Quick Summary: Through corporate mentoring programs, protégés gain career guidance by interacting with experienced people, using them as sounding boards for business ideas and problem-solving. HR directors and wellness managers can “steal” a page from corporate mentoring plans (which help firms attract, develop, and retain talented workers) and apply the concept to employee health and help employees make better food choices, learn to relax, stop smoking, and exercise more often.
Mentor Program Benefits
Adding a mentor element to your wellness plan can bring about several benefits, including these:
• Personal access and support. Tim in Accounting could be more likely to listen to Sandra in Sales about how to stop smoking than to a wellness message from the company at large. “Mentors are ideally suited to help others identify specific challenges and goals, and then offer guidance and support with an ‘I did this and so can you’ approach,” says Ken Williams, author of Mentoring the Next Generation. “Having a mentor provides people with an open space in which to raise issues, tackle challenges, and nurture growth.”
• Open communication. The mentor/mentee relationship could help workers struggling with health issues to let their guard down and get honest advice that speaks to specific issues, Williams says.
• Low cost. Such a program is ideal for nonprofits and other organizations that lack financial resources to provide comprehensive wellness programs. The valued currency is simply the presence and insight of mentors who offer anecdotes and encouragement to employees who want it.
6 Steps to Success
There’s no specific roadmap to adding a mentoring component to your wellness program, but following these tips can carve your path:
1. Identify potential mentors. Before you announce the idea, make sure you have some willing mentors. These don’t have to be star athletes or professional bodybuilders—just personable folks with good listening skills, ideas to share, and a willingness to help (and maybe their own health success story).
2. Outline expectations. Potential mentors will want to know what to expect—how much time they’ll need to dedicate to the role, what specific things they should or shouldn’t say to mentees, for example. While the duration and frequency of mentoring meetings varies, suggest meeting or talking once a week for 10 to 20 minutes to brainstorm ways to solve mentees’ challenges and updates on goals.
3. Survey and match employees to mentors. The right mentor depends on what knowledge the mentee hopes to gain, so ask employees (using a short form, open-ended email questions, a survey, or other device) about what their health goals are. Use responses to match mentors with mentees. “Mentors are most likely to invest themselves in those in whom they see a little of themselves,” notes Katharine Hansen, PhD, creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers.
4. Promote open communication, but also provide information to mentors. Mentoring relationships work best when rules are limited, and communication is friendly, introspective, and honest, Hansen says. You could arm mentors with tip-based information to make credible suggestions or kick-start conversations.
5. Encourage two-way relationships. Suggest that mentors and mentees talk with each other instead of the mentor talking at the mentee.
6. Invite and promote feedback. Participation in your wellness program could continue to grow as other employees hear about the value of mentors. Add mentoring success stories to your newsletter or other workplace communication vehicles.
• Team up with other organizations in your area to share resources. (Mentees from one company can provide insight to a few employees.)
• Steal ideas. Learn about professional mentoring programs, and take elements of ones you like. Check out your college alma mater or other organizations with which you’re associated already that may have formal mentoring programs in place.
Hope Health, All Rights Reserved.