Are You Ready to Establish a Mentorship Program?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Could a mentorship program help you feel less overwhelmed during the COVID-​19 crisis? These days, leaders are spending more time checking in with employees who aren’t used to working from home. You may also be spending extra time churning out revised revenue projections or providing other data sets that your cohorts on the leadership team need in order to set the direct strategic direction for the company.

The last thing you have time for is mentorship. Right? And besides taking up a lot of time, mentoring would require you to have a positive attitude — something that is in short supply right now. Katherine Plumhoff has a different opinion. In her recent tlnt​.com article, Plumhoff points out that this could be a perfect time to develop a mentorship program in your organization.

Defining the Program

A good mentorship program can help promising employees learn some of the skills they’ll need to succeed as senior managers. Mentoring also gives them exposure to situations they’ll encounter as they move up the organizational ladder. The current crisis is the perfect example of an unpredictable business challenge.

As you develop the program, establish guidelines. Determine what you want mentees to learn. Perhaps they can create presentations in areas where they possess knowledge. They might attend client meetings and then summarize what happened and make recommendations about strategies for the next meeting. Or they can contribute to planning sessions about how to create business forecasts for the next six months.

Your mentorship program will only be as good as the framework you set up. This framework should include specific start and end dates. For example, a period of six months may work well for your organization. During those six months, the mentors and mentees should meet a set number of times. Both parties should write up, at regular intervals, their impressions of how well they think the process is working.

Selecting Participants

The success of your mentorship program will also correlate to how well the participants relate to one another. Your mentors don’t always have to be the same gender as their mentees. And they don’t have to be significantly older. But they should possess knowledge and experience that they are willing to share. Your mentors should also make a commitment to the program, especially since it will likely require putting in extra time.

Your mentors may not have specific management training or experience. If that’s the case, talk with them about how to deliver both positive and negative feedback. That simple step can reduce an awkward conflict between the participants.

Likewise, the person running the program should give mentors the ability to do a soft launch with their prospective mentee. If they give an assignment that is not completed on time, mentors should have the ability to decline to work with that mentee.

Your Mentorship Program

A good mentorship program should have a home. In most organizations, the responsibility rests with human resources. Regardless of where you assign this task, check in regularly on whether mentors and mentees are getting what they need. In the long run, these programs can contribute to professional development, a key desire of many younger employees. The program also prepare rising stars to move to the next level in your organization.