5 Keys for Creating a Fortune 500-Style Mentoring Program

Mentoring Pic

5 Keys for Creating a Fortune 500-Style Mentoring Program

Surveys show that 70-75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have dedicated mentoring programs. It’s easy to see why so many do. Successful mentoring programs have many powerful benefits for employers, including:

  • Reduced turnover and recruiting costs. Both mentees and mentors are about 20 percent less likely to leave an organization than nonmentoring employees
  • Employees learn skills and gain knowledge. This improves job performance and helps integrate them in the company culture
  • Mentoring assists in career growth. This builds leadership capacity and increases bench strength
  • Helps participants’ salaries increase. Both mentors and mentees are about 20 percent more likely than non-mentored employees to experience a change in salary grade

How can you create a dedicated mentoring program like those at Fortune 500 companies? The key is to be focused and strategic. Let’s take a look at five keys for building an effective dedicated mentoring program.

1. Outline and Communicate Roles and Responsibilities

To achieve outstanding mentoring results, everybody involved needs to know what they’re supposed to do. Below are examples of roles and responsibilities to establish for mentors and mentees, and also for HR.


  • Commit to and actively build relationship with mentees
  • Create an open and trusting environment
  • Be prepared for each interaction with mentees
  • Be transparent about what the relationship is and is not
  • Share own career and learning experiences that will support mentees’ growth and development


  • Own the relationship
  • Establish objectives and expectations
  • Commit to building relationships with mentors
  • Prepare for each interaction
  • Complete any assignments that mentors suggest
  • Integrate learnings from mentors into own performance and development


  • Establish clear objectives for the mentoring program 
  • Maintain ownership and facilitation of the mentorship program
  • Provide guidance to both mentors and mentees as needed
  • Provide program participants with tools and resources that support their success
  • Collect and analyze program data to determine both the impact of the program and opportunities for improvement

2. Provide Mentorship Training

Before launching a mentorship program, provide relevant training to mentors.

When designing your training, it’s important to assess the competency of your potential mentor population against a mentor success profile. 

A successful mentor:

  • Is highly self-aware
  • Works to understand others
  • Uses key communication skills (including active listening, asking effective questions, and providing feedback)

Mentor training should include a module on each of these skills and behaviors, as they are critical for creating and sustaining strong mentoring relationships. However, how each module is presented in the training needs to take into account the mentors’ current skill levels. Make the training fun and interactive. Your mentors will be more likely to be engaged in it and to retain the key learnings offered.

3. Have Mentors Create a  Leadership Style Profile

In our work with mentorship programs, we’ve found it to be highly beneficial for mentors to reflect on themselves before entering the relationship. We recommend that they create a profile document about themselves, and share it with their mentees prior to their first meeting.

Examples of information to include in a mentor profile document include:

  • Whether they prefer to talk things through or think things through
  • Whether they prefer to communicate via email, or to communicate face-to-face or via Skype
  • Whether they tend to focus on immediate issues and what works now, or whether they tend of focus on the future and the long-term impact
  • Whether they rely on logic to make decisions, or do they want to understand how others feel before making decisions

4. Have Mentors Build Profiles of Mentees

To best support mentees’ development, it is important for mentors to observe mentees over time and build profiles by identifying behaviors and characteristics. In particular, mentors should understand how their mentees communicate and make decisions, and their mentees’ work styles. Below are a few behaviors and characteristics in each area to look for.


  • Does the mentee talk things through with the mentor or with others?
  • Does the mentee create or ask for an agenda for meetings and conversations with the mentor?
  • Does the mentee ask more questions about current issues or challenges, or about long-term or future challenges?


  • Does the mentee use a pros-and-cons approach?
  • Does the mentee start with the effect on him- or herself or the effect on others?
  • Is the mentee influenced by how he or she feels about an issue before making a decision?

Work Style

  • Is the mentee’s work area well organized?
  • Does the mentee need structure, or does he or she go with the flow?
  • Does the mentee tend to finish one task at a time, or does he or she tend to multitask?

5. Plan to Get the Relationship Off to a Good Start

The first mentoring meeting sets the tone for the entire relationship. Show mentors how to create a four-component plan that will help ensure that the relationships get off to a good start.


  • Create mentor profile
  • Create a meeting agenda
  • Choose setting for meeting


  • Take time to get to know each other
  • Share Leadership Style Profile
  • Discuss logistics and confidentiality
  • Set initial objectives

Summary and Next Steps

  • Review key points
  • Clearly identify any action items
  • Set up the next meeting or call

Debrief and Follow-Up

  • Assess the meeting dynamics
  • Update the mentee profile based on interaction
  • Make notes for improvement

If mentors choose, they can continue to use this plan as the mentoring relationship moves forward. It will help them, and mentees, get the best value from their relationship—and your organization get the most value from your dedicated mentoring program.