How To Start a Mentoring Programme in 8 Steps (Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Creating a mentorship programme can be a great asset for a business. Mentorship schemes provide a way for team members to learn from one another, helping them to become more productive and knowledgeable. You can leverage mentorship programmes to benefit both the company and the employees under your care. In this article, we explain how to start a mentoring programme, what they are and how to recruit participants.

How to start a mentoring programme

There are many ways to start a mentoring programme, but tailoring one to your specific needs and objectives can make them more successful. Some simple steps to help you start a mentorship scheme include:

1. Review your competitors' mentorship programmes

Competitors may have similar mentorship programmes to the one you are trying to establish. Many companies give extensive details about their mentorship schemes on their public website to recruit candidates and show they value learning and development. This means that it's easy for you to review them and assess their programme. Whilst you probably don't want to copy the same scheme of competitors, it may be worth seeing what they do. Consider points like the type of events they have, how formal they make the scheme and how many people they recruit into the scheme each year.

2. Decide on the kind of scheme you want to run

Different schemes yield different results. Consider the key learning and development goals for your organisation as you decide on a scheme. Using staff consultation can help you understand the mentorship scheme your teams value the most. You can also consider using internal mentors or calling in mentors from an external company. Deciding on the sort of scheme you want to make earlier on in the process makes setting the tone and direction of your scheme easier.

3. Review your resources

Consider how much time and staffing you can dedicate to the running of your scheme. Also, think about how much time your mentors and mentees are going to dedicate to it. Relate this back to any corporate policies on personal development. Ensure that you have an appropriate mechanism in place to recognise a reduction in productivity. Note that taking part in the scheme might reduce participants' billable/working hours.

4. Identify your mentors

Once you have decided what kind of staff you want to act as mentors, you may provide incentives to encourage them to take part. This could be formally through management chains or informally through advertising the scheme company-wide. Help potential mentors understand how it relates to their own career development. For example, demonstrating leadership skills could help them achieve a promotion at a later date.

5. Advertise the scheme

There are a few points to consider when you advertise the scheme to a potential participant. To help you advertise these effectively, think about:

  • setting an advertisement closing date

  • providing concise information about who is eligible to avoid wasting time

  • making allowances for part-time workers and consider other groups, like those on maternity leave

Related: Why You Should Be Looking for a Mentor

6. Select your candidates

When you have received applications for the scheme, you use a mechanism to filter them. A single person could do this, but it may be advisable to have some oversight and a simple process. This helps to ensure you treat all staff fairly. Carefully consider how you tell candidates they won't be moving forward in the process and try to be as positive as possible. Doing so could encourage them to apply again in the future.

7. Facilitate an introduction and outline expectations

A mentorship can be a valuable relationship, so it's important to choose who you match together carefully. Once you have selected the best pairings, inform the candidates and the mentors. You could provide guidance on how and when they should meet and what format the meetings should take. The most advanced schemes have specific training for mentors, which prepares them to provide the best possible experience for their mentees.

8. Establish regular check-ins to gauge success

It is critical that you keep in regular contact with mentors and mentees. Do this at least for the first few weeks of the scheme, as you can expect some initial complications. This could be because of differing expectations of the roles, personality differences or time constraints. Work with groups to remedy these and keep the mentor-mentee relationship on track. You can use your findings from these first few weeks to alter the scheme if appropriate.

What is a mentorship programme?

A mentorship programme is a learning and development tool. Many companies use these programmes to help senior members of staff guide and support less experienced team members. There are several variations that you can choose to use. One example of mentorship is technical mentorship. Businesses use these to pass on specific technical skills from experienced staff to newer staff. Another is reverse mentoring, whereby a junior colleague supports a more senior colleague. The aim is to share knowledge and raise awareness of one another's duties.

Whatever sort of scheme you decide on, a mentoring scheme requires sustained management over a long timeframe. You may find that as time passes, you can re-use and repeat elements of the scheme to reduce how much managerial attention it requires. Regardless, a central person that takes ownership of the scheme for its duration is highly beneficial for maximising your return on time invested.

Related: Benefits of Mentoring for Mentors, Mentees and Organisations

Tips for starting a mentoring programme

Before looking for participants, it's important to understand how to start a mentoring programme. Every mentorship scheme looks different depending on the industry you operate in, the structure of the business and the objectives you have for the programme. It's also important to work out these details with other members of your team and key stakeholders so you can maximise the value of each mentoring relationship.

Methods to recruit company mentors

Your company mentors are the backbone of the scheme as they pass on their skills and experience to their mentees. Some people may engage with the process because they want to give something back or because they derive motivation from supporting their colleagues. Others may find an incentive in the experience it provides them. Whatever their motivations are, your role is to encourage them throughout. Providing information upfront is valuable for onboarding mentors, such as:

  • knowing how regularly they should meet their mentees

  • providing specific, possibly external, training in mentoring and coaching

  • training in delivering feedback

  • knowing the expected length of the relationship you anticipate them having with the mentee

  • knowing the policy on expenses and how they can claim them

Related: Top Tips for Career Progression

What is mentorship programme recruiting?

Mentorship programme recruiting is the process by which you choose who gets a place on your mentorship programme. You could choose to run a recruitment process in several ways. Some of the most common ways include:

  • An open process to which anyone in the company can apply.

  • A process open to a specific demographic, such as those at a certain grade, women in leadership positions or people from minority backgrounds.

  • A process for line managers or supervisors to nominate candidates without direct applications.

Methods for mentorship programme recruiting

The best approach for your company's mentorship recruitment often depends on the size of your workforce. It also depends on the relative scaling of the team working on the mentoring programme. If you have a sole point of contact or busy staff are trying to run the programme alongside their other day-to-day work, a simpler recruitment process can be better.

You may wish to prioritise creating an application process that allows the applicant to research a specific application to submit. If you have an enthusiastic team with lots of time to dedicate to the process, you could choose to undertake a more rigorous process to ensure you select the best and brightest candidates. This includes approaches such as:

  • A paper-based application in which all candidates answer the same questions.

  • An interview process where candidates answer questions about their motivation for wanting to be part of the scheme.

  • An assessment centre with different exercises or mini-interviews that assess the qualities each candidate offers.

  • A paper-based application for line managers to provide scores on several aspects of their performance, with the highest-scoring candidates accepted.

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