By Anne Evenson
A well-organized mentorship program provides learning opportunities for everyone involved and creates a more innovative and collaborative work environment. And you can do it all while using your existing resources and connections!
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
Steven Spielberg, American film director, producer and screenwriter
Some of the most successful organizations worldwide use mentorship programs to recruit and retain top talent, elevate employee engagement and boost organizational performance. Pairing mentors who share their knowledge, skills and insights with mentees to cultivate their personal and professional development provide both groups with growth opportunities that often result in increased motivation and dedication. While there’s no one-size-fits-all model for building a successful mentorship program, there are standard guidelines relevant to most workplace environments.
Define Program Goals
First, you’ll need to decide what you hope to achieve with your mentorship program. Some programs are designed to build the confidence of new hires by clarifying roles, providing access to key information and introducing them to organizational culture. Others nurture existing employees by supporting internal education and development and providing clear pathways to advancement. Many organizations use their mentorship programs to appeal to more diverse recruits or cultivate leaders from within.
The Women in Wealth LIFT group, an advocacy and business development network at Morgan Stanley, a global leader in financial services, launched its mentorship program after staff shifted to remote work in 2020. LIFT recognized that women in their wealth management division no longer had access to valuable learning and networking opportunities they’d had while working in person with their more experienced colleagues. This disruption was a particular problem for women just starting their financial planning careers. To address the issue, LIFT members Emily Sax Bender and Chelsea Bernstein co-chaired the group’s mentorship committee, looking for ways that LIFT could provide value to the women in their division and help them fulfill their potential. They created the FAME (Female Active Mentoring and Engagement) program, which aims to empower these women, wherever they’re working, with peer-supported mentorship so they can maintain meaningful connections with their clients and succeed in their field.
Create a Framework for Success
After you’ve clarified your goals, consider how to structure your program. Establish what type of mentorships align best with your company culture. If your organization is heavily structured, perhaps a one-to-one relationship with a formal application process, minimum time requirements and a set duration makes more sense. These are the most common types of mentorships, and they typically last between six months and two years, depending on the mentee’s goals and the mentor’s availability. If your company has a more casual atmosphere, maybe group or reverse mentoring would be a better fit. You’ll also want to determine how employees will enroll in the program, whether the format will be in-person or virtual, and the level of experience required for someone to qualify as a mentor.
In addition to one-to-one mentoring, FAME coordinated virtual group events and activities such as small breakout sessions to encourage collaboration and idea-sharing among program participants. In one such virtual event, Rachel Wilson, Head of Cybersecurity for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, shared her own positive mentorship experience with a group of mentor/mentee pairs. She described a good mentor as a “truth-teller who helps see the good and the bad” and someone who promotes their mentee’s interests even when they aren’t around. Rachel also shared insights about how mentees could contribute to objectives directly aligned with Morgan Stanley’s organizational goals.
Select and Pair Participants
Next, identify potential mentors and match them with suitable mentees. Ideally, you want a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, skills and work styles. An inclusive mentorship program means that everyone benefits by gaining alternate perspectives, increased confidence and stronger communication skills.
As part of the matching process, you can direct your mentors and mentees to fill out an information sheet describing what they hope to gain from the relationship and share it with the other party. You can also initiate participants with a brief training session to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities. For example, mentors should be aware that their job is to guide their mentees, not do things for them. Mentees should know that it’s their responsibility to set expectations and communicate them to their mentors.
The FAME committee carefully considered every partnership, beginning with each participant’s unique background and stated expectations. They required each pair to sign a mentoring agreement committing themselves to a mutually beneficial relationship where the mentor would concentrate on developing the mentee, and the mentee would share new perspectives for the business. The committee also asked the pairs to set meeting agendas, with a minimum of one meeting per month, to achieve their objectives in a consistent, timely manner. They directed the mentees to outline the goals and objectives they hoped to accomplish within one year to measure progress. Lastly, the committee solicited feedback from all program participants and created regular program reports to assess the program’s success.
A well-organized mentorship program provides learning opportunities for everyone involved and creates a more innovative and collaborative work environment. And you can do it all while using your existing resources and connections! These extremely cost-effective programs offer multiple benefits to employees, leaders and business owners in every industry.
Just six months into the program, FAME has 24 pairs of mentors and mentees, providing a mentorship blueprint that Morgan Stanley can use far into the future!
Anne Evenson is a marketing specialist and copy editor working in Austin, Texas. She holds a BFA in Fibers and Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute.
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