Two women work on a computer at a desk. The woman on the left is sitting down with her hands on the computer keyboard. She has glasses and is wearing a black-and-white speckled blazer over a cream blouse. She is looking up at the woman on the right, who is standing and gesturing to something on the screen of the computer monitor. The woman on the right has her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and is wearing a belted teal dress.
You can match mentors and mentees by comparing mentors' areas of expertise with what mentees want to learn. — Getty Images/Morsa Images

Mentorship allows individuals to connect with and learn from someone more experienced in their field. Even smaller businesses are implementing workplace mentoring programs and pairing newer employees with more seasoned employees to build workplace camaraderie, helping everyone achieve their goals.

For businesses that made professional development a goal in 2023, here's a step-by-step guide to mentor employees up the ranks and improve retention.

Define the program’s goal

Although the concepts of mentorship are the same, each program may have its own set of goals, so think about your company’s needs as well as your team members’ strengths. If you have trouble getting team members integrated into the workforce after onboarding, use a mentorship program to guide them and welcome them to your team. If you’re looking to promote some of your team members to leadership positions, use a mentorship program to begin preparing select employees for different managerial responsibilities.

When you know your overall goal for the mentoring program, you can zoom in on the people involved and build the program around them. How will you encourage those people to participate? What benefit or growth will they be able to see for themselves in such a program? What are those individuals currently doing professionally, and what is their career trajectory?

Decide on the type of mentoring

Once you know who your program is serving and what the ultimate goal is, decide how you want the mentoring to look. Other than the more traditional one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring includes three or more individuals sharing their knowledge with each other since even newer employees have strengths to share. Additionally, set up a group where one mentor works with multiple mentees.

Your program can provide situational mentorship, which is tailored around one need or goal and is not meant to be repeated. If you want to focus most on career trajectory and the corporate ladder, use career mentoring, where a senior employee will work with a junior employee to help the latter learn more about their future role.

[Read more: 5 Business Leaders Discuss the Power of Mentorship]

For the most success in your mentoring program, provide mentors with some training and direction before they start.

Create a structured process

Structure your mentoring program to ensure it runs smoothly. Will mentors or mentees apply to the program or just be chosen? What is the duration of the mentorship program? How often will mentees and mentors meet? Where will they do so and how do they record the meetings on their time sheet?

Also, consider adding methods to measure the program’s success. Have participants complete surveys before, during, and after completing the mentoring program to understand whether it’s benefiting them. If your mentoring program has specific goals (like learning a new program or preparing for specific responsibilities), include an assessment so you and your employees can be sure they have gotten the most out of the program.

Match mentors and mentees

One of the most important qualities in a successful mentee is a willingness to participate and an openness to guidance. Some people want to figure things out on their own and may be resistant to a mentor. For mentors, find someone who can connect with and guide another person without talking down to them or bossing them around. Interviews will be especially helpful for gauging the personality of the applicants as well as how they may pair together.

To match your mentors and mentees, match the mentee’s needs or goals to the mentor’s experience and strength set. Ask your mentors what they are most interested in sharing with a mentee — you can pair that with what mentees are hoping to learn.

[Read more: 5 Personality Traits of a Great Manager]

Provide training

For the most success in your mentoring program, provide mentors with some training and direction before they start. Review the goals and requirements of the program so they have a technical understanding of what is expected of them. Additionally, lead mentors in remembering how they felt when they were in the mentees’ position. Not only will this discussion encourage empathy from mentor to mentee, but it can also generate ideas of what mentors wish they knew at the time.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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