Mentoring in the workplace is a popular way for businesses to integrate new workers into the organization as seamlessly as possible. But these efforts can and should be so much more than an onboarding tool.

Strong mentoring programs not only provide support for new hires but also help create an open, inviting culture that emboldens all workers to contribute their ideas for improving the company.

Mentoring in the workplace also encourages goal setting, and in a new Accountemps report, 88 per cent of the Canadian workers surveyed said goal setting is important to their work performance, yet for some professionals, those discussions with managers never happen.

View an infographic of the survey findings about the Value of Goal Setting.

For forward-thinking managers, mentoring provides an environment where finance and accounting professionals generate ideas and share not just knowledge but a commitment to building a successful company.

In order for these relationships to be rewarding, you must kick them off with a solid foundation and hold regular meetings. Here are five tips for achieving success with mentoring in the workplace.

1. Match mentors and mentees

Some employers make the mistake of having new hires shadow veteran employees in the hopes that key information will just naturally be transferred. However, this “follow Joe around” type of arrangement is typically an unproductive approach to the onboarding process and certainly doesn’t qualify as a mentoring relationship — particularly if the mentor and mentee are a poor match.

To make a good match, you need data. One way to gain information is to create a questionnaire that asks interested employees about their career objectives, communication styles, and what they are looking for in a mentor or mentee. Then pair them up according to their responses. Successful mentor-mentee pairings are those where the participants have similar interests and personalities, as well as complementary goals.

2. Build strong mentoring programs

Make mentorship an integral part of your company culture. Promote it during the recruitment process, start matching new hires with mentors during orientation and make sure the pairs have the tools to succeed. This requires planning, internal marketing, training and plenty of follow up. Make sure managers at the highest levels talk up the program, emphasize its importance and are themselves participants.

In order for formal employee mentorship programs to be a success, there needs to be buy-in from both top management and rank-and-file staff. Kick it off during an all-company meeting or departmental retreat. Keep the communication clear, simple and positive. Make sure everyone knows participation is voluntary, but at the same time stress the importance of mentoring on career success and also the company’s bottom line.

Don’t expect the program to run on autopilot after launch. Request regular feedback from each participant and look for ways to improve processes. Be sure to collect success stories and testimonials for future program promotion.

3. Establish roles and responsibilities

Mentoring relationships and programs vary not only from one organization to the next, but also from person to person. However, it’s important that all participants understand that “mentor” is not synonymous with “supervisor.” Mentors supply advice and guidance; they do not give work assignments or tell mentees how to do their jobs.

After they’re paired up, encourage the mentor and protégé to help their relationship grow by staying in regular contact. Check-ins by email or phone are fine, but occasional in-person meetings are critical. Some mentors and mentees have weekly coffee get-togethers, while others do lunch every month or two. For both parties to benefit from mentoring, they must meet consistently.

The person tasked with overseeing the mentoring program should check in with each participant a few weeks after they're paired up to make sure the relationship is going smoothly.

4. Engage in goal-setting discussions

Companies benefit when team members have clear goals that help meet overall business objectives. Workers who can see a clear future with a company and feel supported in their professional endeavours are more likely to want to stay with a company.

Some of the suggestions mentors can use to help with goal setting include the following:

  • Provide access to training and development opportunities
  • Offer feedback on performance and recognition for good work
  • Partner with mentees so their goals align with the business objectives of the company

5. Highlight benefits of mentoring in the workplace

The benefits of mentoring go beyond welcoming new staff members. Mentoring relationships can result in the following:

  • Increased knowledge transfer
  • Job satisfaction
  • Smart succession planning
  • Development of leadership skills
  • Motivation for professional development and accountability
  • Achievement of goals and objectives
  • Stronger internal networks
  • Increased teamwork
  • Improved staff retention

Mentees aren’t the only ones who benefit from mentoring relationships. Team members who take an active role in guiding and counseling others have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, and show senior management their readiness to take on greater responsibilities. Mentors also note the satisfaction of helping others — paying it forward — as one of the biggest benefits of mentoring relationships.

What’s more, the learning goes both ways. For example, tech-native millennials may be able to teach boomer mentors how to harness the power of social media, though mentoring has less to do with age and is more about transferring knowledge. By purposefully matching employees of different areas of expertise and generations in the workplace, you help employees diversify their skill sets.

As you put together an employee mentoring program, remember that it’s much more than simply a prolonged orientation. By making strong mentoring relationships an integral part of your corporate culture, every participant can benefit, which will only strengthen your department or company.

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