Good mentors can teach your staff in ways that can't be duplicated by training programs or seminars.
However, mentoring isn't just a matter of asking new employees to follow seasoned staff members around the office. You'll have to set goals and guidelines so that your mentoring program meets the employee's - and the company's - expectations.
Here are some suggestions to help make the relationships work:
Teach mentors the essentials of guidance and leadership. For instance, mentors should understand that their role is to coach, model and advise, rather than to dictate particular methods and solutions. They should also be prepared to share their professional successes and failures, in ways their students can use and understand. To those ends, consider an informal training session for mentors.
Mentoring should be voluntary, rather than a mandatory assignment. That way, you have people who are willing and able to devote the necessary time and energy to the job.
Pair up new employees with mentors who share their goals or hold positions in the company similar to those the students would like to reach. Team leaders and division managers are good examples.
A mentor should have a significant range of experience, a wide variety of contacts (both inside and outside the company) and a reasonable amount of say-so in company affairs.
Mentors should be forthright in confronting and assessing students' weaknesses and be able to suggest appropriate remedies. They should also consider developing assignments for their students to complete.
Once you've designed a mentoring program, you'll want to measure its success. One way: Ask each mentor and student to devise a chart or a worksheet they can use to plot the progress of their partnership.
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