Mentoring has been closely associated with coaching as a highly effective practice in developing individual potential and performance. A coaching program requires a structured and standard implementation of processes and guidelines, and a mentoring program is not different. Yet, mentoring can be either formal or informal. It requires a connection between two individuals – a mentor and a protégé or a mentee. In many companies and other public or private sector entities, mentoring has been known to contribute largely in the professional development and career of individuals.
Organizations incorporate formal mentoring sessions because this way productivity from the employee and organizational point of view can be enhanced. Mentoring is also good for the career development of individuals. Organizations can develop best practices in mentoring which are embedded in the mentoring programs. The success of the mentoring programs rely on proper planning, implementation and evaluation. Seasoned mentors have taken great lengths to identify, modify, evaluate, and maintain these best practices. Many successful companies have embraced best practices in mentoring through innovative strategies.
Basically, there are two types of mentoring programs – formal and informal. Formal mentoring programs are similar to coaching programs: these are systematic and structured, with clearly established organizational goals. Informal mentoring programs have little or no structure and may not even have clear goals. Informal mentoring is based on perceived value and is geared toward interpersonal development, yet it still has an impact on career enhancement. Perceived value means that the protégé considers anyone who serves as a personal inspiration and motivator as a mentor.
Developing a Formal Mentoring Program
A mentoring program in an organization must be established with a certain set of standards and guidelines in mind. Mentoring best practices have certain elements that are crucial to the success of the program.
1. Conducting needs assessment
Every organization that seeks to incorporate mentoring program must examine its needs and importance, the expectations of the organization and the components of the program. The needs-assessment may be conducted by the human resources team, training team, or an assigned committee.
2. Building a mentoring program roadmap
The mentoring program roadmap covers all the necessary tools and components to initiate the program. This would comprise of the project and implementations plans, the results of the needs assessment and the program description.
3. Getting top management support and commitment
A successful formal mentoring program has the support and commitment of the management. People in the top management can participate as mentors to the staff or the low-level employees. Mentoring best practices can also be identified from the experiences these senior leaders have.
4. Assigning a dedicated mentoring program manager
The program must be facilitated by a dedicated program manager who is responsible for overseeing the course of the program. The role of the program manager is crucial to the success and effectiveness of the mentoring program.
5. Create a working committee or mentoring group
The mentoring program committee is assigned to set specific goals and objectives of the program. They must commit themselves to developing a learning culture within the organization. They work hand in hand with the program manager.
Best Practices in Mentoring Programs
1. Efficient mentoring programs are adequately staffed and funded.
This pertains to the availability of the needed resources to get the program rolling such as finances, staff members, and other resources. One example of best practice would be having enough mentors to address the number of mentees in the company. Another would be restricting the responsibilities of the committee members to mentoring and its related scope.
2. Quality mentoring programs are run by dedicated and committed leaders.
A mentoring program is intended to empower and improve individual potential. So, the mentors must show an example of being motivated and encourage staff members to develop themselves.
3. Quality mentoring programs have a defined set of goals, objectives and a clear mission throughout the life of the program.
4. Excellent mentoring programs provide a continuous contact and adequate supervision with the mentors.
5. Successful mentoring programs have a meaningful impact on the organization.
All employees involved, including the mentors and mentees, must be able to benefit and to use the program to their personal and professional development.