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Formal Internal Company Mentoring Programs

Organizations have found that formal mentoring programs have been of great benefit to both the company as a whole and the individual employee. Setting up a formal mentoring program does not need to be a significant amount of work and the value received from such a program has reaching impact and benefit throughout the organization. Formal mentoring programs increase commitment to the organization and increase sharing of skills and knowledge – thereby building teamwork and camaraderie among employees.

Mentoring programs may be set up to meet a variety of needs, such as:

  • Getting new hires up-to-speed by pairing them with another individual performing the same role.
  • Increasing the retention rate of talented employees by enabling them to adapt quickly and more effectively to the corporate culture.
  • To prepare high potential employees for future leadership roles.
  • To improve the rate of application of new skills and knowledge from training programs.
  • To enable employees to more quickly and comfortably adapt to change within the organization.
  • To increase understanding of different cultures and bridge generational gaps among employees.
  • To build trust among employees.
  • To show commitment to employees’ growth and development within the organization.

QUESTION: For what other purposes do you believe mentoring programs can be of benefit? Please share in the Comments field below.

Getting Buy-In for a Mentoring Program

Prior to kicking off a formal mentoring program there are some steps that you want to take to ensure a successful program. The first step, and one that is often overlooked, is getting buy-in for the program from the top down within the organization. Think about why a formal mentoring program would be of benefit to the organization. Do you have a significant number of leaders retiring within a 3 – 5 year time period and you need to fill those roles? Are new hires to the organization finding it difficult to adjust and acclimate? There may be multiple reasons, which may necessitate more than one formal mentoring program. Once you know why a mentoring program is needed, pull together a business case showing the benefits of the program to the organization and to the individuals. Here is where you need buy-in! You will need individuals interested in being mentors. Not just a casual passing interest – a “sure, I’ll give it a go” – but rather individuals who are going to be committed to spending a few hours a week with their mentees to develop them and help them be successful in the organization. (More about what to look for in a mentor below.) You also want support from managers of the potential mentors and other managers/executives. These individuals will need to provide time for the mentors so they can mentor others. And the managers of the mentees will need to be sure to support the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

When building your case for a formal mentoring program, include metrics and milestones for measurement. For example, let’s assume that the turnover rate of new hires in your organization is currently averaging 25% annually for the past 3 years, and that turnover costs you, on average, $1,200,000 a year in recruiting and training costs and loss of productivity. A mandate has come from the Board of Directors to increase the retention rate of new employees and reduce costs associated with a high turnover rate. One component of your overall plan is to institute a formal mentoring program for new hires. Delineate in your document how you intend to increase retention and reduce costs by having a formal mentoring program in place. What are the benefits to the new hires who participate in the mentoring program? Will what they get from the mentoring program increase their retention within the organization? In order to make your case, you will need to have data as to why new hires are leaving the organization at a high rate. Survey past employees and current employees to gather data for your business case.

When building your business case, also include costs for the mentoring program and how you expect it would be structured and supported within the organization. Where does responsibility lie for oversight? How will the performance of the mentors be measured? What are risks associated with the program and how will you handle them should they arise? There are many things to consider when building your case for a formal mentoring program.

Once approved, develop a project plan for moving forward with timelines, milestones, and resources.

Selecting Mentors

Being an effective mentor is also a great step toward being a good manager and taking on responsibilities for staff development. This is a great learning opportunity for individuals who are interested in the responsibilities that come along with mentoring. Provide your mentors training to ensure their success. Topics may include how to be a sounding board, effective listening skills, building trust, and how to mentor others. Select mentors who are well-versed in the company culture and know their way around the organization. Select individuals to be mentors who are team players, are respected within the organization, and are committed to the organization. No “bad apples” or “negative nellies.” Mentors need to be able to provide encouragement to their mentees. A mentor is a confidant – someone the mentee can depend on and turn to when they need help. Remember, not everyone will make a good mentor – choose the best individuals for the job. Delineate the benefits of mentoring to the potential mentors. Make sure they have the right motivation or they won’t be committed long term. For example, paying mentors to mentor may mean they are in it just for the extra money and not for the right reasons. Provide them the support they need to effectively mentor others. This may include making sure there is time set aside each week for mentors and mentees to get together for a couple of hours. Maybe the company pays for lunch for the mentors and their mentees. Be creative!

Pairing Mentors with Mentees

Make sure you take the time and really think through pairing mentors with mentees. For example, you may not want to set up someone from the “baby boomer” generation with a “generation x’er.” These two individuals likely have a different approach to work and look at things quite differently. Look for similar backgrounds between the mentor and the mentee. Make sure the mentors and mentees are able to meet each other before they are formally paired together. Give them time to get to know each other. Let them decide that the partnership will work. Don’t force it.


You want the communication of the mentoring program to be company-wide. This is an exciting program! Get people excited about it!

Communicate details about the program via a variety of methods and forums, such as:

  • Lunch and learns
  • Company newsletter
  • Company Intranet site
  • Email

Let people know how they can be involved in mentoring and how they can support the mentoring program. Even if they aren’t part of the formal program, maybe they can informally mentor someone. Or maybe they can be added to the list to be future mentors.

Kick-off the program with a breakfast or lunch of all the mentors and the mentees. If the organization is global, and everyone cannot be in the same place at the same time – set up a virtual session so everyone can meet each other from around the world and then have them get together in their respective locations.

Set up a portal for the mentors – a virtual place where they can get together to support each other. Similarly, have a portal for the mentees – a place where they can get together to support each other. This provides each group – mentors and mentees – with a support system to problem solve, ask questions, and get and give advice.

Monitor and Make Adjustments

Monitor the mentoring program. How is it going from the perspective of the mentors? From the perspective of the mentees? What do others in the organization think? Are you meeting the goals and objectives you set out to meet? What improvements do you see based on the mentoring program being put in place? Make adjustments if necessary. Don’t just put the program in place and forget about it. It needs to be monitored, re-evaluated regularly, and adjusted as the company grows and changes.

Consider a Business Impact and ROI study of the program to show the monetary value of the program.


Take the time to really think through the mentoring program – plan it out like you would any other project. Formal mentoring programs are very visible within the organization – make sure your program is a success. While setting up the mentoring program may seem easy enough – ensuring it is successful takes some work. There needs to be a mentoring mindset within the organization. You may need to socialize people with the idea of a mentoring program – that’s fine. Take the time to do so; even if it means pushing out the kick off of the program.

Possibly, there is already informal mentoring going on within the organization. Look for it. Does it exist? How did it get started? Who is involved? How is it working? What is it accomplishing? An informal program may provide you the building blocks to get a formal program off the ground.

QUESTION: Do you have experience with a mentoring program? Either as a mentor or a mentee? Please share in the Comments field below.

A future post will provide a case study of a global company that put in place a formal mentoring program to enable new hires to acclimate to the company and its unique culture.