How to Set Up and Run a Mentoring Scheme in Your Small Business

Having previously looked at the benefits of a mentoring scheme, we’ve established that, despite taking away from “productive time”, such a scheme can have a positive influence on your small business. As such, we’ve compiled a few tips for how best to put a mentoring scheme in place, and keep it successfully running once you’ve done so.

By following these steps, you can create a mentoring or buddy scheme for your small business that will deliver tangible benefits to all your employees involved, not to mention taking some of the burden off you and your fellow managers!

Foster a culture of cooperation and learning

One of the first objections to implementing a mentoring scheme in your small business is likely to be that it creates an extra workload on top of your employees’ existing responsibilities. While it’s great that your employees are so focused on their productivity - and you can and should mention that to them - it’s also important for them to keep constantly looking for ways to improve and learn.

Explain how mentoring ties into your existing culture of learning and training, and also clarify what they can expect to get out of it. The more ambitious among them will certainly consider the opportunity to demonstrate management potential a valuable one.

Certain benefits may appeal more to particular people, so tailor your argument if you can. Overworked supervisors might appreciate that a buddy scheme will help new starters get up to speed more quickly, while a more formal mentoring scheme could help junior members who are looking to climb the ranks of your company.

It’s important to get your employees on board with your vision of how the mentoring scheme will work before implementing it, so that you can count on their support and enthusiasm to make it work.

Define your scheme’s objectives

In the same way that each business is unique, so each mentoring scheme may look slightly different, depending on what you want your employees to get out of it. Your scheme’s objectives will largely be shaped by the nature of your business, the challenges it faces, and the culture you are looking to build.

For example, if your business only has a few tiers of roles, and you have a high turnover rate, as is common in many catering and hospitality businesses, then the priorities of your scheme may be to provide buddies for new starters that can help them quickly get oriented upon joining the company.

If you have long-term growth plans, a knowledge-based workforce, and need flesh blood in management positions, then a more formal mentoring scheme will help encourage knowledge sharing as well as providing leadership opportunities for those who want them.

The objectives of your scheme and the employees involved in it will shape the way it works and determine what employees you pair up and what support and allowances they’re given for the time they spend.  

Encourage mentees to set their goals

Once you know what you want your employees to get out of the mentoring scheme, you can draft a rough agenda to ensure the necessary aims are met - new starters are inducted, salespeople learn how the pipeline works, procedures are followed. Beyond this, mentoring is a chance for the mentees to have a say in their development.

Make this discussion a part of the program and the benefits work both ways. By initiating the conversation, discussing opportunities and both “signing off” and taking accountability for reasonable objectives, mentors will improve their management and communication skills. Mentees will feel empowered by having control over their own progress and can set goals that they believe in and will buy into, increasing their motivation and engagement.  

Mentors should guide the conversation towards objectives that utilise their mentees’ strengths. With the opportunity to do what they do best one of the biggest determining factors in employee engagement, it’s critical to give employees opportunities to use and showcase their skills. Such engagement will result in a host of benefits, including improved retention, productivity, loyalty, and profitability. With so much to gain, we hope your own small business mentoring scheme is a success!

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