Most Fortune 500 Companies Have Mentor Programs. Do You?
What makes a company successful? Often, it’s attributed to having effective leaders. How can you make sure your company is developing excellent leaders? One of the ways is by implementing a mentor program.
Over 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mentor programs — and for good reason. Mentor programs can promote information learning and on-the-job training, reduce employee turnover, develop management skills, and reduce formal training for new hires.
At PSA, we want to ensure that the next generation of leaders in our industry get the best possible professional development, which ultimately creates a closer work environment and improved service for our clients.
Since our pilot program kicked off in June, we’ve seen great success so far — and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Based on our experience, here are a few tips for setting up a mentor program in your company.
After spending some time talking about starting a mentor program, we decided to officially launch one early this summer, when we had several new hires coming on board. We’ve started a small pilot program with four matches — that is, four mentors paired with one mentee each. Keeping the program small thus far has allowed us to figure out what works and make adjustments for next year, when we’ll scale it up.
Match people across departments
In setting up our mentor program, we made sure that for every pairing, the mentor and mentee were from different departments – one from the Employee Benefits and the other from Property and Casualty Insurance. This has had several meaningful main benefits. First, it meant the mentor was not the mentee’s supervisor or directly involved in the mentee’s work, which paves the way for more open, honest discussion.
In addition, this arrangement has benefitted the entire company by breaking further down preconceived notions of how things are done in the “other” department. Each mentor and mentee now play an important role in counteracting the silos that tend to naturally develop around separate departments in most organizations.
Third, each mentee had the opportunity to befriend a successful, mid-career colleague — someone they may not have been able to get to know on a deeper level otherwise.
Structure the program
We kicked off our mentor program with two separate orientations: one for mentors, and one for mentees. To get the mentors started, we gave them a tool kit that included potential questions they could ask their mentees to break the ice and start establishing a good working relationship. This step also included some training for the mentors, to help them understand how they could best approach communication with their mentee. To help us make the matches between mentees and mentors, we had each participant complete a personality test and questionnaire about their hopes and expectations for the program.
We designed the program so that each pair meets at least once a month in a setting of their choosing, whether that’s in the office or a local coffee shop. The formal portion of the program lasts for one year. After that, it’s our hope that the mentors and mentees will continue to meet on their own.
Most participants in the pilot program are already reporting that they consider their mentor or mentee a friend, which is fostering a stronger organizational culture. About halfway through the year, we’ve held a happy hour for all the participants to bring the team even closer, and we are planning to close-out the year with a company celebration and a review of key lessons learned.
In HR, we meet quarterly with each participant to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the program. It’s also been our role to establish guidelines for the program. It’s important, for instance, for participants to understand and commit to confidentiality, for HR to establish the structure of the program and provide suggestions for how meetings between the mentor and mentee might be the most productive.
Help forge career paths
Ultimately, the mentor program should have a positive impact on the mentees’ career paths — helping them gain leadership skills and determine a plan for advancing.
Brodie Jarrell, one of our mentors, offered the following comment on the program: “It’s great for building culture, particularly as an opportunity for individuals to strengthen relationships across practices and across generations. And hopefully, there will be a long-term benefit of retaining these future leaders, so they will choose to lead here, and not somewhere else.”
And, Jenifer Calabrese, a mentee, said: “I am really benefitting from this program. My mentor and I did not know each other beforehand, as we work in different departments and had never crossed paths. We formed a close relationship right off the bat, and talking with my mentor has really helped me to start mapping out the path I want to take in my career and personal life. It is not something I had given such detailed and serious thought to before talking with her, and she helped think through my future career path, put it into words, and a set plan.”
A successful mentor program should be structured, well-thought out, and purposeful — for both mentors and mentees. At PSA, we think our mentor program will be a big positive for us moving forward in terms of recruitment, developing top talent, increased productivity and improved customer service. To learn more about building your own mentor program or joining the PSA team, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.