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Formal Mentor Programs to Build Strength for Businesses

Sarah A Scala, M. Ed & OD, ACC
Estimates Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Mentor Programs with some formality can provide great benefits to the organization and its people. I have designed mentor programs to reduce turnover, strengthen cultural immersion for new hires, develop high potential leaders and talent, as well as a development tool in succession planning.

It is my opinion that everyone would benefit from having a mentor. Personally, I have 3 business mentors (Formal Mentors) and a 4 peer mentors. As an entrepreneur, these mentors serve as my “pseudo” Board of Directors, providing feedback on growth and marketing for my business. I have designed successful mentor and apprenticeship programs for companies in industries including financial services, consulting, consumer package goods, and manufacturing, that have resulted in a strong Return on the Investment.

Mentoring Partners Well With Talent Management Tools

Mentoring may serve as a tool for on-boarding new talent. Using a 70-20-10 development plan, the 20% portion is allocated for mentoring. Mentoring is often used in the development of high potentials by executives or in succession development. The higher up in the organization a leader moves, the less likely they will be able to find a mentor internally. For this reason, external mentors are often used in these cases. Lastly, mentoring can be used as a part of performance management.

Roles in a Formal Mentor Program

It is common to have a steering committee in place to oversee and advise on a formal mentor program, with a Program Administrator often designated in larger organizations. There is the mentor and mentee, as well as the supervisor of the mentee. Designing an effective program with these resources helps to ensure that the program will be effective and have a positive return on the organization’s investment in time and money.      

Steps for Formal Mentor Program Design:

  • Get commitment and sponsorship
  • Be clear about objectives
  • Define the management and structure
  • Budget
  • Recruit or identify mentors
  • Training of Mentors
  • Accountability
  • Evaluation
  • When not the right match, best to end soon

The three states of a formal mentor program often include Initiation, Setting Expectations / Developing Partnership, and Terminating or Sun-setting the relationship. Some organizations have mentor programs with as little as 90 days of time, while other programs may last 1-2 years, depending on the specific objectives and organizational needs.   

Results: Mentor programs that I have custom designed: 

  • Reduce turnover by 88%, build morale, and increase skills for front line staff
  • Successfully on-board new hires into the business culture
  • Develop high-potential employees
  • Increase apprentice speed and quality in manufacturing
  • Support succession development of high potentials

Here is the Case study on the Simon Pearce Apprenticeship Program that I designed. Here are articles on this program in the Boston Globe and Rutland Herald.   

Check out my short Mentor blog posts:

Questions? Let’s connect. I would love to hear your success stories. Please send them to: or visit

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