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How to Implement a Mentoring Program for Your Small Business

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Implementing a mentoring program in your small business can help your company in many ways such as:

  • Reducing turnover and increasing employee retention
  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Transferring knowledge from your mentors to your mentees 
  • Helping relationship development 
  • Showing your future and current employees you are invested in them 

According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviormentors are satisfied with their jobs and have a higher commitment to the company. If employees are happy with the mentoring program, they tell others about the job opportunities your business will have as it grows. 


How To Implement a Mentoring Program

If you are thinking about career development for your employees, mentoring is a good way to start. 

When implementing a mentoring program, it is important for you to think about what you want most for your small business. Are you looking to implement a new mentoring program for all new employees? Or are you wanting to implement a program for just leaders or for a specific skilled worker? 


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Finding Your Mentors

Look around your business. What skilled workers or leaders do you trust the most? Who works hard and shows their commitment? Are they encouragers of others? Do they want to help your workers to succeed? These people are typically the ones that are confident and want the business to succeed. 

A good mentor is one who is willing to stop what they are doing while it is busy to help mentor someone. Who in your small business has the patience and energy to do that? 

Types of Mentors

There are three types of mentors. As your business grows, consider thinking about these types of mentors to have in your mentoring or training program. 

1.    Buddy / Peer Mentors

This is the first stage of the mentoring program where businesses offer a buddy or peer to train the new employee.  This peer helps someone new into the career or role and helps them with specific skills. They also teach the new employee about best practices in the company and about company culture

Peer mentoring is important because mentors teach the new team members about the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to do the job. Also, a mentor provides personal support to the new employee. Many times, a new team member may feel like quitting. The mentor can help motivate and encourage them if the job becomes difficult. 

Typically, the peer mentor would meet with the new team member frequently until a deadline has been established. 

2.    Career Mentors

After a while, the new employee becomes good at their job. They are taking on more and more responsibilities and may be thinking of their next steps. A career mentor should help the employee see how their job fits within the company. They are the employee’s advocate. 

A career mentor helps the employee become more engaged. They help them see the bigger picture and how their job is helping the company reach their goals. They are people who motivate and encourage their employees. A career mentor should be someone who isn’t a direct supervisor. They are someone the employee would meet with every month or quarter to get advice and encouragement. A career mentor is someone an employee can trust. 

3.    Life Mentors

As employees reach middle or senior stages of their careers, they need someone they can confide in without fear. They are someone the employee talks to when trying to make difficult career decisions. Life mentors are helping someone make the best decisions about their life, even if it means leaving the company. 

These are people inside or outside of the company who can help an employee with their next steps. They typically meet with their life mentors once a year. 

Make Your Mentoring Plan Successful

Here are some methods to make your mentoring plan successful:

Define Learning Objectives

What do you want your mentoring program to do? Once you find your mentors, you should develop a plan and make goals with them. Define learning objectives and goals at the beginning. What are the most important things the mentees should learn about your company and their job? 

Set Clear Timelines

Ensure each objective has a milestone of completion.  Some milestones may be longer for career mentors. For peer mentors there are more defined timelines which are completed. 

Set Ground Rules

Encourage the pairs to set ground rules with each other. They should communicate with each other how they are going to work towards the goals. This can help prevent misunderstandings. The mentees should understand and know all the mentor’s expectations. 

Train Your Mentors 

It is important to train your mentors regarding specific wants and needs your company desires. What KSAs do your new employees need? What KSAs do your mentors need? Ensure your mentors know why you started your business. They need to feel your passion about the business. If they feel that, then they will project that to their mentees. 

Ensure your mentors know your expectations and what your small business is trying to achieve. They should be trained on good relationship techniques and communication strategies. Look for some good training techniques online as well. 

Provide Tools and Resources

Ensure you provide the mentors with tools they will need such as lesson plans and evaluation reports. Your mentors can be your trainers. They can be the ones that start the employee out with new hire orientation and build with them as they move along in the company. Some companies have standard templates they use for mentoring. Some companies even use an online platform that facilitates every step of the program. Find the tools and resources which are the best for your small business and budget. 

Mistakes Mentors Can Make

Situations can occur which can deter your mentoring program such as:

Not all departments may need mentoring. For example, You may have people in your business who are creative workers. Their job may not require too much mentoring as creatives need to use their imagination to come up with ideas. Determine the right people and job which require mentoring.

Incorrect goals and objectives.Mentoring must have measurable goals. Ensure you state what those are at the beginning. If not, your mentors may take them down a path of what they see as business goals. They may not be on the same path as your goals. 

Incompetence of mentors.Sometimes it is easy to put a mentor in place who we personally like. It is not necessarily someone who is best for the mentoring job. 

Final Thoughts on Creating a Mentoring Program

Implementing a mentor program in your small business can be very helpful especially as your business grows. 

Mentoring is one of the best methods of teaching and developing your employees. A great mentor can share their career, life achievements, and mistakes with their mentees. They can be great motivators and encouragers to your new hires

Mentors help the mentees see the bigger picture. The mentor should be encouraging the mentee to seek answers and not always giving them every answer. They should be teaching them how to find their own answers.  

Mentors are more than just coaches. A coach helps an employee achieve certain goals. A mentor uses human relations and shares their job experience. This takes time as a new employee has to be able to trust their mentor. They need to be able to tell the mentor problems they are having without fear of losing their job.

Mentors help drive engagement. Mentors are coaches, encouragers, motivators, and trainers. 



Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.


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