Post by Elise Gelwicks, founder and CEO of Eleview Consulting and sponsor of ATDChi's Monthly Coffee & Connections Networking Series
Having a great mentor is like getting the answer key for an upcoming exam. You gain access to a wealth of information that sets you up for success. Many organizations offer a formalized mentorship program for their employees to create this opportunity for people to learn from one another. However, it’s infrequent that these programs lead to meaningful relationship-building within a company.
The primary reason many structured mentorship programs flop is a lack of structure. The good news is that we can easily overcome this. Read on to learn the three key elements of creating structure.
Clear Structure Makes All the Difference
Successful mentorship programs have one thing in common: they make it easy for mentor pairs to build strong relationships. By creating a roadmap for people to follow, there’s no heavy-lifting or guesswork involved for the mentee or mentor. They know exactly when to meet and what to talk about. The most important elements of this structure include:
- Set cadence for mentorship meetings
- Impactful discussion prompts
- Accountability elements
At a minimum, mentors and mentees should meet every quarter. This allows for a feeling of momentum in the relationship without it becoming too much of a time commitment (of course, people can choose to meet more frequently if they desire). If too much time passes between meetings, the pair won’t be able to provide as much value because they aren’t up to date on the happenings of each other’s lives.
Pro Tip: Choose a recurring date, such as the first week of every quarter, where mentors and mentees are expected to connect. Encourage the mentee to send calendar invites at the start of the year for each quarterly touch base. This ensures meetings don’t get missed.
The talent development team should send prompts to guide each quarterly conversation. This reduces the risk of surface level talk and encourages vulnerable, productive discussion. We typically recommend each quarter has a specific theme, such as work-life balance or skill development.
The third element of a structured mentorship program is accountability. Boost accountability and encourage engagement by asking mentor pairs to send a brief summary of their key takeaways from their meetings. This could be through a simple survey sent out by the talent development team quarterly or bi-annually.
The Problem With Organic Trust
The reality is that mentor relationships are only effective when there’s inherent trust. Trust is built over time, and there are some people who just won’t have a natural rapport. These assigned mentorship relationships, where the pair can’t seem to hit it off, likely won’t work out. That’s OK.
Touching base with each participant in the program will give you the opportunity to determine which individuals should be paired up with someone else. If you normalize the scenario of reassigning someone a new mentor or mentee, people are more likely to speak up if they aren’t getting value from their partner.
Elise Gelwicks is the founder and CEO of Eleview Consulting, a professional development firm specializing in teaching communication and networking skills at companies. Learn more at www.eleviewconsulting.com or reach out to Elise directly at email@example.com.
Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. You can check them out at Learn & Develop.
- And, don’t forget(!) to use our CHIP code when registering: CH5009.
If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over to Volunteer.