09/29/2015 12:59 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2016

The 5-Step Process for Implementing a Companywide Mentoring Program

The effectiveness of a company depends on the productivity of its employees. With four generations currently in the workforce, bridging the generation gap in an office environment can seem like a daunting feat. A Pew Research study found that one in three American workers are millennials (adults between the ages 18 and 34), and by 2020, Generation Y will make up the majority of the workforce.

Every generation has its own flavor to bring to the table. Millennials are tech-savvy, Generation X is comprised of problem-solvers, Baby Boomers are team players, and The Silent Generation is the most loyal. As leaders, it's vital to cultivate an environment where employee skills are acknowledged and shared with colleagues.

Multiple case studies prove that reverse mentoring is an effective method of bridging experiential divides. Generation gaps have and will always exist -- so use it to your advantage.

While Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric he paired himself with a 20-something-year-old employee so she could teach him how to navigate the Internet. Welch also ordered 500 of his top-level executives to acquire a younger colleague mentor.

In a recent white paper by UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, Horace McCormick outlines the five-point framework for a successful mentoring program.

1. Lay the groundwork. Before executing a mentoring program for your organization, you have to recognize the need and set program objectives, and determine the program's structure. Define your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals and link them with business objectives.

2. Prepare for launch. Communication is vital. Introduce the mentoring program to employees at every level to garner companywide support.

3. Launch program and train participants. Adequate training should be provided to set expectations and ensure all parties understand their roles and responsibilities in the process. Both mentors and mentees should establish the following:
  • Goals and milestones
  • How goals and milestones align with organizational needs
  • Frequency and length of meetings
  • Method for providing constructive feedback

4. Build relationships and assess progress. A successful mentoring relationship is built on communication and trust. Managers should establish periodic checkpoints to ensure the relationship is progressing and goals are being met.

5. Evaluate program effectiveness. Use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative measures to analyze the success of the mentoring program -- including surveys, employee retention, and employee advancement.

When done properly, mentoring is an effective leadership development tool that can increase employee retention and engagement. The mark of a true leader is measured by his or her ability to create more leaders. If you invest in your employees, they will invest in your company.