Employees are happier and more productive when they feel aligned with the purpose of an organisation and actively contributing towards something larger than themselves, as opposed to just doing a job. This is a universal truth that has been confirmed by numerous pieces of research. But what has often been overlooked, is the role mentorship programmes can play in bridging the gap between employee and organisation to achieve this outcome. Mentoring programmes are becoming more mainstream, and this is not a surprise as they have countless benefits.

A well-known technology company who is a member of the Fortune 500 found that employees who participated in were 5 times more likely to be promoted than those who did not. It also found that the senior people who were providing the mentoring were 6 times more likely to be promoted. They also discovered that retention rates for these same two groups also increased 70%. But a larger number of organisations have not seen great results as they have been run in the wrong way. So how exactly should you set up a corporate mentorship programme that delivers the desired results?

Mentorship must be personal not a HR activity

The key to making a corporate mentorship programme successful, is to avoid it becoming another mandatory HR training programme that employees feel they must attend. This means the programme must be voluntary, and that the people participating are there because they want to be there. Forcing a leader to be a mentor, when they have zero desire to give back to the next generation, is not going to be a fruitful experience for those mentees. Likewise, giving a mentor who does want to pass on their knowledge, a mentee who is only there because they are obligated to be, is also going to result in negative outcomes. A mentor must want to mentor, and a mentee must want to learn. Without this important first step, your mentor programme is doomed before it has begun.

Pairing is crucial

A second common mistake made in mentor programmes is that just because someone is willing to mentor, and someone is willing to be a mentee, does not mean that specific mentor should be paired with that specific mentee. The personalities and goals of each party need to be aligned. If you pair a mentee who is looking to develop technical expertise with a person who does not have that technical expertise, then the programme is not going to be successful. If you pair a mentor who wants to help others develop leadership skills with someone who does not want to be a leader, the programme is not going to be successful. So before, starting the programme, it is important to have some sort of questionnaire for all participants to align expectations. In addition, psychometric profiling will help align personality types. An introverted mentee is highly unlikely to be able to relate to an extroverted mentor’s ideas and solutions and vice versa.

Create a customisable structure

Finally, its important that the mentor programme is not using a one size fits all approach. Most programmes fall into the trap of insisting on a meeting for 1 hour every week for 3 months or 6 months, or some other arbitrary target. This is pointless. For example, a junior member of staff may want to learn specific technical skills from a technical expert. In this instance, meeting for one hour a week is not going to help with that. Instead having the mentee shadow the mentor on a project to learn those skills first-hand would be much better. Likewise, maybe a high potential individual wants to learn how to develop leadership skills and make it to the C-suite. That is something that is going to take several years to achieve and would require commitment over the longer term, while not necessarily requiring interaction every week. So it is important that there is flexibility within the programme, to ensure that