practicePRO Resource: Building a firm mentoring program and culture
This Appendix to Managing a Mentoring Relationship (adapted with permission from Lois J. Zachary’s The Mentor’s Guide) contains an outline of the major issues that should be considered when a firm mentoring program is created.
- Ensure full and visible support from top management
Create an action plan for engaging top management in the creation and roll-out of the program.
Ensure that top management supports the program on an ongoing basis. Be specific and detail the necessary steps to make that happen.
- Define the purpose of the program
Develop a clear, concise mission or purpose statement for the mentoring program. Identify the business reasons for developing a mentoring program, and what its goals will be.
- Identify a champion
One of the best things for ensuring the success of a firm mentoring program is to have one or two people who truly champion the initiative. They should be prepared to fully and unconditionally support and push the program, and they should have the support of senior management and all resources necessary to accomplish the goals of the program.
- Define management, oversight, and program operation
Identify an oversight person or team, and allocate necessary personal and other resources for the program. Identify the specific roles and responsibilities of the oversight committee. Establish policies and procedures for the program. Identify how confidentiality and special circumstances are to be handled. Define the criteria and determine the measurement and evaluation processes.
- Identify roles and responsibilities
Create a description of the roles and responsibilities for all parties who are to be involved in the mentoring program. This will include asking the following questions:
- What are the role and responsibilities of the mentor?
- What are the role and responsibilities of the mentee?
- What is the appropriate role for the manager or supervisor?
- What should the duration of the relationship be?
- How many mentors or mentees should a person be engaged with at one time?
- What should regular interaction look like?
- Should training and education programming for mentors, mentees, and supervisors be required? Will it be voluntary?
- Define mentee pool
Identify the target mentee population for the mentoring program. Will it just include new associates? Should articling students be mentored? What about senior lawyers who join the firm?
- Create the mentor pool
Creating a pool of mentors will involve the following questions:
- Who should serve as mentors? Who should not?
- What specific characteristics should mentors have?
- How many mentors will there be for each mentee?
- Develop a pairing process and criteria
Create a process and criteria for matching mentees and mentors. Identify specific policies and procedures for handling matches that fail – some will. These should be handled on a no-fault basis.
- Build a mentor education and training program
Determine what kind of training and education is needed for mentors and mentees.
Create a training schedule and consider holding an initial orientation and, if necessary, ongoing education programs.
- Track the ongoing progress
Monitor and track the ongoing progress of the program. Develop contingency plans for overcoming unanticipated obstacles. And, to improve the program, be prepared to proactively address any failures or shortcomings in the program.
- Identify ways to reward, recognize and celebrate mentoring success
To build momentum and an ongoing commitment to mentoring, develop an appropriate reward, recognition and celebration plan. Determine if excellence in mentoring should be recognized.