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9 Best Practices for Creating Powerful Mentoring Programs
by Ann Tardy

Implementing a corporate mentoring program can be your wildly successful legacy or your administrative nightmare. The difference lies in creating a powerful, employee-inspired, effective program.

As an employee benefit, a powerful mentoring program can serve to attract new employees and develop your existing team. A mentoring program is the perfect opportunity to leverage the skills and strengths of your employees in order to train and develop each other. And when designed properly, a mentoring program can enhance leadership skills, soften departmental barriers, increase cross-functional effectiveness, and boost employee morale.

Alternatively, a poorly planned mentoring program can become an administrative nightmare. The burden of designing, implementing and maintaining a mentoring program often falls on the already-full plate of an HR director. And an ineffective mentoring program runs the risk of frustrating the employees (and you!) and negatively impacting morale.

The following are nine best practices for creating a powerful, employee-inspired, effective mentoring program:

1.Define Your Success
As early as possible, define your program’s success factors in measurable ways and then design your program to achieve that success. For example, one of LifeMoxie’s clients created a mentoring program to increase membership in its company-sponsored affinity groups. Another LifeMoxie client is using the program to decrease attrition in the workforce and develop its mid-tier of management.

2.Give them a Reason to Participate
Time is precious, especially on the job. If you want your employees to participate in your mentoring program, give them an incentive to participate or obligate them to identify their own reasons for participating. For example, make participation in the program a part of the evaluation process in annual performance reviews.

3.Blow up Mentoring Myths
Mentoring often connotes “guide for your life,” similar to the character Yoda from the movie Star Wars. As a result, employees often expect to be mentored by the highest ranks of the company in a formal succession planning process reserved for high performance individuals. In reality, everyone on your team can be a Mentor and everyone, regardless of level, can benefit from a mentoring program. Encourage employees to participate as both a Mentor and a Mentee in your program so they learn from as well as develop each other.

4.Choose or a Blind Date
As the leader of your mentoring program, you can teach people how to match themselves (think or be the matchmaker (think blind date). Teaching people how to match themselves will give them lifetime mentoring skills, but will require your employees to do the work of finding and creating their relationships. As the matchmaker, you may be able to match two individuals quickly; however, the burden of matching them and ensuring their successful relationship will always lie with you. LifeMoxie has helped one of its client implement a program that combines the best of both, and as a result it takes on the essence of

5.Teach Them How to Mentor
To create an effective mentoring program, you must teach the participants how to be effective Mentors and Mentees. Incorporate ongoing Mentor/Mentee training and provide the participants with tools for creating structure in their relationships. Your goal is to teach them how to create their own mentoring relationships so that your mentoring program becomes an employee-inspired, employee-generated program year after year.

6.Make Them Commit
Make it a requirement that everyone that enters into a mentoring relationship must sign a mentoring agreement, and require the participants to commit to the relationship for a certain period of time, preferably three to six months.

7.Mentor Around Specific Goals
As your participants start creating mentoring relationships, encourage them to work on no more than three specific Mentee goals. This structure will create focus and contribute to the effectiveness of their relationship.

8.Make it Easy to Play
There is nothing worse than an interested, inspired employee that becomes frustrated with the process. Make it easy to participate in your mentoring program, easy to access the mentoring tools and information, and easy for you to administer.

9.Track Everyone’s Progress
Encourage the participants to track their progress in the program and on their goals. Incorporate a mechanism for participants to provide their feedback on their relationship and the mentoring program.

About the author:

LifeMoxie Corporate Solutions offers innovative solutions to train and develop your up-and-coming talent. The LifeMoxie Corporate Mentoring Program combines a unique, on-line mentor matching mechanism with on-site Mentor/Mentee trainings for sharpening mentoring skills that result in powerful, effective mentoring relationships. LifeMoxie offers complimentary consultations and effectiveness evaluations for companies contemplating the launch of a new program or the overhaul of a current one.