When an organization invests in its employees, everyone wins: employee loyalty, engagement and motivation increase and the organization itself is bolstered by cross-functional, multi-level relationships. Investment can come in many forms ranging from sending employees to formalized training programs and industry-specific conferences to offering education reimbursement programs and employee assistance programs. However, these investments can come at a high cost—of both time and money. Many organizations, including Major, Lindsey & Africa, have found that establishing a mentorship program is a cost-effective method to invest in employees and provide valuable on-going training—a win for everyone involved.
Typically, a mentorship program pairs an experienced employee (mentor) with a newer hire or current employee taking on a new role (mentee), providing the mentee with an opportunity to develop new skills—or hone specific ones—and gain knowledge that will enhance their personal and professional growth. This relationship gives both sides an opportunity to learn from the other and a safe space to address issues. Depending on the size of the organization, partnering people from different practice areas or departments helps form relationships that would likely not develop organically.
Creating a Program
To start a mentorship program, begin by forming a committee of individuals who are interested in crafting the mission and vision of the program as well as creating guidelines for participation. The guidelines should set expectations for the relationship, including:
- When initial contact should be made and how long the relationship is intended to last
- How often mentors and mentees should communicate and/or meet
- Desired goals of the relationships and how success will be measured
- Any activities/projects/assignments that mentees or mentors will need to complete
- How confidential information will be handled and the circumstances when it might be shared
- A clear means for addressing any issues that arise within the relationship
Once the guidelines have been established, the committee will need to proactively reach out to the organization at large, share the news of the new program and solicit interest. While a company-wide email is a logical first step, the committee will need to act as ambassadors, "selling" the program in meetings and conversations. New employees may be reluctant to raise their hands for these types of programs, so it may be best to auto-enroll them and inform them upfront that participation is mandatory in their first year.
When participants are identified—both mentors and mentees—pairs will need to be assigned. Give careful consideration to the pairings, factoring in personalities, experience and subject-matter expertise. A solid best practice is to speak with the mentee's manager to gain insight about his/her personality, interests, areas for growth and development—and possibly suggest a mentor for that individual. The pairings are the most important part and will make or break the program, so make sure your mentors understand what they are agreeing to in advance of engaging with a mentee. For the relationship to succeed, both members of the pairing will need to be equally engaged and committed to the guidelines of the program. The mentor should be prepared to take the lead in the beginning, with a more natural flow of communication occurring over time. Ideally, the mentor is held accountable for arranging the first calls as sometimes new hires are hesitant to ask for time and/or interrupt the mentor's busy schedule.
A mentorship program can benefit an organization in myriad ways. For the employee being mentored, he/she can build confidence and begin to thrive in their role and within the organization. The mentor is also likely to gain fresh insight, perspective and motivation engaging in this type of "extracurricular" activity. The ideas shared can help both become more successful. For the organization, a mentorship program is a cost-effective investment that can ultimately help prevent attrition and improve a company's resolution as employees find more satisfaction and opportunity in the work they are performing.
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Shannon Murphy is a Managing Director with our Solutions Practice Group, based in Chicago. She oversees business development initiatives, client delivery, and recruiter leadership.
Avani Patel is a Director in our Solutions Practice Group, based in Washington, D.C. She provides substantive interim and permanent staffing solutions to top-tier law firms and in-house corporate departments. She enjoys being a valuable resource to attorneys, paralegals and legal professionals.