In a recent meeting, the conversation turned to the topic of what makes a “great workplace.”While there was healthy debate, everybody agreed that an employer’s commitment to its workers’ personal and professional development was one of the things employees valued most, and that providing this support to employees was seen as making a huge difference not only to their career development, but to retention rates as well. One of the best ways to harness this organisational support for personal and professional development is through a mentoring programme – something I’m personally passionate about and that I’ve written about previously. But what’s the best way to put a mentoring programme into practice successfully? Based on my own experiences, here are some of the most important factors to consider during the implementation phase. (1) Do your research It’s easy to underestimate the planning and research that needs to take place before such a programme begins. It seems common, particularly in the SME sector, for a company to suddenly announce a mentoring initiative, thinking that one of their directors can “just run it.” The assumption is that setting up an initiative like this will only involve organising a few meetings. Inevitably, these “on the fly” programmes are not really successful. I’ve found that the key to success is treating it like any priority business project; it needs an owner who has the time and commitment to set it up properly and maintain it. After all, it’s an investment in arguably your most precious resource – your people. (2) Run a pilot As personal development is such a high priority for many employees, it’s important to get it right from the beginning. Running a pilot with a few employees who can later become advocates for the programme is a great way to ensure that any kinks in the programme have been ironed out. These employees can also help to provide some buzz around the programme when it officially launches. One thing to bear in mind though, is that the select group of mentees and mentors involved in the pilot should receive training, and that all your processes need to be in place before you run the pilot. A mentoring pilot should be viewed as an exercise in fine-tuning, rather than a leap into the unknown. (3) Sing from the same hymn sheet It’s vital that everyone involved in the mentoring programme starts with the same understanding of the principles you will work to. Therefore, make sure that all of the mentors involved in your scheme have been on your mentor training course, regardless of their previous training or other mentor roles they may have held. Finally, all mentees should attend a session that explains the programme and the expectations for their participation. Want to discover how to connect mentors and mentees effectively? Continue reading on page two for more tips.
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