as planned.

You should establish clear criteria for monitoring and reviewing a formal mentoring program, and decide on set time frames to evaluate the program. This may be monthly, twice a year or once every year, depending on your business.

You can use questionnaires and interviews with mentors and mentees to find out how effective the program is and if both parties feel they are achieving their goals.

Also consider...