Though every small business starts out…well, small, it’s the business owners who can keep their eyes on the big picture that are most successful when growing their business and their profits.
Keeping your eye on the big picture means understanding what’s important. And one thing you can’t neglect? Are your employees.
From the very beginning, it’s smart to put a career development program in place for your employees’ continued growth and learning. According to Gartner research, fewer than half of all employees believe that their organization sees them as people, not workers. Not only that, but 93% of workers say they would remain at a company longer if it invested in their career!
How can you be one of the companies that prioritizes a culture of humanity — and boost employee retention while doing so?
It may sound complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Each new team member deserves individualized career coaching, guidance, and feedback. And delegating these important tasks through a mentorship program may be just what you’re looking for.
What’s the point of mentor-mentee relationships?
If you’re at all familiar with college Greek Life, you’ll know that the “Big/Little” relationships are a huge deal. They’re a way for a younger member (the “little”) to be shown the ropes by a more senior member (the “big”). These relationships quickly establish camaraderie, and new members know they have a champion in their “big.”
Perhaps you recall having a “Big/Little” or mentor/mentee relationship of your own in school or on a sports team. But with a whopping 84% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies boasting mentoring programs, it’s now the status quo in the workplace as well.
And while there are certainly times to buck the status quo, this isn’t one of them: of the companies with established mentorship programs, a whopping 90% of employees reported being happy at work.
Done right, a mentorship program can have massive benefits for both mentors and mentees. Keep reading as we lay out some surefire ways to set up a successful (and sustainable!) mentorship program.
Building Blocks of a Strong Mentorship Program
You want your mentorship program to last, so don’t cut corners when it comes to laying down a strong foundation. We’re not talking about money here! You don’t have to blow your budget to set up a fantastic program. As a matter of fact, we’d argue that you can’t buy your way to a sustainable mentorship program.
You’ve got to be thoughtful and intentional when building your metaphorical blocks. If you follow our advice, you’ll be well on your way to peace, harmony, and bliss in the workplace…or, at the very least, a killer team dynamic.
- Create incentive to participate
If your employees don’t want to participate in your program, then you don’t have a program. It’s your job to make this an appealing opportunity for your team members, and that starts with drumming up support from your company leaders.
Ensure that your leaders effectively communicate the benefits of the program to both mentor and mentee. Newer team members will have the chance to develop their skills in an informal setting, and more senior employees will be able to see their work through a fresh set of eyes while flexing their leadership muscles!
The mentor has the unique opportunity to empower their mentee with the skills and tricks they’ve developed. Make it clear that you won’t be imposing a set curriculum for mentors to administer…they’re mentors, not teachers! You’ll want to provide a clear structure to support their work, but leave plenty of room for interpretation.
- Set a timeframe and ground rules
The mentorship sessions are focused on the mentee, so all scheduling and goal-setting should be their responsibility. The role of the mentor is to provide a friendly face, share company knowledge, and guide the mentee to reach the goals they’ve set. The mentee should always be steering the ship!
We’ve talked about the faux pas of imposing a curriculum on your employees, but you’ll still want to provide direction for your program participants. That sense of direction can best be established by setting time frames for participation.
There’s no right answer when it comes to setting a length of time for your program. That all comes down to the unique needs of your company and employees. Consider polling team members to get a feel for the length of time they’d find most helpful, whether it’s three months or twelve.
Do not, do not, give the green light on a mentorship program without crystal-clear ground rules. Your participants should feel comfortable, safe, and heard at all times. Participants should also feel safe in speaking candidly, so commitment to privacy is essential.
Lastly, developing any new program is a process. Regularly ask for feedback about the program, and ensure that team members know your door is open for comments.
- Find the best mentor/mentee matches
Since there’s no Match.com for mentor relationships (yet!), you’ll have to play matchmaker yourself. Ask participants to write down what they’re looking for in a mentor or mentee, and pair them accordingly.
Because mentors will be passing company knowledge down, you might consider pairing senior team members with employees who may one day step into their roles. It’s never too early to set the foundation for a smooth transition of responsibilities.
Employee happiness comes from competitive compensation, a healthy work-life balance, and career development. With a strong mentorship program for career development, you’ll be saving money and providing that necessary enrichment for your participants.
With any luck, your mentors and mentees will stay connected long after they’ve completed the program! That all begins with the foundation you set today.
Want to set a strong financial foundation while you’re at it? Reach out to KYN for expert small business financial mentorship today.