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When discussing how they got to where they are today, successful professionals often seem to have a story of how a mentor made a difference in their career. Maybe a senior staff member helped them learn the ropes in a new job or an industry thought leader inspired a new business idea. Great mentors have the ability to shed light on industry realities, provide real-world career advice, and inspire passion for the work you do. But it’s not always easy to create and nurture those relationships in an organic yet business-focused way.

It’s clear that mentorship programs can be extremely powerful tools for individuals looking to grow within their career, but it’s becoming even more clear that businesses can also benefit from the development of mentoring programs. Here are some key ways mentoring can be a benefit to your business and some suggested strategies that will help you create an organic yet business-focused mentoring program.

The Value of Mentoring in the Workplace

At the Microsoft Inspire Women in Technology Mentoring Circle Workshop, several panelists discussed the value of mentoring in their own careers and within the teams they have built.

“The best piece of advice I received from a mentor was that what you are great at will make you great.”

-Aileen Hannah, Senior Business Strategy Analyst, Microsoft

Mentorship obviously provides value for individuals, but it also makes a big difference in terms of corporate culture, leadership development, succession planning, and knowledge transfer. It helps companies set a course for growth, increases employee morale and motivation, and even reduces turnover and absenteeism. From greater productivity to crucial development of leadership capabilities, companies are able to really engage both mentees and their mentors in a tangible way through mentoring programs.

“The best piece of advice I received from a mentor was to always hire people smarter than you.”

-Kati Quigley, Senior Director of Partner Recruit Programs, Microsoft

Successful Mentorship Strategies

Whether you plan and establish an organized mentoring program for your company or simply encourage and enable mentorship relationships among your employees, building connections and providing opportunities is a clear win for businesses. Here are 5 strategies to help pave the way for successful mentorship.

1. Showcase the Organizational Benefits

More and more companies are seeing the benefits of structured internal mentorship programs. In fact, 96% of Fortune 500 companies have implemented some form of mentoring in the workplace as part of their overall talent and organizational development strategy. Mentorship has a powerful impact, but without a clear value proposition for a mentorship program, businesses may struggle to see the organizational benefits.

2. Define Mentee Goals

Most professionals are able to see the value in being mentored, but defining their goals as a mentee can help produce actionable and measurable results. Make sure that participants clearly define the outcomes they expect from a mentorship relationship, including goals from individual interactions. Communicating expectations and having a plan for what you are looking to learn from a mentor will help build a more positive and worthwhile conversation.

3. Communicate Mentor Benefits

While many mentors will participate in a mentorship program simply out of goodwill and a desire to help other professionals, there are important benefits to being a mentor as well as a mentee. The time and emotional commitment required from being a mentor can be a barrier that will need to be overcome, but it’s possible so long as you can demonstrate how they can stand to gain from the relationship as well.

4. Define Roles and Gain Commitment

As part of a structured mentorship program, you will need to gain outright commitment from several stakeholders. Mentorship is a type of social contract, often undefined and casually undertaken. To build a program that truly provides value both to the invested participants and businesses, you need real and long-term commitment. What role will the mentor play? How many interactions can they expect to participate in? How is a successful mentorship defined? The answers to these questions will vary from individual to individual. But the communication of those roles and the need for active participation will go a long way to making the program a success.

5. Market the Mentoring Program

Internal and external marketing of mentorship programs can play a large part in their success or failure. Think about who would most benefit from such a program, then share your message with your audience where they would most find value in that information. Consider kicking off the program with a mentoring workshop like the one mentioned above, where mentors and mentees can interact, learn about each other, and set clear expectations. Remember that if you do not show your support for mentorship, it’s less likely that potential mentors would be willing to participate. Mentorship needs to be a clear cornerstone of your corporate culture for the benefit of your employees and your organization as a whole.

Share your thoughts and experiences with mentoring programs with the Microsoft Partner Community.