Some form of
There are usually four people involved in a mentoring programme. Together, they make up a mentoring quadrangle (see Figure 11):
the line manager
the programme co-ordinator, who
Figure 11: The mentoring quadrangle
The clearer all four are about the objectives and effort required, the more successful the programme will be. All must be involved and consulted about career moves and developmental
Each organisation has to draw up a mentoring programme that fits its particular company culture and answers the needs of its own employees. To ensure the success of the mentoring programme, a company must be prepared to be flexible in its approach and be willing to assess continuously and, if necessary, modify the
The starting-point, as with any major corporate programme, must be a clear statement of objectives against which progress may be measured. Typical objectives might be:
to establish a cadre of broadly trained generalist managers at or just below middle management
to speed and improve the induction of specific types of recruits and reduce wastage within the first year of their employment
to allow top management to assess the ability of both individual young managers and the
to provide equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups of employees.
In each case, the personnel department can establish with top management a set of assessment criteria and a timetable for achieving specific levels of results.
Putting these objectives into practice requires a great deal of preparation. Usually at least six months to a year is needed to gain acceptance of the concept from the key people in the organisation, to establish objectives and measurements, to design supporting facilities, such as special training courses, and to begin the process of selecting
Throughout this process, the following principles are essential to bear in mind:
understand how the culture of the organisation will support or hinder mentoring
ensure top management commitment
adapt the programme to the company's development programme
ensure commitment and participation from mentor/mentee groups
ensure that support systems are in place
ensure an acceptance of the time involved
demystify the mentoring programme
measure both processes and
An important element in designing the programme,
Will line managers willingly let them
I often use the Development Context Survey (copies of the survey can be obtained from
Some examples that
A large UK-based financial services organisation found that its system of billable hours placed a major potential
The HR function in a UK national institution insisted that it knew exactly what the likely concerns of mentors and mentees would be and saw no need to conduct any research prior to training. Subsequently, it became very clear that the organisational culture made it difficult for the mentees - newly recruited graduates - to admit that they had any issues to deal with. They soon learned that
An engineering company assumed that women managers would welcome a mentoring programme aimed specifically at them. Persuaded to do some initial research, it
The top management team needs to supply
Try to fit the mentoring programme into the context of a wider framework of employee development and human resource management, and explain this framework to employees. Problems are likely to arise if the programme exists in isolation. If it seems that mentoring is the only form of career development in the company, employees may easily assume that those
The company should also make sure that mentees have other opportunities to improve their skills beyond those arising within the mentoring programme. They should have access to internal or external workshops, self-development and distance-learning materials, as well as career development classes. This is to ensure that mentees can easily supplement their knowledge if the mentor's coaching is too
Ensure that participation is voluntary. Mentoring demands time and effort, so the essential ingredient is commitment. When a company
Potential mentors should be informed of problems and challenges and what they should expect of the relationship. Some companies give all new mentors and mentees the chance to hear from existing mentors of the pitfalls and pleasures mentoring can bring. They also explore the mentee's view through the eyes of previous participants. The co-ordinator should also attempt to discover any ambivalence the mentor may feel about his or her commitment.
The most important of the support systems required are:
clear information about the purpose of the programme and who is eligible for it
some basic information about mentoring and how to apply for the programme - the Department for Employment and Education, for example, has an
a systematic, transparent system for matching mentors and mentees - the European Mentoring Centre can provide up-to-date information on software available
a well-focused training programme for both mentor and mentee
some form of mutual support mechanism by which mentors can meet from time to time to share experience and receive further advice (along the lines of supervision in counselling, although not
Some companies, such as Procter & Gamble, have supported diversity mentoring schemes with newsletters and discussion sheets aimed at stimulating dialogue between mentor and mentee. Other companies feel that most people will
Make sure that everyone understands the amount of time commitment involved. As part of the preparation of the mentor, the mentee and the mentee's manager must be devoted to establishing just how much of each person's time will be taken up by the scheme. This time has to be planned for, regular meetings scheduled and a timetable established for any project work agreed.
Two key questions that must be asked are:
How disruptive to the normal work of these people will the time commitment be?
Two useful ground rules help to put the time issue into perspective:
If you meet less than once a quarter, you do not have a relationship (it is just an acquaintance); if you meet much more than once a month, the mentor is probably doing the line manager's job.
Ideally, meetings should last 60-90 minutes. Less than this, it is difficult to address issues in real depth. More than two hours and you are probably going round the
Demystify the mentoring programme for those who are not involved. The
Confidentiality is essential if the mentee is to
The mentor should be completely aside from the line of work. It is important that total honesty and openness can be displayed, and often mentees feel wary if they do not have the distance they would like.
Confidentiality in mentoring is rarely absolute. Leaving aside the issue of legal obligations (eg becoming an
Clearly, the less confidence the mentee (let alone the mentor) has that what he or she says will
My line manager and my mentor play golf together every Sunday. There are things I'd like to explore with the mentor about how to tackle some of my manager's behaviours, but I'm never sure how much I dare say. If my manager thought I was criticising him behind his back, I'd have a real problem. As it is, twice now they have both made much the same suggestion to me about an issue I've brought up, which makes me suspicious that they have been discussing me.
Although issues of broken confidentiality are remarkably rare in mentoring, concerns over confidentiality remain one of the biggest limiting factors on relationships. Making the ground rules clear and trying, wherever possible, to avoid mentor and line manager being too close operationally or
Some of the engineering institutes have used mentoring for