Last Updated Oct 27, 2008 7:38 PM EDT

How do you hang onto your brightest young talent and prepare

them to lead? Simple: Recruit your more experienced employees to help teach and

guide them. Not only can a mentoring program boost your bench strength for top

jobs, research proves that people who learn more on the job are far less likely

to quit, says Terri Scandura, a University of Miami management professor. "It

makes the job more interesting to be learning from a senior person,"

she says.

The benefits don't stop with proteges: People who

mentor often are more productive, better socialized, and less stressed,

Scandura says. They also tend to develop a loyal network of supporters, gather valuable

perspective from younger employees, and gain insight into other parts of the

business. Here's how IBM, Nationwide Insurance, and other companies

create lasting programs that pay off.

Decide Why You Want a Mentor Program

Goal: Set your program up to succeed by defining goals

and involving top execs.

The vast majority of mentoring programs fail because businesses

don't know what they want to get out of the effort. "When

you have fuzzy program goals, you have fuzzy outcomes," says Dr. Lois

J. Zachary, author of "Creating

a Mentoring Culture." Some businesses start a program to help

newcomers adjust; others use it as a recruitment tool or a method of leadership

grooming. IBM started its program to build knowledge, foster learning, and connect

people in a company with 386,000 employees. The culture of mentorship runs so

deep that every IBM employee is either being mentored, mentoring others, or doing

both. "A lot of our people work virtually, and mentoring can erase

geographic and business-unit borders," says


Forte-Trammell, who manages IBM's mentoring programs.

Businesses should ensure that top management is involved in the

program and in its inception, otherwise it won't get the attention

and enthusiasm it needs to become part of the business culture. "You

should have their understanding and their support. That is absolutely one of

the keys," says Barry Arbuckle, CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers,

a six-hospital system in Southern California that uses mentoring as part of its

development program for middle managers. The company's chief

operating officer, not human resources executives, runs the company's

mentoring and leadership program.

Essential IngredientsThree Ways to Make Mentoring Part of Company Culture

Brand the program.

Market it like you would a product, with success stories and messages from the

CEO. Stress what it means to the company, such as a more resilient workforce,

more creativity, and more knowledge sharing. IBM emphasizes a "give

back, reach back, and pull through" culture, where mentoring is an

expectation of all employees and vital for collaboration, innovation, and

maintaining institutional knowledge.


access to education. Hold seminars on mentoring and host networking events that

encourage people to find their own mentors. IBM offers mentoring

teleconferences, panel discussions led by executives, and even "speed

mentoring" sessions, similar to speed dating.

Make it

everyone's job. Make being a protege part of a bigger leadership

training program and being a mentor a requirement for some kinds of job

advancement. Emphasize what's in it for the employee: continued

learning, new skills, visibility, insight into business strategies and

priorities. Be sure managers recognize mentoring accomplishments and allow time

for the relationships.

Pair Up Proteges and Mentors

Goal: Create profiles and match people according to your


Identify how many people should be mentored and who they will

be. Will it be new recruits, managers, or promising young leaders? Next, create

a similar profile for ideal mentors. If you hope to use the program to aid

recruitment, seek out those who like teaching younger people. If your goal is

to groom the next generation of leaders, then team them up with top-level

managers. People who have been on the protege side before often make good

mentors, says Dawn Plimmer, the associate vice president of learning and

performance at Nationwide Insurance.

How to match up promising junior talent with mentors? You can

ask managers to set up matches, have human resources do it randomly, let people

pick each other, or have them fill out forms and match them based on skill sets

or goals. IBM relies on an online database that lets employees search for their

own mentors.

At Nationwide, human resource executives found themselves

over-thinking the matches according to technical discipline and personality.

Now, they've made it much more random, and it works better. "We

were trying to engineer the relationships," Plimmer says. "There

is such a wide spectrum of things you are bringing to that relationship, and we

were only looking at a couple of dimensions."

Larger businesses often encourage matches between people from

different parts of the country or from different operations of the business.

That removes the relationship from the traditional management chain and paves

the way for cross-company knowledge exchange. For some people, the separation

fosters trust more easily than a relationship between people who see each other

every day. Even with no ulterior motives, Forte-Trammell says, a perfectly

sincere manager can set up an apprentice for failure by blurring the

distinction between assigned tasks and mentored activities. "It's

penalty-free speaking," says Sharon Sadowski, an IBM product manager

in Chicago who talks monthly with her mentor, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, a human

resources manager in Rochester, Minn.

Hot TipWhat's in It for Mentors?

