Starting a mentoring initiative at your organization is exciting. You’ve researched the options for program format and you’ve put together a solid plan for your company. Perhaps you’ve even put together a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis. However, there’s always that critical element in the final stage of the process before committing to launch—pitching career mentoring to leadership and securing their approval.
This is where the process can bog down. Although senior management may have directed you to put a program together in the first place, as you near the finish line they often begin to ask more questions, requiring more research and analysis. At Chronus, we’re often called upon to help answer these questions, so we’re providing you with a few of the most common ones we’ve seen. We suggest considering them before presenting your program for leadership approval.
1. What exactly is a mentoring program?
Believe it or not, many leaders may not be able to visualize exactly what a mentoring program is. What format it will take? How much time will it require? Who will run it? How will the feedback be gathered?
To start, demonstrate that mentoring is like modern-day apprenticeship: a smart way to harness your internal resources for cost-effective learning, engagement, and retention.
To back this up, we suggest you create a project outline of the program, complete with goals, strategies, work flows, and planned metrics. There’s a lot of talk about corporate storytelling these days, and this is the perfect scenario. Do what you can to tell the story. Outline the different roles of the administrators, mentors, and mentees. Share how they’ll interact with each other, how their interactions will be tracked, and how their observations of the program will be captured for future learning. Look around for informal mentoring success stories that may have happened organically at your organization. Perhaps you can highlight these and then point out the potential benefits of scaling mentoring on a more formalized, company-wide scale.
In surveying our own customers, we’ve developed a quick snapshot of some of the programs run by Chronus software for mentoring. Use this as a framework and expand on each category with your own story.
2. What are the tangible benefits you’ll see from a mentoring program?
It’s important to help leaders and stakeholders realize that mentoring is not just a “nice to have” program. Rather, mentoring is a program that generates tangible results that go beyond the immediate benefits of creating a tighter knit culture, improving employee engagement, and increasing employee satisfaction. All of these benefits roll up to affect the company bottom line in the real costs associated with employee retention and leadership readiness.
According to Right Management, a lack of learning and development opportunity is the #2 reason employees leave an organization, above job responsibilities and compensation.1 This means that future leaders may be walking out the door due to a lack of perceived commitment on behalf of the company. Are these the employees your leadership wants to lose?
There’s also the significant cost impact of employee attrition on an organization. It’s estimated that the cost to lose an employee can range from 100% to 300% of that employee’s salary.2 Think about the multiplier effect of this when a company experiences high attrition. You might even calculate your attrition rate and potential costs to demonstrate to your leadership the negative effects of low employee engagement and satisfaction—two factors that can be improved with a corporate mentoring program.
At Chronus, we see companies seeking to improve their bottom line through retention every day. For example, one of our large government agency customers is combining 1:1 mentoring as a follow-up to their new employee onboarding training. This results in reduced new hire turnover because they effectively integrate new employees into their company culture.
Additionally, a weak leadership chain can significantly affect company performance and subsequently, its financial performance. One of our bank customers, for example, is currently boosting their leadership chain’s skillset through a mentoring program. This leadership development program ensures that when their existing executive team retires, younger leaders will already have the insider corporate knowledge to step in immediately to maintain corporate culture, processes, and productivity.
3. What will the load be on the company?
This is an important question often asked by leadership. How much time will be needed? What types of resources are required? Will this distract from our everyday business operations?
The beauty of mentoring is that it’s highly time efficient compared to most formal learning approaches. For mentors and mentees, a little time each month feels lightweight enough for them to readily adopt the program, but the time is still significant enough to encourage corporate-wide culture change. Additionally, some mentoring can be done online, which software can enable and manage.
Participants’ time commitment depends on the type of mentoring program, but many career mentoring programs require one to three hours every month. This amount of time doesn’t distract employees from their daily jobs, but can still generate a fairly rapid return on investment in terms of a mentoring culture and corporate learning improvement. Mentoring has a multiplier effect in an organization. According to Dr. Lois Zachary, mentoring expert:
However, don’t overlook the administration time your company will need. As programs grow beyond 50 participants, administrative load starts increasing significantly. Strongly consider mentoring program management software to keep administrative costs low. Without software, admins usually bear the responsibility of manually matching participants. This can be very time-consuming. Beyond matching, tracking progress and measuring results is another high-effort activity. Most career mentoring programs have hundreds or thousands of employees involved. Take a look at your software solution and present the monthly time and cost savings offered by features such as automated matching, guided program workflows, and built-in reporting.
4. Finally—Is Your Company Ready for This?
If you have retention issues, leadership readiness challenges, knowledge transfer needs, or general employee morale concerns, then yes, your company is ready for a mentoring program. Perhaps even your employees are asking for development opportunities. Whatever the case, often the final piece is complete leadership buy-in, which you’ll be able to secure after reading this article.
By anticipating and preparing for questions 1-3 above, question 4 will be answered with your specific plans, resources, tools, and data. Laying out what your leadership can expect will help you with your planning process while smoothing the path for approval and a successful program launch. Once that senior management champion is on board, you’ll have the green light you need to bring your plans to life.
1 Right Management, Inc., Advancing Careers, Driving Results, 2012
2 Inventive Talent Consulting, LLC, SHRM Webcast: Measuring and Mitigating the Cost of Employee Turnover, July, 2012
3 Blog, Mentoring has a Multiplier Effect, Dr. Lois Zachary, President, Leadership Development Services, LLC. http://www.centerformentoringexcellence.com/mentoring-has-a-multiplier-effect