By Scott Tackett

When it comes to retaining good employees, do you find yourself looking for a magic wand that will make them want to stay with your company? Almost daily, I am asked by clients what they can do differently to keep their employees from leaving; something beyond the technical training that everyone else is doing. While I don’t have that magic wand (or a magic answer), I think I may have a good suggestion that you can implement immediately: a mentorship program.

Mentorship programs seem to be gaining traction by managers and owners alike as they try to ensure their good employees are being invested in for the long term.

In his article, “3 Reasons Your Company Needs a Mentoring Program,” business coach Rhett Power writes, “Starting a mentoring program in your business allows you to capitalize on your greatest resource, your employees.”

So, what ARE the three reasons your company needs such a program, according to Power? Mentoring shows the company cares, results in a more engaged workforce, and produces higher job satisfaction.

In a mentorship program, employees (mentees) pair with more experienced coworkers (mentors) to gain knowledge, skills, experience, information, and advice. Anyone, at any job level, can benefit from a mentoring relationship.

According to Power, an effective mentoring program supports the development of leaders while simultaneously encouraging healthy work relationships. It helps develop the strategic understanding of the role and responsibilities that an individual must play and assists with the continuing growth of the company through succession planning. Mentorship assists individuals in their growth by having a person who can give them sound advice and guidance.

Developing the program

There are numerous models of mentoring programs, and it is critical that you choose the right model. In my experience with small businesses, I would recommend one-on-one mentoring.

Considered the most common mentoring model, one-on-one mentoring matches one mentor with one mentee. Most people prefer this model because it allows both mentor and mentee to develop a personal relationship while providing individual support for the mentee.

Once a model is determined, there are several steps that I suggest you follow.

Identify the selection criteria for mentors and mentees. Participants should be excited, committed, and willing to do the work that will lead to the opportunity for growth. Beyond this, each company must determine their guidelines for a good mentee candidate and decide what the baseline will be for an experienced, well-rounded, and talented mentor. Many times, talent will be based on the number of years with the organization or years within the industry.

Define other critical components of the program. Some areas to consider include how long the program will last; how often and for how long the pairs are expected to meet; and what role, if any, technology will play in the relationship. Once decided, a brief introduction summary of the program should be created and distributed to all participants.

Recruit and interview potential candidates. Post information in the office and send an email, making sure to provide a specific point of contact. When deciding who to include in the program, be sure to gauge the applicant’s level of interest, commitment, and desire to spend the needed time.

As you discuss the mentoring program with participants, ask them about:

  • Their goals
  • How they would describe their communication style
  • What they’re looking for in a mentor/mentee
  • The challenges they face (for a potential mentee)

Match participants. Be sure participants are well-suited, meaning they will work together to achieve the common purpose. Never pair a mentee with his/her direct supervisor.

Once you have determined the best mentor/mentee matches — which may be the hardest and most time-consuming part of the process — move forward quickly to get the program up and running so that neither party loses interest or motivation.

Maintaining the program

If this is your first-ever mentoring program, observe it closely, gather feedback, and look for ways to improve future programs. Just be sure you don’t give up and make this another “plan of the day” or “program of the month” that falls short and you walk away, never to try it again. It would be worse to start a mentoring program and let it die than to never have started one at all.

And, as Harvard Business Review writer Anthony K. Tjan states, “Company leadership should embrace, promote, and value mentoring programs to realize a return on investment.”

If the consensus is that your mentoring program was a success, make it bigger and better the next time. Get more people involved and send more communications throughout the company. Play it up and, even more importantly, share your success story with the next estimator, project manager, office manager, or technician candidate. Doing so might just make the difference in them deciding to join your company rather than working for the competition.


Scott Tackett is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is considered the leading expert in restoration and cleaning for Human Resource Development and Organizational Leadership with over 30 years of experience. Through Violand, Tackett works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800)360-3513.