Tom Harris: How mentoring programs are a smart investment for organizations

Tom Harris, CEO, HMB

Tom Harris, CEO, HMB

Mentoring programs that help develop an individual’s hard and soft business skills are essential to maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s crowded marketplace. Your employees represent your brand every day. Mentoring programs should be designed to support retention as well as help individuals with career development and satisfaction throughout their employment with your organization.

It’s critical to plan, implement and evaluate a mentoring program that sets your offerings apart from the competition by positioning team members as trusted advisers. A culture of mentoring must be created and nurtured at all levels within an organization.

Here’s how to start a mentoring program within your company:

Assess company needs. Obtain feedback from clients, employees, managers and partners on personal and professional development gaps that exist within the organization.  Use questionnaires or conduct personal interviews.

Set measurable company goals. Determine the goals based upon your assessment, and consider cross-training, leadership and skill development, and employee retention initiatives.

Design a mentoring program to fit the culture. Enlist input from all areas of the organization, especially new hires, to ensure buy-in at all levels. Your mentorship program should reflect the values and principles of the organization, whatever the size.

Create a budget. Develop a budget to include incentives for mentors, training programs and infrastructure to support the program.

Launch the program. Organize an event to roll out the new mentorship program. Prepare to answer questions and gather additional feedback. Also consider developing an overview sheet and Q&A that provides how it works, duration, who can apply, expectations, etc.

Identify mentors. Mentors should be excellent communicators with well-developed listening skills. Here are a couple of matters to keep in mind when determining which mentors are most appropriate for a particular employee:

  • Match mentors to mentees. The best mentorship relationships are based upon shared values and include elements of reciprocity, mutual respect and clear expectations.
  • Reciprocity: Both parties need to benefit from the relationship. Mentees should be prepared to give constructive feedback to the mentor and consider what they might be able to teach their mentor so that the mentor is able to grow professionally.
  • Mutual respect: Both parties need to respect their partner’s time, effort, experience and qualifications.
  • Clear expectations: Mentees need to take an active role in managing the relationship by arranging and preparing for meetings to ensure the best use of their mentor’s time.
  • Mentor the mentor. Provide guidelines such as meeting frequency, but allow personal and professional development initiatives to develop through a collaborative exchange between participants. Some guidelines:
  • Set goals: Establish goals that are specific and quantifiable. If a goal is stated as, “Improve your technical skills,” it is not as easily measured as one that states, “Achieve XYZ certification by the third quarter of this year.”
  • Tap into mentee’s passions: Mentors should help identify ways to tap into the mentee’s passion(s) to guide them in their career development while helping the company reach its goals.
  • Measure it: Mentoring programs should be routinely measured by soliciting participant feedback, comparing employee retention rates with those who participated in the mentoring program against those who did not, determining if client satisfaction has improved, and evaluating participant productivity and engagement.

Professional service firms reaping the benefits of mentoring programs are experiencing accelerated on-boarding, training and increased retention rates. They also achieve higher levels of client satisfaction and retention — as clients are able to tap into expertise and see that their own feedback is heard.

If you take some time to plan, implement and enhance your mentoring program, you will realize many benefits. These include offering employees a meaningful opportunity for exchange of information and feedback to achieve fulfilling careers while helping the company reach its goals.

Tom Harris is CEO of the Westerville-based businesses technology and IT consulting firm HMB. Learn more at