Friday, 18 September 2015

3 Little Secrets That Will Make Your Mentoring Programme More Effective and Successful (PART 1)

Mentoring in the professional as well as entrepreneurial environment has been a buzz word for a number of years and its popularity does not appear to decline. It is easy to see why...Mentoring is effective in so many ways, whether to improve your performance, support your path to promotion, increase team cohesiveness, identify and tap into your potential...and the list goes on and on. So it is just as natural that many companies decide to run internal mentoring programmes,

However, mentoring is far from simple or unstructured when it comes to running a programme that is company wide. Quite the opposite! Identifying, recruiting, training and matching mentees and mentors is truly a work-intensive affair that requires plenty of resources, including time, budget and it is not surprising that mentoring sponsors can become a little 'frustrated' with the process, particularly when soon after set up mentoring relationships start to lose momentum and fizzle out.

As somebody who has facilitated and run mentoring programmes for over ten years and a whole range of companies - from small to very large - I know that mentoring can prove extremely effective for most organisations and at so many levels, but securing its success requires planning, experience and expertise!

So if you are planning to launch your own mentoring programme, whether your organisation has 20, 200 or 200,000 employees, please take note of the following 3 top tips!

TIP #1 - Start with the End In Mind!

Just like you are likely to do with other initiatives, it is critical that you understand what are you hoping to achieve through your mentoring programme. Is it about employee engagement? It is about retention? Or maybe talent development? Whatever the case it is important that mentoring objectives are clearly identified and then aligned to overall business objectives, that is the only way mentoring is going to maintain its momentum, demonstrate its return on investment and keep all sponsors happy!
Once you know what you wish to achieve you can plan around it by engaging the most appropriate stakeholders and devote the right resources to it.

If you cannot identify some obvious and really clear objectives, then perhaps the initiative needs more thinking through! You may in that case want to ask your self: Does my organisation really need mentoring? What evidence have I got to support this ? Is my organisational culture in tune with mentoring? Depending on how you answer these questions you may then be able to identify your core objectives. But be honest! Or mentoring will never truly become embedded in your organisation!

TIP #2 - You need to sell mentoring too!

Some people expect their staff to jump at the opportunity of having a mentor, but actually this is not often the case.  And why should they? It will require their time, some preparation, it will need honesty if it is to work and who knows if mentors can really be you see, there are many reasons why you may discover you have reluctant mentees!

In order to set your self up for success, any mentoring initiative will need to be 'sold' and 'marketed' as you would with your external product or services. Start by identifying 'what's in it for me' for mentees, but also for mentors. Create a campaign that builds on clear expectations, a step by step approach and positive outcomes. Make it aspirational, focus on excellence and self-ownership too.
It may take six months or a even a year to build the right amount of momentum and buy-in, but that is OK because once you feel you have achieved it you will have people queuing up to find a mentor!

TIP #3 - The way you recruit mentors is as important as the way you recruit staff

You may be thinking that that is statement too far but seriously, mentors are vital to the success of any mentoring programme and you will need to think carefully about the who? why? and where? of mentoring recruitment if you wish your initiative to remain successful and keep momentum!

The first question to ask yourself is: do I have enough potential mentors internally or do I need to go outside and if so where? To identify internal mentors you require a pool of staff that is large enough to be able to discount at least 10% of your initial mentors. For that you will probably need a company with several departments or divisions. Otherwise you need to think about a whole range of organisations from alumni bodies to professional associations and you will need to carefully select them from there.  

Next is about your recruitment and assessment criteria. How will you go about identifying mentors, by their knowledge and expertise, interpersonal skills, ability to open doors or a mix of all those?
You will need to ideally create a check list and weight each criteria so as to understand what really matters to you and your mentees and that will depend on your initial answers as per tip #1!

Thirdly, how will you go about getting mentors on board? You can organise open days, go via recommendations, self nominations, applications or again a mix of these.
Will you assess their suitability through self assessment, an interview process, or whether they have mentored before and have been recommended by others?

As you can see there is a lot to do and a lot to think about. But if you take these 3 tips into careful consideration, your mentoring initiative stands a much greater chance to flourish in the longer term...

Next week there are more tips to come. But how does your organisation go about its mentoring? Do you have a well established, carefully structured programme? Or have you tried and failed at mentoring? I would love to hear your comments and experience and should you have any question, please do send them through!

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieveing their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

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