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Articles     by The The Growth Connection
© Copyright The Growth Connection Pty. Ltd. 1999-2012


How to Develop a Mentoring Program
by Nicola Grant

Some form of spontaneous mentoring takes place in most organisations, whether it is acknowledged or not. A formalised program helps harness it to the organisation's objectives. Properly managed, the program can enhance the benefits to individuals from informal mentoring and minimise the problems that arise when the informal system bypasses talented employees.

Each organisation needs to design a mentoring program that fits its particular company culture and answers the needs of its own employees. To ensure the success of the mentoring program, a company must be prepared to be flexible in its approach and be willing to assess continuously and, if necessary, modify the methods it has implemented (1).

Principles of how to develop a program

A number of principles can determine the success of a mentoring program (2).

The visible and articulated commitment of senior management, including CEOs, is essential. Senior Management needs to acknowledge the importance of mentoring to the organisation and help to promote the necessary commitment from mentors and mentorees as part of a bigger commitment to the development of staff.

Assessment of needs
The organisation must be clear about:

  • what is required from a mentoring program;
  • which groups, such as women, will be specifically targeted, why they should be and whether the selection will work against those who are not selected for the program;
  • what level of interpersonal skills exists in management;
  • what resources are available to support a mentoring program;
  • whether the existing culture provides an encouraging environment for mentoring and the changes required to provide this;
  • what other initiatives are in place to complement or hinder a mentoring program integration with other policies/programs/ management practices.

Mentoring programs rarely succeed when they stand alone. They must be seen as part of other human resources/management practices. Overseas experience places mentoring firmly within career development systems as an ongoing process. Other human resources policies within which mentoring needs to fit include recruitment, performance management, management development, workforce and succession planning.

Each organisation needs to design a mentoring program that fits its particular company culture and answers the needs of its own employees.

Formal program
Formal programs work best as informal programs tend to peter out. The best programs provide a formal structure and also as much choice as possible, i.e. who mentors whom, how they wish to work together, etc.

Open communication is vital. Everyone in the organisation, whether they participate in the mentoring program or not, needs to know what the program involves, how it will work, and why it is implemented.

Supervisors and managers whose staff will be mentored need special attention. They need to understand their role and how it compares and complements the mentor's role.

Ethics surrounding a mentoring program need special consideration and clarifying to the parties involved. Trust is a vital part of the mentoring relationship, so confidentiality must be guaranteed. Ways of dealing with conflicts of interest which may arise out of shared confidences need to be defined.

1. Clutterbuck, D. (1985) Everyone Needs a Mentor. R.J. Actford, Chichester
2. NSW Ministry for the Status and Advancement of Women (1994) Guidelines on Mentoring for Women. Written by Imogen Wareing.

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