• January 2019

Five steps to implementing an effective mentorship program

According to the Association of Talent Development, workplace mentorship programs are on the rise; however, only 25 percent of small organizations offer formal mentorship programs to their staff.

Mentorship programs are an important development tool for all sizes of organizations, regardless of industry. They allow an organization to facilitate positive and impactful relationships among their staff. These relationships increase engagement, provide a supportive way for staff to gain skills, and offer an opportunity for more experienced staff to share their knowledge and expertise with others. All of these things help an organization be more successful.

Civil engineering firm Banner Associates, Inc. is an organization that started a new mentorship program six months ago. President Brad Wermers participates in the program as a mentor to two staff members. He says, "It's so important that we keep our staff. The mentoring sessions bring up topics that wouldn't otherwise come up and fosters work relationships across departments."

Many organizations may put off implementing a program because they aren't sure exactly how it should be structured. Although it may seem daunting to create a workplace mentorship program, here are five steps that may help organizations get started.

1.   Identify the goals and objectives. Align these with your organization's mission and core values. What do you want the program to accomplish? What challenges do you have as an organization that you want the program to address? Mentorship programs are most effective when the concept is supported by leadership. Also, the organizational culture needs to encourage learning and strong working relationships among staff.

2.   Spend time on the details. Effective mentorship programs should strike a balance of structure and simplicity. Identify a timeframe such as 6 or 12 months in which a structure is formulated. In traditional mentorship programs, a mentee is paired up with one or two mentors. Determine the frequency with which your participants will meet and what they will discuss. These discussions should involve a topic that correlates directly with the program goals and objectives yet allows for additional dialogue as well. The overarching goal is for mentors to provide support to mentees. This may involve answering questions, talking about their experiences, sharing resources, brainstorming new ideas, etc.

3.   Identify your participants. Meet with each individual to discuss the program. Mentors should exemplify your organization's core values. Communication with participants is vital. Be transparent about why the mentorship program is being established, what goals you have for the program and encourage an open door of feedback from participants along the way. Make sure participants understand the time commitment at the start of the program. Be flexible in knowing that the program you start may need to be adjusted as time goes on to make it most effective for your organization.

4.   Support the process. Identify someone that can serve as the program coordinator, sending regular reminders to participants, sharing discussion topics, and references. This person should actively communicate with mentors and mentees throughout the program. While it is important to remember that everyone is busy, the program can't be effective if participants do not make the time to meet with one another.

5.   Evaluate the effectiveness. While quantitative data may not be feasible, try to identify ways to measure whether or not the structure created is effectively meeting the organization's needs. Don't be afraid to change the aspects that are not working.

Mentorship programs can be a valuable way to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practices within the organization. They allow organizations to take an active role in fostering meaningful work relationships, which will increase overall engagement, productivity, and collaboration.


Sarah Meusburger, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, has 15 years of experience in Human Resources. She serves as the Director of Human Resources for Banner Associates, Inc., a civil engineering firm based in Brookings and is also a Human Resources Consultant for Alternative HRD, LLC, an HR-consulting firm based in Sioux Falls.

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