Yesterday, I discussed how a successful mentoring programme is an effective way to enhance the professional growth of an organisation’s greatest assets — its employees.

It covered determining your mentoring needs; building support for the programme and selecting the right mentors. Today, I will continue with more tips:

Pair them up properly

The success of the programme hinges on a strong working relationship between mentor and mentee. You need to ensure that there is good chemistry between them and that both parties understand each other’s communication styles, strengths and limitations.

Thus, it is helpful to conduct a behavioural assessment on both parties beforehand. Perfect matching, however, is not about pairing similar people, which is a natural tendency. It is important to embrace diversity as it helps bridge the gap between racial, gender, cultural and other differences.

Set specific goals

Before they embark on the programme, both parties should work in tandem to establish specific objectives they want to achieve through this initiative. Goals can include meeting certain sales targets or working towards getting the mentee promoted to a particular position.

Establish the parameters

It is also important to establish the parameters around the relationship at the outset. Time commitments and time limits should be discussed — the mentor must set aside adequate time for the mentee but the latter should not expect excessive amounts or abuse this privilege.

The pair should also decide in advance how and where communication will take place. Will there be regularly scheduled meetings? Will discussions take place face to face, over the phone or even via e-mail?

It’s best to set a schedule at the beginning that outlines the number and frequency of meetings each month. Both parties need to make their preferences known from the start and reach a compromise.

Conduct an orientation programme

Orientation is critical to the success of the mentoring programme as an emotional bond should be created between the two individuals to enhance its success.

This is where the duo can come together to discuss setting of specific goals and establishing parameters, as mentioned before, as well as clarify expectations and share their concerns.

Participants also need to be taught how to be effective mentors and mentees, based on a common understanding, such as the need for both parties to be open, honest and respectful towards each other.

It is important for the mentor to be aware of the need for him to share knowledge freely and not withhold important information. Constructive feedback should be delivered with honesty and tact.

For the mentee, he should have an open mind and not take the feedback personally, even if it is critical. This requires both parties to be vulnerable at times, sharing successes and failures in a safe environment.

To create a safe environment, the duo must ensure confidentiality — the mentee, especially, needs to feel confident that discussions are not relayed to his or her immediate supervisor or manager.

Make them commit

Everyone who enters into a mentoring relationship must be made to sign an agreement that commits them for a certain period of time; preferably a minimum of three to six months. Having said that, however, each party ought to be given the opportunity to obtain a no-fault split should the relationship not work for valid reasons.

Monitor the progress

Establish a system for monitoring the programme. Contact the pairs (or mentoring group) on a regular basis to find out how the relationship is progressing. Offer guidance and support as needed, and should a conflict arise, address the issue immediately.

Evaluate the programme

After the programme ends its run, ask the participants to evaluate their experience. Did they achieve their goals? What worked well? What could have been done better? What recommendations would they make for future mentoring initiatives?

The organisation should also assess the success of the programme: how have the mentees progressed in the organisation? For example, have their skills and abilities been enhanced, resulting in them being promoted faster than their colleagues who did not participate in the programme?

Also, incorporate a mechanism for participants to provide feedback on their relationship with the other party and on the programme. Ultimately, your goal should be to create a framework such that the programme becomes an employee-inspired, employee-generated one, year after year.