Mentoring is a two-way street — benefiting both the mentor and mentee. Research shows that the younger members of today’s workforce actively seek these relationships, which is why 25 percent of U.S. companies now have an official mentoring program­. With projections that these younger workers — namely millennials — will make up 46 percent of the workforce by 2­020, providing the mentoring that they both need and crave is a wise business strategy.

There are many benefits to a mentoring program, including:

  • Enhancing employee satisfaction
  • Increasing retention and recruitment
  • Promoting diversity in the workplace
  • Helping new employees adjust quickly and effectively
  • Helping companies identify and groom employees with high potential

To develop an effective mentoring program, a variety of models can be used. The key is to ensure that the selected approach aligns with operational goals and has a specific strategy for both purpose and implementation.

Here are five options for developing your own mentoring program, which can be combined in a variety of iterations to meet your organization’s specific needs.

  1. One-on-One Mentoring. This is the most common approach, and provides a framework in which the mentor acts as a supportive role model and sounding board to provide individualized attention for the mentee. The ability to build a consistent relationship with this model offers benefits to both parties with the potential for deeper insights and more effective communication.
  1. E-Mentoring. This model is the most flexible, allowing a mentee to access the mentor from any location using a variety of virtual tools — including social media, email, or video conferencing. An attractive option for busy professionals, it also expands the number of suitable mentors available if your organization has more than one geographical location.
  1. Reverse Mentoring. With the technological skills and social media savvy that the younger generation possesses, reverse mentoring offers the opportunity for them to teach these valuable skills to older workers. This model helps build relationships across the generations in your workforce and enhances communication and understanding of one another’s needs.
  1. Peer Mentoring Groups. These groups can provide a supportive environment for peers to discuss common issues they are facing and learn from each other. Peer support and objective feedback can be a very effective tool to help create individual insights and positive change when needed.
  1. Group Mentoring. If your need for mentors exceeds the availability of suitable candidates, a group mentoring model may be beneficial. In this framework, one mentor works with multiple mentees at the same time. This could apply to a single geographical location, or be combined with e-mentoring in a virtual group meeting.

Regardless of the model, an effective mentoring relationship requires several key ingredients, including:

  • Purpose—with buy-in and commitment from both parties.
  • Communication—which is clear, bidirectional, and occurs on a consistent basis.
  • Trust—so that both parties know that everything discussed will remain confidential.
  • Process—to ensure that interactions move at an effective pace.
  • Progress—including a mutual understanding of the goals and a commitment to working toward them.
  • Feedback—which allows both parties to engage in honest and constructive dialogue that is mutually beneficial.

An effective mentoring program can offer many benefits for your organization — including fulfilling the desire that younger generations have for such relationships, as well as providing older workers who are eyeing retirement with the ability to pass on their knowledge and expertise. By selecting the best model or models to fit your needs, you can put a mentoring program to work in your organization that will build relationships and help groom the future leaders within your ranks.