Three Key Steps To Starting A Staff Mentoring Programme

By Katharine Slattery, Peer Mentoring Resources

The first roll-out of any organisation’s mentoring programme will have a significant impact on both goodwill and investment in subsequent mentoring initiatives, so it’s essential to get things right first time.

To ensure that your mentoring programme gets off to the best possible start, these should be the first three steps you take:

1 Be clear

Your mentoring programme should have a clearly defined aim.

Who is this mentoring programme for, and – crucially – why? What solution will this programme provide? How is it different from other supports in place for staff? Think about what you need the role of a mentor to be in this context. How will this role differ from that of a coach or a line manager?

Define a time period for the programme and develop clear guidelines for the frequency, location and duration of mentor meetings. Have these in place before you recruit your mentors and mentees. Brief any other stakeholders such as line managers, or members of a coaching team. Think about how you will approach matching mentors and mentees.

Plan for how you will measure outcomes. You should put in place a system to review your mentoring programme as it happens, by keeping in touch with mentors and mentees and dealing with any challenges as they arise. Don’t wait for an end-of-programme survey to discover what has been going wrong!

2 Be strategic

There’s little point in rolling out a large-scale mentoring programme to enormous fanfare and then discovering equally immense and insurmountable challenges along the way. Starting small will allow you to manage the programme efficiently, building both momentum and goodwill for the initiative from all stakeholders.

For your crucial first programme you should choose your mentors wisely. Encourage the participation of senior colleagues who are supportive of the initiative and already believe in the concept of mentoring. (Think Shakespeare’s ‘We Few, We Happy Few’!)

A small group of dedicated colleagues will be positive and encouraging about the programme in general and will provide essential informal promotion of the initiative. They will also be committed to modeling best practice in mentoring for their mentees. When eventually your programme is operating successfully on a large scale, you may want to recruit those original mentees as mentors. For this reason, their first exposure to mentoring is important.

Invite your first group of mentors to play a significant role in the programme review process – their experiences and perspective should be central to the development of the programme for its next iteration.

And it goes without saying – ensure that all positive feedback is widely publicised throughout the organisation.

3 Put thought into training

You will of course want to ensure that your mentors and mentees are briefed in the programme aim and structure and are given the opportunity to ask questions about their respective roles in this collaborative relationship. However the impact of their training session can be so much deeper than that.

The training sessions are your opportunity to set the tone for the programme. Through training you can ensure your mentors are confident in their role by giving them the chance to practice mentoring scenarios and role-plays in a supportive environment. You can ensure your mentees are given practical tools and resources to make the most of their mentoring relationship.

Given that self-awareness is such a vital aspect of the relationship, both mentors and mentees will gain from the opportunity for self-reflection through training exercises and group work.

And equally important, it’s your chance to manage expectations on both sides, dealing with areas such as boundaries, trust and confidentiality.

Which of course leads us back to our first step… be clear!

About the author
Katharine Slattery is a trainer and consultant with fourteen years experience in the area of mentoring in the workplace and in education. In 2012 Katharine established Peer Mentoring Resources and her clients have included the Health Information and Quality Authority; Astellas Ireland; Freshways Foods; Care After Prison and Spinal Injuries Ireland. Katharine has worked with the HSE and the Law Society of Ireland to train mentors and mentees with their Women in Leadership mentoring programmes. Katharine co-ordinates an annual career mentoring programme for MBA students in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business and has developed undergraduate peer mentoring programmes for the Institute of Technology, Sligo and TU Dublin, Blanchardstown.

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