Everything You Need to Know About Creating an Inspiring Mentorship Program That Lasts - and Fast.
Are you looking for a way to reduce turnover, decrease stress, and improve your agents’ job satisfaction? Look no further than the elusive, yet easily attainable workplace mentorship program. I know what you’re thinking. Ugh, putting one together is so much work. I don’t have the time to create a plan, pair mentors and mentees, and manage the program. As someone who created one for Sharpen, I’m here to tell you: It’s possible! (And not as hard as it sounds.)
Too often, companies think a mentor program is for new hires only. You pair new agents with department veterans to help them adjust to the role and company culture. But that’s not mentoring, not really anyway. It’s a valuable piece of the onboarding process, but that’s where the mentor-ship docks. Real mentorship lets your agents, and other employees in your contact center, share more than just their role-specific know-how. Some team members may excel in leadership or management, while others are superstars when it comes to creativity or writing. These (and other) areas of personal and professional development are the foundation of your mentorship program.
Once you get a mentorship program rolling, you’ll supplement some of your coaching responsibilities and improve your agent experience. You ease your coaching by providing your agents with another resource to talk through their challenges and opportunities at work. Having a second set of ears also helps agents feel more supported at your company. Plus, this type of program can lower the costs of learning within your contact center since you’re “in-sourcing” the work.
The first step is committing to create a program. Once you’ve committed, there are a ton of resources out there. Google is a great place to start.
But seriously, I’ll outline the basics of a mentor program that provides a great starting point for your contact center. You can use this structure to build out a program that matches your needs.
The purpose of the mentor program is to develop your agents and create a way for your employees to connect. A good program will benefit both the mentor and mentee. The mentee will develop a specific skill while the mentor gets leadership experience. Everyone should always be learning.
6 Steps to Creating Your Mentorship Program
Step 1. Outline your program
Draft a rough outline of what your program will look like, and write it down. Then ask for input from your team to make sure you’re keeping their needs in mind as you’re developing the program. Personally, I don’t like too much structure as that can become overwhelming for participants. Instead, provide guide rails. Take into consideration things like suggested cadence on meetings, locations for the meetings, and program timeline. Six months to a year is considered standard practice, but work the timeline to fit your contact center’s needs.
Step 2. Understand your participants
Next, gauge your agents’ areas of expertise and potential growth. Create a questionnaire and send it out to your entire contact center. Ask questions like, “What do you love about your job?” and “Where do you want to improve professionally and personally?” Ask a few open-ended questions and a few multiple choice (i.e. Are you interested in a mentorship program: Yes or No). You also want to gauge commitment, meeting style, and what they’re interested in. We provided a base set of specialties for participants to choose from, but we also allowed them to add their own areas for development and coaching. Make sure to include a due date on the questionnaire.
Step 3. Make your matches
Once you’ve received the questionnaire responses, it’s time to pair mentors and mentees. Compare similar interests, meetings style, and commitment level. For example, Annie signs up to be a mentee in the area of workforce productivity. She is looking to meet for 3-4 hours a month in a casual environment. Veronica signs up to be a mentor in the area of professional communication. And while she is also willing to commit to 3-4 hours a month, she prefers a lot of structure. This should be obvious, but they are not a good match. You have to do your best to find great matches for everyone for the program to be successful. But keep realistic expectations, not every mentor or mentee applicant will pair with another.
Step 4. Tell your pairs
Once you’ve matched up your pairs, email each person to inform them of the connection. Hopefully no concerns arise, but prepare to address the occasional issue or discomfort in a pair.
Step 5. Host an intro info session
Schedule an info session for pairs to learn more about the program. This is a great place to walk through the basics and introduce them to all those resources you’ve found. Also, connect mentors with one another, and mentees with their peer group, so they each have a support system. This will allow them to learn from others and bounce ideas around. Ask both the mentor and the mentee to keep monthly journal entries about their experiences over the duration of the program. They can track their progress and you can receive feedback on how the participants are doing.
Step 6. Get started
Track the program throughout your designated timeline, and iterate to address any issues or blocks that come up. Once the first round of the program is complete, send a survey to participants for feedback. Then use that feedback to make changes. Encourage your participants to talk up the program around the office. Once you’re ready and you have more interested applicants, it’s time to repeat!
A mentor program doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s an easy way to help your agents feel more engaged and connected with others throughout the company. For more ways to encourage open communication check out this post to make your 1:1 conversations better.