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The X-Factor from XL Staffing
July 2012

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Team XL has moved to 450 Fletcher Parkway, Suite 204! One whole block away! Stop by and say hi!

Dear Todd,

Mentorship programs are one of the best ways to capitalize on one of your greatest resources, your human capital! But how do you implement a mentorship program in your organization? This month's article will take you through the necessary preparation and a proven process for implementing a mentorship program.

Best regards,

Joe Mackey
XL Staffing
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A Team Manager's Guide To Mentoring

I swear by mentoring as one of the best ways to teach your team members what they need to know to be productive and send the message that you think they're important and care about their growth.

Obviously, an official mentoring program is great to have, but what if your company hasn't gone down this road before? The Mentoring Group says that before implementing a formal initiative, you should consider how much support mentoring has from executives and employees, the time and resources people have to spend, and the overall health of the organization. The following are preparation musts:
  • Plan ahead. Take several months to plan your initiative and get senior stakeholder buy-in.
  • Link goals to the mission and values of your organization. As organizational and mentoring expert Kathy Kram has emphasized, mentoring efforts that aren't linked to the goals of the organization will not be taken seriously and will fail.
  • Don't do everything yourself. Create a dynamic taskforce that's excited about mentoring. Be sure everyone has a key role and set of tasks.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel. Good materials for designing programs and for training mentors and mentees already exist. Do a Google search.
  • Provide structure. If you opt for a program with mentor-mentee pairs (or mentoring circles), plan a great deal of structure. Have a formal application process, clear roles for participants, a training course, materials, and scheduled ongoing activities. You can always loosen up, but it's harder to tighten up if a formal program begins with a too-casual approach.
  • Start small. You want to be successful in all respects, so focus a pilot effort on a group that is likely to do well. Two good targets are new hires and budding leaders.
  • Evaluate everything you do. Don't wait until the year is over and try to pull together some results to decide if you'll do it again. Go beyond feel-good data that say the training was enjoyable. Try to get some baseline data before you begin on mentees' competencies, knowledge, attendance, and satisfaction with the organization.
Selecting appropriate mentors for your program will be one of the most critical parts of your process. According to Harvard Business Essentials' Hiring and Keeping the Best People, you should seek mentor candidates who can empathize with an employee facing special challenges, have a nurturing attitude, exemplify the best of the company's culture, and have rock-solid links to the organization. I also believe that the best mentors tend to be people who are just a few years ahead of the mentee on the corporate ladder, because they can relate to the mentee's current situation but also have enough perspective to provide concrete and workable advice.

Once you have your volunteers and are ready to begin, get your mentor/mentee relationships off on the right foot by advocating The Mentoring Group's process.

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