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How to start a mentoring program in a high-growth environment?

Want to start a mentorship but don't know how? We are sharing 5 quick DIY tips on how to get started with a mentoring process.

October 26, 2022
November 7, 2023
Tina Ruseva

How to start a mentoring program in a high-growth environment?

Along the journey from inception to successful enterprise, the high growth stage is an exciting time for start-ups. Yet, high growth comes with a number of risks. If not managed properly, they threaten a company’s culture, business performance, and even its very existence. 

Hiring and retaining staff are two make-or-break factors in navigating rapid growth. Companies need to hire so fast that they may not be able to onboard new employees properly. At the same time, the demands of working for a high-growth company may be wearing down experienced staff. Such issues are challenging for any business but even more so for a startup. For young enterprises, high productivity is essential for sustaining growth KPIs. 

When it comes to onboarding without process, mentorship has proved extremely effective. It brings new hires up to speed quickly. Experienced team members can receive support through the rapid growth process and feel reassured that they are valued by the company. Those who chose to be mentors have an opportunity to give back. All in all, the mentorship process helps everyone in a company connect, gives them a path forward, and fosters a great culture – all aspects that are essential to high productivity. 

What is the ideal mentoring process?

The mentoring process may come in many formats: from classic high-effort programs that put the emphasis on the mentoring relationship, through digital mentoring that scales, to new types of mentoring.

The common denominator of successful mentoring programs is the ability to meet the needs and objectives of all stakeholders. Mentees need to acquire new knowledge and skills, to feel seen and supported, to learn how the company that they have joined recently truly works or maybe to figure out their way to the top of the corporate ladder. Although they are considered the giving side in the mentoring relationship, mentors, too, have needs that should be fulfilled: the desire to feel helpful to others or the need to work on their communication and leadership skills. Companies too, have a number of objectives: retaining staff, increasing productivity, improving customer service, internal hiring, etc. Those that have realized the incredible potential of mentoring in helping to achieve their objectives are reaping tangible benefits.    

In the past, mentoring was only offered to a small percentage of the workforce. Typically, promising young employees were paired with experienced managers who took them under their wing and opened doors for them. While such a format of organizing the mentoring process certainly has its benefits, it should not be the only type of mentoring support that a company offers. In today’s VUCA world (the acronym stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), a successful mentorship program is flexible and caters to a variety of needs and objectives simultaneously. This means the mentorship process is supported through a variety of formats and is offered to the entire workforce instead of a select few.

Five tips for how to start a mentoring process in a high-growth environment

1. Identify objectives:

Young companies that wish to reap the full potential of the mentoring process need to lay a solid foundation and figure out exactly why they want to offer mentoring to employees. What are the exact needs of the would-be mentees and of the company? Hitting milestone after milestone is certainly exciting for staff but eventually, the long hours and fast pace of change do take their toll. So much so that start-up burnout has become a trend. With more and more employees fighting mental health issues, companies are actively looking for ways to prevent burnout. Another common challenge is the need to successfully onboard large numbers of new employees (more on successful onboarding is available here). Mentoring can certainly help navigate these challenges if the necessary objectives have been identified from the start.  

Identify objectives

2. Assign responsibility:

OK, we get it. Some companies are so young and the internal changes so rapid that HR teams struggle to put a process in place. Still, ownership is an important element that ensures the successful implementation of the mentorship process. This means that a person in a decision-making capacity should be tasked with tracking whether employees are taking advantage of the mentorship support and – after some time has passed – whether the program is meeting its initial objectives.

3. Consider all formats:

The fact that some established companies still limit the mentorship process to the traditional model based on seniority doesn’t mean you have to. Depending on the strategic objectives a company wishes to achieve, mentoring programs take many forms and our advice is to do things right from the start and offer different formats to different employees. This may sound overwhelming but, trust us, with the help of technology you can easily design and roll out different programs to serve different strategic objectives.

Consider all formats

4. Build a mentorship culture:

Technology solutions make it possible to offer different mentoring formats to the entire workforce without significantly increasing the workload of people ops or community managers. The outcome is a work environment where employees are encouraged to share skills, knowledge and even relevant personal experiences with colleagues. Collaboration rather than competition becomes the foundation of company culture. 

Build a mentorship culture

5. Evaluate:

It will be impossible to know if your mentoring program is truly delivering its goals unless you establish a set of KPIs and monitor performance accordingly. Another important aspect is to simply ask employees. Spot surveys and conversations can offer great insights into what works and what doesn’t. Asking people for their feedback also shows that you care and helps to refocus at least some attention away from the challenges of high growth onto employees and what they need to feel supported and motivated.


How Mentessa helps high-growth companies harness the power of mentoring 

Launching and sustaining mentoring programs is extremely time-consuming. This is precisely the reason why start-ups are typically unable to implement (effective) mentoring programs. Mentessa is an AI-powered learning platform that encourages employees to share skills and knowledge. By automating the repetitive, burdensome tasks involved in managing a mentoring program, Mentessa removes a significant barrier to entry for young companies. Here are some other advantages of using Mentessa:

  • Saves time: As mentioned above, Mentessa removes a great deal of the administrative burden of mentoring programs. The platform uses AI to match participants and automates tasks like collecting feedback and sending reminders. For HR and L&D managers this means more time to focus on what matters most – catering to the personalized needs of each team member quickly and effectively. 
  • Serves the entire workforce: One of the biggest weaknesses of traditional mentoring programs is their extremely narrow scope. Such initiatives offer mentoring only to a select few. With Mentessa this is no longer the case. Our innovative learning platform has been designed with the express goals of involving ALL employees and promoting collaboration across all levels of a company. 
  • Offers different mentoring formats: Just by joining the platform, an employee already has a whole community of peers at their fingertips. Peer learning is a great way to increase employee morale and fill in skills and knowledge gaps. Mentessa also gives HR managers the opportunity to roll out other mentoring formats (reverse mentoring, leadership tracks for women and minorities, etc.), depending on the company’s strategic goals. 
  • Gathers reliable data: Most employees will feel they need to downplay their skills and knowledge gaps in a face-to-face conversation with HR or a direct manager. The pressure to appear competent in all areas is greatly reduced when filling out online questionnaires and mentor-matching forms. With employees sharing their needs more authentically, the collected data shows a more realistic picture of the actual challenges that need solving.
  • Serves the entire employee life cycle: Surely, this article is about mentoring but HR managers oversee other important processes, too. For example, onboarding. Once integrated within a team, employees need to be provided with opportunities for continued learning and growth. Mentessa’s high-tech onboarding and upskilling features help improve the employee experience, guiding people through the entire employee journey. For an HR manager, it is much easier and much more convenient to use one comprehensive solution like Mentessa, rather than several different tools for each of the crucial processes that they need to oversee.
How Mentessa helps high-growth companies harness the power of mentoring 

In conclusion, high-growth phases are exciting for companies and employees but they do come with a set of challenges. Integrating a mentoring process early on can help young companies navigate the challenges of fast growth and lay a solid foundation for the future. 

If you want to learn more about the practical steps to take to launch an employee mentoring program, check out our webinar about employee mentoring. To find out more about how Mentessa can help scale mentoring to the entire workforce:

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