One of the best ways to prepare early career candidates for their first day is to pair them with a mentor. But have you ever paused to think about how you’re preparing mentors for the program?
Research shows that roughly 70% of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of mentorship program in place. And yet, there’s little-to-no evidence showing that these programs have any sort of impact. Why? Because mentors are tossed into a program without any sort of training, expectations, or clear objectives.
A mentorship program causes a domino effect — and it comes down to you, the recruiting leaders, as to whether that effect skews positive or negative. If you offer proper guidance to potential mentors, they are equipped to guide incoming candidates through their first few months on the job. But if you fail to prepare mentors with the tools, resources, and counsel needed, they won’t be able to set early career candidates up for success.
So, what’s the best way to ensure a potential mentor is prepared to do their job? Let them know what they’re in for. Below, we explore seven things every mentor must know before taking on a mentee. Hopefully, this serves as a starting point to maximize the effectiveness of a mentorship program at your company.
7 Things Every Mentor Must Know Before Taking on a Mentee
If you want to retain top early career talent, you need to create a top-tier mentorship program. A 2021 study shows that Gen Z is looking for guidance in the workplace, with 82% stating they prefer to work under a boss who cares about them. In addition, 73% state they would be motivated to “do a better job” if they had a mentor who cares about them.
While a mentorship program sounds like a good idea in theory, many programs fall flat due to a lack of preparation. Below, we offer seven items every potential mentor must know before being paired with an early-career candidate.
Want to level-up your mentorship program? Download this FREE template Fortune 500 companies use to build a scalable mentorship program for early-career candidates (plus, get a free 15-minute consult with Scholars).
1. The Characteristics of a Great Mentor
What makes a great mentor? How do you communicate these characteristics to potential mentors?
Every mentor in your program needs to understand which characteristics make up a great mentor. These qualities should be physically documented within your organization, so they can be referred to when you onboard new mentors.
While specific traits will vary by organization, ideas include:
- Curiosity: Does the mentor ask great questions, and communicate effectively?
- Candor: Can the mentor be honest and upfront with their feedback to the incoming mentee?
- Communicative: Can the mentor effectively pass on expectations, objectives, and guidance from the higher-ups to the mentee?
- Passionate: Does the mentor understand the importance of mentorship, both for themselves and the early-career mentee?
Document these traits to refer back to when deciding whether an employee would be a good fit for your mentorship program.
2. The Importance of Goal Setting
Creating a mentorship program isn’t a “just for fun” initiative for your organization. Instead, there should be clear objectives for the program as a whole, then clear objectives for mentors and mentees.
Train mentors on how to set goals with their mentees, then give them a framework to follow-up on their mentee’s progress. Example goals could be related to:
- Networking: Encourage mentees to have a coffee chat with a colleague from a different department within the first six weeks on the job.
- Workplace culture: Invite your mentee to take part in a company outing, group (like a softball league), or happy hour.
- Skill development: Put together a reading list or list of potential certifications based on the mentee’s interest(s).
- Communication: Assist mentees in how to pitch or share their ideas at company meetings.
In addition, help each mentor set goals for themselves, whether it be to harness new leadership skills, strengthen feedback delivery, or gain new tools for collaboration.
3. How to Run a Meeting With Your Mentee
Inefficient meetings are a drain on company morale, productivity, and motivation. Teach your mentors to prepare for and execute meetings with their mentee just as they would for any appointment on their calendar. Instruct each mentor to set aside a designated time with their mentee, send an itinerary in advance (and a recap afterward), and use calendar blocking.
Other topics to train mentors on include:
- Duration: Set a maximum cap on mentor meetings, thereby encouraging them to stick to schedule.
- Types of meetings: Have a clear objective for each meeting, not simply a “check-in” with no clear agenda.
- Cadence: Set a reasonable cadence so the mentor program feels like a source of value to the mentee, not a drain on their time and resources.
4. What Questions They Should Ask Their Mentee
Many times, company leaders expect connections between mentors and mentees to happen organically. In an ideal world, this would happen — however, usually a few thought-provoking questions serve as a better tool to get the conversation rolling.
Offer several ice breakers to your mentors, such as:
- Career journey: Where did the mentee intern in college? Why did they decide to work for your company?
- Professional goals: Where does the mentee see themselves in one, two, or five years? What’s the ultimate goal?
- Strengths and weaknesses: Do they have any anxiety surrounding certain tasks or traits at work? Where do they excel?
5. The Fact That No Mentee Is the Same
Every mentorship program should have a basic framework that mentors can refer back to. With that being said, you need to ensure every potential mentor knows that every mentee is different, and a cookie-cutter approach won’t always work.
To help mentors better understand their mentees, instruct them to ask the following during their first meeting:
- Expectations: What does the mentee hope to get out of this relationship?
- Communication styles: How does the mentee prefer to be communicated with?
6. The Time Commitment Within Your Program
Many times, mentors enthusiastically sign-up for a mentorship program with zero expectations on the time commitment. At first, they’re excited to share their knowledge and experience with a new colleague — that is, until the next deadline hits.
To prevent mentors from dropping out of your program, ensure they have a clear understanding of the time commitment it will require. Specifically, be sure to explain:
- Meeting cadence: How many times are mentors required to meet with their mentee? How long will these meetings last?
- Outside prep work: Will additional work be involved outside of their meetings with their mentee? If so, how many hours per week (or per month) should the mentor expect to dedicate to the program?
7. The Overarching Goal of Your Mentorship Program
Last — but certainly not least — is this: Every mentor needs to understand the recruiting team’s goals for the program.
An overarching, company-wide goal can serve as a compass for mentors, guiding them in their conversations with their mentee. Ultimately, a shared goal will ensure the overall efficiency of your program, and help mentors and mentees alike achieve their individual goals.
Company-wide goals may include:
- Conversions: How can you convert interns to full-time employees post internship?
- Retention: How long does an early-career employee stay with your company? How would you like to prolong this period over time?
- Professional development: Which skills, certifications, or courses would you like early-career candidates to accomplish within the first six months or year on the job?
Preparing Mentors Helps Prepare Candidates for Their First Day
Early-career job seekers are craving mentors in the workplace. Unfortunately, many mentorship programs fall flat due to a lack of objectives, foresight, and preparation.
To ensure your mentorship program increases retention amongst early-career employees, you need to offer guidance to your mentors. This guidance, in turn, has a trickle-down effect to the mentee. Overall, ensure mentors know how to execute a meeting, set goals with their candidate, and communicate effectively with their mentee. In addition, ensure they have clear expectations on the overarching goals of the program and the time commitment it requires. For more tips on how to provide a better experience for early career candidates, be sure to join our Slack channel and follow Scholars on LinkedIn.