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According to Diversity Best Practices, while the benefits of mentoring have been widely recognized for years, programs generally operate entirely unmanaged in most organizations. Mentoring is a valuable tool for developing diverse leadership talent, and it can have a bottom-line impact and leverage a firm's succession planning efforts.

In October 2006, a study on the value of mentoring was conducted by Gartner, a research and advisory firm, and Capital Analytics, a software and services company. They used statistical analysis to examine the financial impact of mentoring and how Sun Microsystems could target its spending in this area. The study concluded that "mentoring has a positive impact on mentors and mentees, producing employees that are more highly valued by the business."

The study found that 25 percent of test group mentees had a salary grade change, compared with five percent of those who did not participate in the program. The research also showed that the program had positive financial benefits for mentors: 28 percent of test group mentors had a salary grade change as opposed to just five percent in the control group.

Other findings from the study include: Mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the program; mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the program; and retention rates were much higher for mentees (72 percent) and mentors (69 percent) than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program (49 percent).

Before beginning a mentoring program, Business Review recommends answering the following questions:

  • What business issues are you trying to address (e.g., turnover, recruitment cost, productivity or some other problem)?
  • Why is addressing this issue important? Companies address issues that have a financial impact or affect the quality of the products and/or services.
  • How will the organization be different as a result of the program? For example, a more stable work force or more internal promotions may occur.

To avoid a failing mentoring program be sure that the organization provides appropriate training to mentors, adequate resources, includes of supervisors of the protégé and has the true commitment of key people.

According to Business Review, to evaluate a mentoring program, a five-step process is recommended: 1) establish baseline numbers, 2) monitor the program, 3) measure mentoring, 4) evaluate results, and 5) calculate return on investment.

Below are some best practices from top diversity-forward companies:

  1. Review the status of your current mentoring program with its administrators.
    • How many matches exist and how long have they been paired?
    • How are the matches being sustained?
    • Is there a solid tracking mechanism?
    • How is the program linked to your succession planning?
    • What is the retention rate for those mentored vs. those not mentored?
    • Is mentoring linked to awards and recognition?
    • Is your diversity council involved?
    • Are your corporate officers involved?
  2. Require the basic elements of the program be maintained:
    • Commitment
    • Accountability
    • Guidelines
    • Goals
    • Effective matching
    • Monitoring, measurement and innovation
  3. Encourage innovation in the program. Consider adding a mentor speaker lunch series where mentors rotate to discuss their professional development experiences and provide motivation and inspiration to employees to help them in their growth.
  4. Engage in a reverse mentoring relationship, preferably one with a peer and one with a junior- or mid-level minority staffer. It's an equitable exchange: you provide access to the insights of years of work experience and your mentor provides an insider’s look into the unchartered waters of a different culture.

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