Plan to offer some sort of recognition to those who

volunteer as mentors by providing an appreciation luncheon, giving small gifts,

or incorporating mentoring into their annual reviews. Companies should also

remind mentors that the benefit can go both ways -- whether it's

understanding a different piece of the business or learning how to use

Facebook. IBM's McIntyre says her protege, Sadowski, shares great

information about working in the Chicago operation and dealing directly with

clients, along with nuggets about what she's learned in her MBA

program. "That's the best part of being a mentor,"

McIntyre says.

Set the Rules for Engagement

Goal: Make sure people meet regularly -- and

know what to talk about when they do.

Before employees launch into their mentoring relationships, help

both people determine the focus and purpose of why they're doing

this. Is it to develop a particular skill, create a career plan, or orient new

employees? Encourage them to share learning styles, goals, bios, and resumes to

build a development plan. "Because the mentee knows what they want to

get out of the relationship, it's a good idea to let them schedule

the meetings and decide what they should talk about," Plimmer says.

Partners should also establish how often to meet and how they'll

communicate. Without that, the mentor may not build the time into his or her

schedule, leaving the other person feeling frustrated. Monthly meetings that

last an hour or two are pretty common, but in some more intensive mentoring relationships

the partners could chat daily or weekly. To build trust, Forte-Trammell says

both partners should know that nothing about the relationship is to be reported

to anyone in the company and that no one will be evaluated or given a "grade."

Encourage employees to do periodic checks to be sure they're on track

to hit goals and determine if the relationship is really working.

In some cases, setting an end date can be helpful, so the two

can part ways and avoid a messy and awkward "breakup." "There

is a point where you can continue the relationship or it's time to

move on and learn from someone else," Plimmer says. Be sure those who

work well together know they are free to extend the relationship if they want

to. IBM's McIntyre and Sadowski have kept their relationship going

for more than four years. On the phone and over e-mail and instant message,

McIntyre has walked Sadowski through several job changes within the company and

provided a sounding board within a huge organization. "I can't

imagine my career without Lindsay-Rae," Sadowski says.

Case StudyEstablish an Agenda

MemorialCare Medical Centers started with loose guidelines

for its mentoring program but later found it was better to have a prescribed

agenda, says CEO Barry Arbuckle. The hospital network now offers assignments

for each of the one- to two-hour monthly mentor meetings, complete with agendas

and questions for both participants. For example, mentors are asked to talk

about an ethical dilemma and how they handled it and then talk about barriers

to creating change in the organization. Meanwhile, proteges must talk about

their career aspirations and what leadership skills they need to develop. Later

they revise their resumes and write a two-page summary of their mentor

meetings. As part of the leadership program, the hospital network also requires

those receiving mentorship to do research projects that the company would

otherwise outsource to a consulting firm and go to their mentors for help with


Keep Tabs on the Program

Goal: Make sure mentoring is providing the results you


Although the relationships are mostly left up to participants

and are best not micromanaged, businesses should keep tabs on how the program

is going and check in at least once a quarter, says Les McKeown, author of

href=""The Complete Guide to Mentoring and

Coaching Program Design, who has helped create programs for Siemens,

Pella Windows and Doors, and United Technologies.

"Don't assume no news is good news,"

says Roberta

Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, based in

Northampton, Mass. Measure whether your program is meeting your goals. If your

goal is to increase the number of women in senior management, what do those

numbers look like? If it's to identify high fliers for promotion in

the company, then be sure deserved proteges are getting promoted. Surveys or

one-on-one interviews can offer feedback on training, problems, and matchmaking.

To figure out if the program is helping junior employees, McKeown recommends

that businesses check in with their direct mangers, because they can tell

better than anyone else if the relationship is working or not.

Be patient: the payoff for mentorship is hard to judge and can

often take years to show results. At Memorial Care, mentoring of middle

managers has paid off in succession planning. Ten years ago, when the program

started, the hospital network hired internal people for top management jobs

just 35 percent of the time. Today it's up to 73 percent of the time.

Other ResourcesRelated Mentoring Books

href=""Creating a Mentoring

Culture: The Organization's Guide by Lois J. Zachary

href=""The Mentor's Guide:

Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships by Lois J. Zachary.

href=""In Action: Creating Mentoring and

Coaching Programs by Linda Strome.

href=""Crisp: Mentoring,

Third Edition: How to Develop Successful Mentor Behaviors by Gordon

F. Shea.

The Complete Guide to

Mentoring Coaching Program Design by J. Leslie


href=""Coaching and

Mentoring for Dummies by Marty Broustein.

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