Top Tips for Starting a Mentoring Programme

You’re probably aware that to produce a succession of motivated, driven, forward-facing employees every organisation needs some form of career development programme. Leaving career development to managers is cheaper in terms of time value, but is often ineffective, as they lack the ability to recognise a “high flyer” or may be reluctant to lose them.

Mentoring enhances the abilities of both the mentor and mentee and enables the organisation to gain increased efficiency. There are many intangible benefits to be had, including better morale, greater career satisfaction, and staff getting up to speed more quickly.

So, you’ve decided you want to start a mentoring programme but fear you’ll face resistance from management and your team. So, what can you do?

Convincing Management

There are lots of benefits to implementing a mentoring programme but some of the ones that may sway your management could be:

It Makes Recruitment and Induction Easier

Having a mentor as a new employee helps them find their feet in a new environment. Promoting your mentoring programme is a good way to make your organisation appear more attractive to new employees, especially if it leads to fast tracking to higher management roles.

Mentoring Becomes a Motivating Tool

The mentee feels they’re being listened to, and someone is taking an active interest in their career, whilst they’re also gaining the tools to progress. The mentor gets to embrace new challenges and enhance their role by acquiring new skills to support the mentee as well as their own progression. This motivational tool can be extended as part of organisational change management, where aspects of corporate culture can be explored by the mentor and mentee, identifying those that are fixed, and those that are open for dialogue, or can be challenged.

Mentoring Can Be a Very Effective Retention Tool

Working out why employees might be dissatisfied is a key benefit of the mentoring process and if their issues can be resolved, retained talent will feel more positive about their organisation. Employees who feel that they have ‘buy-in’ are more willing to share ideas and can be a catalyst for instigating organisational change.

Mentoring Improves Succession Planning

Particularly if there’s a widely established mentoring programme in an organisation. This might involve shorter mentoring relationships so that senior managers are familiar with the strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations of a large cross section of staff, and so can use this to their advantage going forward.

It Improves Communication

This is a key benefit, as mentoring breaks down hierarchies and so builds communication networks that can improve productivity and efficiency, leading to innovation and a quicker response to changing business needs. This improved communication increases the flow of ideas and information, whilst facilitating collaboration between teams.

But is Your Organisation Ready?

Prepare your organisation for mentoring by carrying out an evaluation of their readiness. This might involve an examination of the cultural and developmental climate, management commitment, and the history of previous self-development or mentoring initiatives, for example, were they successful or just a short-lived trend? It’s also important to gauge whether there are other initiatives that might compete for resources.

You May Also Need to Convince Your HR Department

Don’t assume HR will be initially supportive of a mentoring scheme! They may resist it, especially if they’re already under pressure, they may view it as another way to give them more responsibility. The solution here is to engage with the HR community early on, ideally in the planning stage, and continue to keep them informed, discussing how each mentoring initiative will support their priorities. You could create a mentoring programme within HR itself to help them to appreciate it!

Convincing Your Team

If management are supportive then the next step is to convince your team. You can start to do this by promoting mentoring as a positive experience by:

  • Inviting popular mentors to speak in your organisation
  • Promoting mentoring as a positive experience through staff development sessions
  • Addressing concerns and fears using a no-blame approach by introducing an anonymous feedback tool
  • Setting up a small coaching workshop session
  • Promoting positive mentoring success stories, either in your organisation or your industry, through organisational news feeds
  • Clarifying the programme for those who are not involved, so that if only a small number of participants take part initially others can be involved as it progresses
  • Providing case studies of successful mentoring programmes, for example, such as the one at Caterpillar:

“Mentors at Caterpillar provide guidance on almost every aspect of in-house practice such as career exploration, corporate culture, “soft skills” development, organizational understanding, internal enterprise awareness, work-life balance and community knowledge.”                 — Jamie Meyers, Corporate Counsel, Caterpillar

Making a Case for Virtual Mentoring

An objection to mentoring can often be the time it takes out of your busy schedule, but online mentoring is flexible and can enable much more rapid responses than the traditional meeting scheduled approach. You may find this approach works well if you’re employed by a national or multinational enterprise or want to open up a world of potential mentors from a global pool! A virtual mentor is great way to target respected industry experts. Through using a virtual mentor, the mentee has the chance to enter into a longer-term relationship with their mentor. The mentee could begin by having a conference call to discuss their training, career, and how they might use their skills, building an agenda around what is useful and relevant to them. You can find out more about virtual mentors specifically at ITSM Zone here.

So, You’ve Convinced Management and Your Team, What’s Next?

Once you’ve created some interest, and gained some buy-in from staff, the next step could be choosing what type of mentoring programme you want to start.  You can find out more about how to do this at my session on Mentoring for Success: A cost Efficient and Trusted Solution, at #ITSM18.  The main issue can be getting it off the ground initially, but once established, mentees generate mentors and help to embed the initiative and reap the rewards.

Mentoring should be embedded from the ground level of the organisation up and needs to become part of the culture or exponential problems can arise. Being a mentor and implementing a mentoring scheme is an efficient way to gain a more engaged workforce, increase job satisfaction, and show you care!

Education Portfolio Manager at

Kat is an Education Portfolio Manager at ITSM Zone. She has twelve years’ experience as a manager in the education, digital and new media sector. During her career she has been a developmental mentor and coach to both new and experienced staff, introducing successful mentoring programmes into the workplace. Her current role is focused upon course production, online marketing, content creation and sharing ideas.

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