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Why You Need to Start a Company Mentoring Program Today

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Why You Need to Start a Company Mentoring Program Today

ast year, A&P Master Images grew revenues a cool $750,000. While owner Howard Potter loved the 34% growth, it was painful every step of the way. “That’s because we didn’t take the time to create structured, ongoing training or mentoring for our managers and employees,” he says. “We promoted people to managers, but didn’t build them to be managers.”

Potter had to act fast because his shop morale was dropping. “I worked alongside each department to clean, organize, create structure and support to get them back on track,” he says. “Some only needed a couple of weeks, and others required a couple of months due to more new staff and a more involved process to oversee.”

The result? By the end of the year, Potter’s managers had better control, better training and fewer replacements, which lowered the amount of work.

“Our staff morale is better than it’s ever been. Mentorship has helped us maintain our quality standards. Plus, our team feels more confident to do their jobs, since they know they have someone they can turn to for help when they need it.”
Howard Potter, owner at A&P Master Images

In your print shop or distributorship, a mentoring program can help cultivate a culture of continuous learning, increase employee engagement and retention, and ultimately help keep your business successful.

We gathered together the key elements of an effective mentoring program, so you can unlock your employees' full potential and take your organization's learning culture to the next level!

Why a Mentoring Program Can Benefit Your Business

A 2022 McKinsey survey showed that career development and advancement potential are the top reasons 30% of new employees accept a role with your company. Plus, retention rates are 50% higher for employees with a mentor, vs. those without one, Training Magazine reports.

That’s why bringing a mentoring component to your company can create an attractive work environment for new hires – and help them gain new skills as they work toward career advancement.

Within the last five years, promo products supplier, Fields Manufacturing, set up a mentoring program and immediately saw the benefits.

“When we onboard someone or transition their responsibilities, they get a mentor. Almost immediately, we get feedback like, ‘My mentor has been phenomenal helping me through challenging situations and difficult conversations. I love having someone who’ll listen and be supportive.”
Matt Wagner, vice president of sales at Fields Manufacturing

Here are some reasons, according to Wagner, why starting a mentorship program can benefit your company.

It supports growth and offers knowledge.

An experienced mentor can help their mentee build the skills necessary to become more successful and advance within your company. This will also help them learn the ropes in a shorter period of time.  

It helps set goals and accountability.

A mentor can help their mentee set reasonable goals – as well as help them track progress and stay accountable, so they can achieve those goals.

You'll be able to develop a competent team.

“You’re eliminating the issue of poor time management, because you’re developing people who act as self-managers,” Wagner says. “They’re more confident to work without direct supervision.”

Pro tip: It’s important to have SOPs in place for all your procedures. “This is the first step in an effective mentoring program,” Wagner says. “You can’t have a bunch of people trying to do the same thing 1,000 different ways.”

You'll be able to develop managers and executives from within.

“In our industry, most executives get promoted from within,” Wagner says. “Even if you just hired your first few employees, you’re mentoring them directly to take tasks off your plate, and then their professional development grows from there.”

It'll improve employee retention.

When you assign a new hire a solid mentor, the employee feels they have a voice and someone who’s willing to listen.

“They’ve got a solid mentor to help them through challenges,” Wagner says. “In a way, you’re not giving them a meal. You’re teaching them to fish, or solve their challenges. They’re more well-rounded and happy when they have support from above.”
Matt Wagner, vice president of sales at Fields Manufacturing

Reductions in friction between departments.

Wagner points out that when mentees see the value their mentor provides, they’ll naturally adopt that same type of relationship with their coworkers to be more helpful and supportive. “This creates more of a team community and culture with everyone helping everyone,” he says, “People feel needed and appreciated, so they’re less likely to quit.”

It creates a culture of mentorship.

“A great way to think about it is to create a management program and foster a mentorship culture,” Wagner says.

“We can all be mentors to each other. The more we’re willing and able to teach and learn from each other, the better off we all are as a healthier company.”
Matt Wagner, vice president of sales at Fields Manufacturing

5 Types of Mentoring Scenarios

The good news is that you can create the type of mentoring support that’s the best fit for your company culture. “We have different training setups for different departments,” Potter says. “We keep a close eye on new hires for at least three months to give them a fair shot at succeeding with our company. We make it clear to come to us if they need more training as well.”

  • One-on-one mentoring: “When you assign one manager to mentor an employee, make sure they’re suited to that position, willing and able to relinquish responsibility and be a good educator,” Wagner says. “Otherwise, you’re setting up everyone for failure and no one will enjoy the mentoring.”
  • Group mentoring: In this scenario, one mentor works with a small group of two to five mentees.
  • Peer mentoring: Partner employees in similar roles so they can work projects together and provide feedback to each other. This can work well to complement one-on-one mentoring.
  • Reverse mentoring: We like this twist on mentoring, where you allow a less experienced employee to give a new perspective to a veteran employee.
  • “Speed” mentoring: This is a fun and productive way for your employees to have quick one-on-one sessions with other “mentors.” You can schedule these flash meetings for 15 to 30 minutes, for a fresh perspective. It’s a good idea to set an agenda of a specific question or concern to discuss in these focused sessions.

5 Steps to Set Up Your Mentoring Program

Follow these five steps towards setting up the right program for your business.

1. Define your company’s mentoring goals.

The great thing is that you can design the exact type of program that fits your culture and needs. When done right, a mentoring program fosters a team-focused culture at all levels. Experienced employees can pass on their expertise, and mentees can learn new skills and improve their performance.

2. Decide how the program will work.

As we’ve outlined, every mentoring program is different, so you can decide which setups work best for your team. Wagner points out that your mentoring program doesn’t need to be super-formal, and that too much red tape can actually work against you. Simply working to pair up the right mentors and mentees can be the solid foundation to your perfect program.

3. Pair your mentees with the right mentors.

First, decide whether you want everyone in your company involved in the program. Once you’ve selected your participants, choose who you’re pairing each person with. It’s important to pair the right personalities together so they can get the most out of their experience.

Wagner recommends sitting down with your key managers to identify people in each department who’d be ideal mentors and mentees.

“Have conversations with your staff to pair the right mentors and mentees. The better message is to include mentoring as part of your managers’ and leads’ roles at your company. Say, ‘We need you to take this person under your wing.’”
Matt Wagner, vice president of sales at Fields Manufacturing

4. Always offer continuous support and training.

As employees move through the mentoring program, provide mentors with training to support their mentees.

“When we have an employee who shines, we build them up to be a team leader in their department. They earn more per hour and become assistant managers. Then, each department has a backup and it primes the next person in line to grow within our shop. Now, our team members have two people in each department they can rely on!”
Howard Potter, owner at A&P Master Images

5. Have the right mindset as a leader.

“Give your employees a certain level of flexibility and room to fail,” Wagner says. “Yes, you can have a great mentor, but we learn best through our own mistakes. Be OK with your team sometimes being unsuccessful.”

Don’t Put Off Starting a Mentoring Program

While it’s easy to make excuses about why you don’t have time to start a program, It’s actually easier to get started – especially if it’s as simple as assigning your new hires to mentors, or mentoring top performers to move up to managers.  

“You can’t afford not to set up mentoring,” Potter says. “Work to clean up your department operations, set up employee training and mentoring, and be accessible to your managers. From there, work to improve each day and never settle!”

May 14, 2023