Best Practices from Leading Companies on Building Productive Mentoring Programs

best practices of a company

New employees have mentors, whether they are appointed by management or they step into the role on their own. Some people like to offer advice and model behavior. Others need and seek it. But, management cannot leave that to chance.

How do business leaders create and structure a mentor program with immediate and lasting effect? They dismiss the babysitting and mothering modes, in favor of well-structured and well-measured programs aimed at employee retention, leadership development, and process improvement. While the investment in dollars and time works better for the larger company, the smaller business can pursue the same goals and scale their program structure to fit their business environment.

  1. Work on connectivity – best practices at McGraw-Hill.

Convinced of the value in employee engagement, McGraw-Hill built its mentoring program on cultivating connectivity. They sought connectivity among co-workers, across work functions, and between the employee and the work.

McGraw-Hill is, after all, in the education and training business, which might condition their strategic approach to facilitating engagement. They mined the analytics they had on current employees, leading them to interview the most promising and willing candidates for the role of mentor. Those interviews created profiles of interest, motivation, and experience. Based on that, they were able to recruit, hire, place, and groom employees directly into mentee roles matched to those select mentors. This functional match connects people, skills, goals, and futures in a positive way.

  1. Commit to the long-term – best practices at Caterpillar.

At Caterpillar, mentorship is neither a sometime nor a one-time thing. Some places end mentorship at the end of the employee’s probationary period, and some introduce mentor and mentee and, then, leave it to them to stay in touch. Caterpillar, however, structures a two to three-year plan promoted as its Professional Development Program.

Caterpillar leadership has committed to assimilate recent college student hires into the brand and blood of the corporation. Shortly into onboarding, each hire has some sense of direction and growth. During their mentoring curriculum, they rotate through functions and operations to develop technical abilities, relationships with senior management, and leadership skills. The program’s reputation precedes it and helps recruit and retain the most promising mentees.

  1. Measure the experience – best practices at Sodexo.

In its commitment to diversity, Sodexo’s Spirit of Mentoring creates cross-divisional, cross-functional, and cross-cultural pairings. In each pairing, the mentee rules.

Sodexo pairs mentor and mentee in partnerships in which the mentee speaks to his/her goals and preferred methodologies. The mentor listens to what the mentee wants, and they “negotiate” how they will achieve that. Still, it integrates functioning participatory roles for the program manager, implementation team, senior leadership, and human resources. The process, then, follows a formal calendar wherein metrics are reviewed regularly. The calendar requires monthly 90-minute meetings between mentor and mentee.

At two months, the IMPACT Team runs a check on progress. At the 4-month, 8-month, and 12-month marks, a webinar is followed by an e-survey on progress. Experience shows 95 percent of both mentors and mentees report a positive experience. Other survey results report on perceived job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and increased diversity awareness. No result has hit 100 percent, but the useful data identifies positive and negative concerns. Sodexo is able to analyze the ROI as the result of increased retention, improved leadership potential, and positioning as an employer of choice.

Whether you are McGraw Hill, Caterpillar or a small to mid-sized shop, you can begin the process of mentoring through a structured matching and goal-orientation program. As long as your program has disciplined follow-up and you are clear about your desired outcomes of your program for the business, you will have a success case. Mentoring can have enormously valuable effects for your business when you connect it to your business strategy. Be sure to respect the tradition. Once you do, your employees will quickly follow suit.

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Louis Carter
Louis Carter is CEO and founder of Best Practice Institute, social/organizational psychologist, executive coach and author of more than 11 books on leadership and management including his newest book just released by McGraw Hill: In Great Company: How to Spark Peak Performance by Creating an Emotionally Connected Workplace. He has lectured globally in the U.S., Middle East, and Asia on his work and research in organization and leadership development and is an executive coach and advisor to CEOs and C-levels of mid-sized to Fortune 500 organizations. He was named one of Global Gurus Top Organizational Culture Gurus in the world and was chosen to be one of 100 coaches to be in the MG100 (Marshall Goldsmith) out of 14,000 people as one of the top 100 coaches in the world .