The 3 Best Areas Of Emphasis For Effective Mentoring

Best Practices For Your Mentoring Program
Summary: Effective mentoring in onboarding can increase employee speed to competency and retention, but what components make for the best mentoring program? Here are 3 areas to focus on as you consider program design.

Best Practices For Your Mentoring Program

Effective employee onboarding is a critical factor behind employee success. When done right, a training program should empower, enlighten, and encourage new hires. Doing so is not only a proven way to retain productive employees, but to support the whole company as well. When paired with a mentoring program, training also shifts from general to personal and creates a humanized and accessible atmosphere for employee growth.

An emphasis on bridging the mentor-mentee gap and allowing room for new hires to onboard with sufficiently available time and resources is becoming increasingly important—particularly as more millennials are segued into the workforce. When broken down, the aspects of fruitful mentor programs fall into 3 categories.

1. Mentoring Readiness

Mentors must be appropriately trained for optimal success. So, once a corporate training program has been planned, revised, or added to an existing program, you should ask a few questions to assess mentor readiness:

  • Do all mentors fully understand their roles and intend to commit to the success of their mentees?
  • Is there a clear consensus regarding the definition of "mentoring" within our organization/team/program?
  • What expectations does management have of the program? Can mentors realistically achieve those goals?
    Do all mentoring program participants fully understand their roles?
  • What are the program objectives, and have mentors been given the right physical and knowledge-based resources to meet those objectives?
  • How can mentors measure the progress of their mentees? What specific basis of measurement can they be given?

By having realistic expectations for success, the process of choosing mentors can be as easy as pulling from your line of the most experienced (and willing) employees and helping them grow as teachers. Ensure mentor readiness by allowing them the time and space to learn (e.g., introducing them to tangible resources such as mentoring workshops and webinars). This way you can develop your employees from both ends—new hires and seasoned team members alike.

2. Mentor Matching

It is integral to match new hires with mentors who are properly equipped with the knowledge and skill base necessary to help them achieve their career goals. So, here are five steps to maximize mentor matching effectiveness:

  • Identify specific business objectives
  • Identify relevant skills/competencies
  • Select mentor and mentee pools based on those skills
  • Create application and qualification questions for mentors and mentees
    Choose the most effective matching method (i.e., self-matching, facilitated matching, etc.)
  • Facilitate mentor matching

Matching mentors that fit not only helps to foster a touch-base system for new hires but also encourages networking. A study by Harvard Business Review shows that work friendships boost company satisfaction by up to 50%, solidifying a sense of comradery [1]. Mentoring programs are just one step in the right direction, making it important that incoming employees are assured that they’ll find a fit within the company.

3. Mentor-Mentee Training

First impressions matter. A 2009 study by the Aberdeen Group of senior executives and HR staffing and recruiting functions found that 86% of respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment [2]. Training should, therefore, encapsulate what it means to work for your company, as the messaging being delivered during this time is vital to retain employees.

Mentoring and coaching are terms used interchangeably but have distinctly different connotations. Coaching tends to lean toward the improvement of a specific skill or behavior—implying a finite relationship. Mentoring, on the other hand, is more long-term, establishing the mentor as a source of wisdom and training beyond the length of an onboarding session. Individual mentoring is a relationship that can and should last over the course of an employee’s time with your company, therefore it’s important that they are given the tools they need to succeed. So, whether assigned to an individual or a group, mentors should:

  • Focus on being empathetic and honest with ones’ mentees, giving space for both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism
  • Practice their skills as good listeners
  • Be willing to assist their mentees with attaining their career goals, mapping out their plans for success with them and advising them accordingly
  • Keep in touch with ones’ mentees, scheduling appointments and check-in conversations regularly


Fortunately, not all responsibility falls on mentors to make an onboarding program work. For instance, mentees should be open to receiving feedback—whether praise or criticism—and feel confident that their mentor is leading them in the direction of their professional goals.

Mentoring programs are a cost-saving means of getting new hires familiar with the ins-and-outs of the company. They’re also an investment in the future. By creating a seamless onboarding process, employees get the tools they need to succeed and a long-term plan for connecting to their job and the organization.


[1] HBR Research

[2] Aberdeen Research

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