Establishing a mentoring scheme in the workplace

Mentoring schemes in the workplace allow less experienced employees to receive guidance, advice and support from more experienced mentors. This opens up a line of communication for employees to share learning experiences and insights, career advice, and technical knowledge.

Whilst mentoring schemes bring an undoubtedly positive impact, it can be difficult to get such a programme initially started, with schemes requiring a complete buy-in from senior management to get off the ground. After all, setting up a scheme can be a big time and financial investment for any company, and as such it can often fall behind other priorities. Nonetheless, there are many benefits which make mentoring programmes a worthwhile investment.

One such benefit of a workplace mentoring scheme is the level of support felt by mentees involved in the programme. Employees have the ability to turn to someone with more industry knowledge and experience than themselves for advice. This can be a really useful place to discuss ideas, review work, and develop new or existing skills – all of which helps the employee feel as if the company cares about their development.

In larger organisations, where the chance of isolation and disconnection between management and employees is much higher, this can be invaluable. By giving employees the opportunity to lean on the experiences of a mentor a company can increase engagement and focus for both the mentor and mentee.

The result is a reduced staff turnover, improved loyalty, and increased productivity. That’s a high return on investment considering just how simple workplace mentoring programmes are.

So what are the key elements to setting up a mentoring scheme?

First, a business must take the time to understand what it is they want to achieve from workplace mentoring. Then, from that, they must decide how the success of the course will be measured – which metrics will form the KPIs for the programme, and why. This really is key – no workplace scheme or programme should be implemented without clearly defined goals and a method to measure progress towards those goals.

Similarly, mentees should have their own ideas about what will constitute a successful programme. Having their own clear goals about what they want to achieve with the mentor, and the mentor understanding these goals too, will help determine whether the mentee actually gains a significant uplift from the mentoring.

At the same time, opening a line of regular communication between the mentees, mentors, and senior management will allow everyone involved to understand what is working and what is not. Feedback is a key part of the process, meaning the whole program can be tweaked and improved to the benefit of all participants. In fact, lack of transparent and two-way communication is one of the most common pitfalls with mentoring, so a business must ensure participants have a platform to make suggestions, or voice concerns, about the programme.  

Finally, choosing good mentors is vital. A mentor should have strong verbal communication skills, the ability to empathise and build rapport, and the required skill to spot and develop talent. Fortunately, these skills can be learnt or improved through mentor training courses.

More important than having the skills to be a mentor though, is the desire and drive to be a mentor. A person must understand exactly what is required of them to be an effective mentor, they must be interested in doing so, and they must also understand why a fellow colleague may be looking for a mentor. It may be worthwhile for businesses to have an application process for mentors. If no suitable internal candidates are found, then there are professionals who can provide ongoing mentoring and consultation for the programme, which may be worth considering.

We’re strong believers in the power and benefits of workplace mentoring. Investing the time, effort and resources to set up a scheme can yield fantastic long-term results, and any business that is serious about the development of their employees should strongly consider implementing one. However, they must be careful to ensure they avoid the common pitfalls, and that the scheme is constantly being measured and improved to the benefit of all involved, in order for the scheme to be a success.