As we head into the new year, mentorship continues to be a competitive advantage for companies and a source of development and engagement for employees. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials with mentors report 81 percent higher job satisfaction. Mentorship provides a resource for advice and an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Providing opportunities for mentorship is a quick and easy win for an organization and a great way to increase retention rates across all demographics. The new year is a great time to look at your corporate mentorship program and improve any areas that may be lacking. When assessing your current offerings, consider the following tips.

1. Get a pulse for your current programs.

Speak to mentees and mentors at every level, and locate any blind spots. What has been working for them? What suggestions do they have for improvement? If you are not able to sit down for a quick coffee chat, a simple survey with three to five questions can help you identify strengths and weaknesses. Remember, you can create the best program out there, but if the company environment, culture or leaders don’t provide support, your programs might fall flat. Take the time to do a proper needs analysis.

2. Source new ideas.

People love sharing their ideas on mentorship. Find out what experiences your friends, colleagues or family members have had in their organizations, and consider how you might apply them within the framework of your own culture. Source different professional groups on LinkedIn, find a slack channel dedicated to HR or head to some networking events for fresh ideas.

3. Be strategic about how you match your pairs.

Keep an eye out for people who have expressed interest in developing leadership or coaching skills. They will likely be the mentors with the most impact. Though it may be tempting to “volun-tell” mentors based on their availability, this method often results in a mentorship relationship that never kicks off.

Consider the goal of your program, and make sure to match the mentor based on your desired outcome. For example, if the goal is for recent graduates to comfortably onboard into an organization, consider matching them with someone in their department who is not far removed from their day-to-day. This helps the mentor develop coaching skills while giving the mentee a resource outside of his or her immediate supervisor.

4. Create a strong framework and accountability.

Though it is easy to introduce the pair in an email and hope for the best, doing so likely won’t create strong accountability for the mentorship relationship to flourish. Prior to the first meeting, ask the mentee and mentor to outline what they hope to gain from the relationship, their expectations for each other and how they will hold each other accountable.

Hold a formal session where mentors and mentees can meet, discuss their objectives and come to a shared agreement. Follow up with some formal gatherings that force the pair away from their desks, and help the mentor become involved in the mentee’s work where and when possible. Provide suggested topics or articles for the group to talk about.

5. Create a consistent feedback loop with mentors and mentees.

Both mentors and mentees appreciate feedback on how they are doing. Ask for feedback from both parties on what is working and what is not, and be open to sharing that information. When possible, provide training to mentors to ensure they are equipped to have a positive impact throughout the mentorship relationship.

Remember, mentoring should be an opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee to grow professionally. Mentors report higher satisfaction with their roles, improved performance and increased levels of commitment to their organizations than non-mentors.

Mentorship programs need to be continuously developed and re-evaluated if they are to provide real value and help retain critical organizational knowledge. Though it may require some initial leg work, training and resources, the long-term benefits will far out weight the cost if executed properly, and it will certainly kick your 2018 culture up a notch!

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