9 Successful Mentoring Program Secrets for Healthcare HR
Several years ago, Kelli Wood was a performance improvement consultant at Bryan Health, where she and a colleague created a leadership development program that included a mentoring initiative. Participants were matched up by interest and areas of expertise, and every member of the leadership team was invited to participate.
The results? “Not only did the program facilitate individual professional development for both the mentor and the protégé, but it also facilitated cross-functional awareness and appreciation for what was being done in different areas of the medical center,” Wood says. Since then, she’s adopted the program for use at her current employer, Talent Plus, where she works as a senior analyst; it’s been a successful and widely embraced program.
If you’re looking to build collaboration and communication at your organization while developing new leaders, a mentorship program hits all the bases. Here’s what you need to know to build one that succeeds.
Know What Mentor Programs Can Accomplish
Mentor programs can be a part of leadership development, succession planning or improved communication initiatives, as well as a way to increase collaboration and strengthen relationships at an organization.
They can be as simple as job shadowing or may include carefully scheduled step-up projects designed to give emerging leaders the skills they need to succeed in future positions.
Under these programs, mentors and less senior employees (often referred to as proteges or mentees) are paired together with the goal of sharing skills, experiences, institutional knowledge. The relationship is meant to prepare younger employees to advance along their career track, while also enhancing senior employees’ leadership and teaching skills.
Create a Successful Mentoring Program
A successful mentoring program doesn’t just happen, says Timothy Tolan, CEO and Managing Partner of Sanford Rose Associates — The Tolan Group. Here’s how to build a successful mentoring program in your organization.
- Establish goals. Setting a goal for your program will help make it more effective. Goals for mentor programs can include passing on specific skills to certain employees or preparing an employee for a new position, for example. Ensure they’re SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, and that they’re written down. “If they’re not written down, they’re just ideas,” Tolan says.
- Identify stakeholders. Leaders should identify those who will be doing the work and those who will be sponsoring the work, whether financially or in organizational capital, says Bo Bergstrom, COO of Uvize, which helps match mentors and mentees. This step helps establish support and buy-in.
- Train mentors. “Just because you're a good salesperson doesn't mean you're a good mentor; they are different skills,” Bergstrom says. “Time and again, training has been shown to double the success rates of relationships.” A quick course in communication or teaching can make a mentor more effective before the program starts.
- Communicate frequently. Bridging gaps between different levels of employees can be challenging, Bergstrom says. Check in regularly to see how things are going and if progress is being made on the set goals.
- Report back. Keep stakeholders and sponsors informed about the progress of the program. Survey participants to see what they learned and what can be improved, and feed that back to the higher levels to show the program’s effectiveness.
Who Makes a Good Mentor?
Once you’ve established your program, you’ll need to identify great mentors. Some traits of effective mentors include:
- Commitment. Everyone’s busy, and when other things come up, it can be easy to blow off the 4 o’clock mentoring call, Tolan says. Find people who will treat mentoring as seriously as a meeting with the CEO.
- Generosity. Mentors should be able to work without expectation of reward, Tolan says. “If you ask someone to be a mentor and they ask what’s in it for them, you’ve got the wrong person.”
- Skill at delivering feedback. People who serve as mentors need to be able to provide constructive feedback clearly and consistently, Tolan says. As they serve as guides to the young leaders and up-and-comers, they need to be able to help them make improvements.
- Dedication. Good mentors believe in the mission of the organization and can communicate it clearly, Tolan says. They should also be able to help others see how their work fits in with the mission.
Establishing a mentor program at your organization is a great way to develop new leaders, strengthen relationships and hold on to institutional knowledge. Start one up soon so your organization can start reaping the benefits.