Mentorship programs have become an essential staff development tool for businesses of all sizes. A strong mentor-mentee relationship can help new and existing employees learn the ropes from a veteran, while also helping the more seasoned worker see solutions and approaches to company initiatives from a fresh perspective.

The purpose of a mentorship program is to provide an additional source of support during an employee's orientation — but mentorship can also come later in a worker’s time with the company.

A trusted guide

A mentor is a member of your team who teaches or gives help and advice to a less-experienced staff member. Mentors act as a new hire's guide to your workplace and allow newcomers to gain valuable, real-world experience and skills that are difficult to grasp in a classroom setting or workshops.

A company-culture ambassador

The one-on-one quality of the relationship cultivated within mentorship programs helps a new hire integrate quickly into your firm's culture and become a productive member of the staff.

  • These pairings supplement your onboarding efforts, helping fill in the gaps.
  • Mentors can introduce newcomers to individuals in other work areas and serve as a sounding board for thoughts, ideas and concerns.
  • Good mentor-protégé relationships also nurture an inviting culture, demonstrating to newcomers the benefits of an open environment where people are constantly sharing knowledge, generating ideas and are mutually committed to building a successful company.

Mentorship programs benefit both sides

Mentoring is not a one-way street. Individuals who become mentors stand to benefit as well. Serving as a mentor can help even the most accomplished long-term employees improve his or her management skills. In addition, new employees often bring fresh perspectives that can benefit a tenured employee.

Who makes the best mentors?

The key to an effective mentorship program is to choose mentors who are temperamentally suited to the task.

  • Mentors are not supervisors. They typically don't oversee the mentee's day-to-day work performance.
  • They don't necessarily need to be your most senior managers. They should, however, be naturally empathetic and enjoy the role of helping, listening and sharing information with others.
  • Typically, a mentor who willingly steps up to be part of a mentorship program is better suited for the role than a worker who has to be persuaded about its value.