A mentoring scheme within the workplace allows fast, effective induction and training of staff and allows for an increase in job learning, which reduces off-site training costs and brings new knowledge to the working environment.
Some organisations also report that in the long-term it means retention of quality staff and gains in productivity and performance.
Things to consider when setting up a scheme
What kind of mentoring is needed most within the workplace? Do you require career development mentoring, or task-based coaching?
What issues need to be addressed and who would be best suited to provide guidance? Is mentoring sufficient, or would coaching or training be more appropriate?
Who will benefit from mentoring
Is it just for new staff members, or will you open it to all employees, no matter what stage of their career they are at? Whilst traditional mentoring was seen as as experienced engineer with an apprentice or protege, new graduates may have different ideas and opinions which can be just as vital as mid-career engineers, and may offer new perspective on issues.
Who will act as mentors
The most willing mentors will be those who volunteer for the role. They may still require training in the skills of mentoring. Companies can evaluate the training needs or requirements - the IET provide mentor training which can be tailored to your company's needs.
Once you have a supply of trained mentors you will need to determine how to match them to mentees. Depending on the size of your mentor base, you can pair on a particular skill, experience level or for more practical reasons like site or location.
Who looks after the day to day running of the scheme
Designate someone to look after the mentoring selection and day-to-day running of the schemes - including unobtrusive monitoring of the progress between mentor and mentee.
How will the relationship work within the workplace
Encourage each pairing to make a plan of action or sign a learning contract to ensure it is clear what roles each will take, and what the outcome of the pairings will be. Pairings can last anything from a few months to a few years depending on these goals, and these may change over time, but it is important for each of them to understand clearly their position and what is expected from them. Depending on the reasons for mentoring, they may want to take records of each session and what is discussed (although this is likely to remain between the mentor and mentee, it can be useful to look back at notes of previous meetings).
It's also good to bear in mind that having a mentor through your company can have its problems. The mentor will need to set boundaries regarding when the mentee can contact their mentor and the amount of guidance the mentor can give.
A very useful tool the IET recommend is Career Manager - here you can keep a log of the work you have completed.
What to do next
Once you have decided how the scheme will run, you should write a manual that covers all procedures and explains how the mentoring scheme works. This may contain guidance, training materials and best practice, as well as templates for contracts and notes of pairings.
A regular forum or workshop for mentors will allow them to share experiences and best practice. This will also act as additional training and help the designated staff member co-ordinating mentoring to ensure that the pairings are being maintained.
When mentees end their pairings they can further their own development and give something back by becoming mentors themselves.