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Tips for Creating an Employee Mentoring Program

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/9/2011

Almost any business can set up an employee mentoring program and reap the rewards! Most business owners look at mentoring programs as a wasted expense, but if you set them up correctly, you may turn apprentices into lifetime employees.

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    Why Mentoring Is Beneficial

    Office Workers Morgue File As an employer myself, years ago when I was first approached about mentoring or apprenticeship programs, I too was wary. “How much is that going to cost me?" and “What if I spend a lot of money only to see the employee move on?"

    Indeed these are valid questions; however, what if you found a person to mentor that wanted to work in your field of industry, needed some guidance to obtain his or her goals, and you could mentor that person for free?

    Employee mentoring programs can be unpaid or paid, and in some states, you can even have the apprentice’s wages paid by your local Department of Labor. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprentice program visit their website, or check with your local office. In some cases, the federal or state programs offered will pay both the wages and your share of 941 employee taxes. In other instances, you may only get the wages paid or the 941 tax paid. Either way, these types of federal and state government programs make it very easy to setup an employee mentoring program for your business.

    In free or state-funded mentorship programs, you really have nothing to lose and perhaps a lifetime employee to gain. Below, we'll look at two types of mentoring programs; those for new apprenticeships and those for existing employees.

    Image Credit (Morgue File)

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    How to Set Up a Mentoring Program - The Apprentice

    Whether you choose to investigate the federal or state-funded programs, or set up your own apprenticeship training program, here are the steps you should follow:

    • Determine Possible Mentorships – For every business owner, this will have to be industry specific. For example, because I own a Ford dealership, I was able to set up mentoring programs for apprentice technicians, detailers, and even office workers that perform general office duties. Think of areas within your organization that either need additional help or ones where you think a mentored employee might turn into a lifetime employee.
    • Pick the Mentors – As with anything new, most of your employees may groan or gripe about an employee mentoring program. It’s true your employees are busy, but help them understand that this is a good change for the company. Also ask for volunteers that want to be a mentor based on the apprenticeship programs you want to explore.
    • Finding People to Mentor – This is actually easier than you think. If you are choosing any federal or state-funded program, they may already have people in mind to work as an apprentice. For other mentoring programs, call local colleges and universities and speak to their recruitment counselors about possible candidates for mentorship. If it’s summer job programs you want to set up, call local high schools and ask student counselors about bright students that have expressed interest in working in your field of industry.
    • What to Pay? – Again, state and federally-funded programs often set up a wage based on job duties and either you pay the wage or they do. In other instances, they will pay your employee 941 taxes or you will. For other apprenticeships, visit websites like College Grad and search for positions you want to fill by either zip code or state to see a base range of entry salaries offered in your area. Keep in mind that most high school summer internships or those that occur during school hours are often considered educational credit and no salary is needed.
    • Delve In – Once you’ve found your selected candidates for your employee mentoring program, assign each one a mentor and delve in. Explain that even mentorships require the candidate to adhere to company policies and procedures. Create an evaluation form, or utilize the one found in our Media Gallery to track the intern’s progress.
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    Employee Mentoring Programs – Existing Employees

    Smiley Balls Morgue File Having an experienced and dedicated employee is a good thing. On the other side of that coin, you may have an employee who wants to do well but is having a little bit of trouble making the grade. These in-house mentoring programs are also easy to setup:

    • Identify the Employee – Some employees simply have no work ethic and offer not much to you as the employer other than doses of aspirin or ibuprofen. There are other employees who you employ that are dedicated but simply need some guidance. Identify the employee that you feel could benefit from mentoring.
    • Choose a Mentor – Here, you should choose a mentor based on experience and people skills. Sometimes, even your top level employees may not be good at mentoring. Talk to your staff and seek volunteers first. If no one wants to volunteer, like it or not, choose a person and tell them not only are you offering help and assistance for them with an extra hand, you also trust them enough to mentor an employee.
    • Track Progress – Again, use the employee evaluation template in our Media Gallery to help track the mentored employee’s progress. This form is great for in-house mentoring programs as it allows you to preset goals and track those goals.
    • Departmental Mentoring – Another advantage to in-house employee mentoring programs is to have employees train in other departments. This can be very beneficial if you lose an employee that “knows it all," or if you think cross-training would benefit how your company operates.
    • Think About Incentives - If an existing employee does well in their mentorship, consider offering some sort of reward or incentive. Even if you just develop a wall plaque reward or certificate system, offering small incentives can mean a lot to employees.

    Employee mentoring programs are not difficult to setup and in my experience, they are worth the effort, especially because good people are hard to find. I have two employees that started in apprenticeships seven to nine years ago, respectively, that are still with my company today.

    Even if you find yourself well into a mentoring program and find the candidate you chose is not working out, you’re not obligated to keep the apprentice and can look for more candidates that meet your company’s needs. In the long run, your employees will enjoy the extra assistance and feel empowered that you trust them to mentor a possible future employee.

    If you are setting up an in-house mentoring program, through goal setting and employee evaluation tracking, you should be able to determine fairly quickly if the mentored employee will be able to accomplish the task at hand.

    Image Credit: Morgue File