Start A Professional Services Mentoring Program - Your 8-Step Plan

Want to attract and retain the best people in your professional services firm? Starting a mentoring program could be a big step in the right direction.

Since 2013, turnover in the professional services industry has increased. Although there have been some dips, the average turnover rate has risen to 11.6% from 8.3%.

Like most sectors, the professional services industry has been affected and limited by the pandemic. Individual professional services firms will need to recover business in 2022 and work to retain employees and find ways to attract new talent. There are many ways to do this, but a mentoring program, managed well, could be a perfect addition to your professional services firm to support your people and help them develop. But professional services are not a straightforward work model as consultants are dispersed to other companies, and a mentoring program may take more planning than other industries.

Why is a professional services firm unique?

Professional services firms possess a high-performance culture, and while the professionals who work in the firm will undoubtedly be strong performers who are experts in their field, mentoring is essential to help them develop their career, adapt to new clients, and have an opportunity to discuss the pressures, opportunities, and challenges that such a culture brings. Professional services is a people business, and while employees may be technical experts, they may require mentors to help them face the people facing aspects of the role.

Services may include financial services, law, accounting, and business consulting. Professional services employees are generally intelligent and qualified in their specific area of expertise; therefore, mentoring may help them to understand the role, challenges and communicate and educate effectively.

8 Steps To Set Up A Mentoring Program In A Professional Services Firm

Before you can launch a mentoring program in your professional services firm, you should work through the following steps to ensure your program is properly planned and administered:

1. Who is the mentoring program for?

Before you surge ahead with a mentoring program, consider your objectives and who you want to include. In a large professional services firm, you may not have one mentoring program for everyone; you may have different programs for different objectives and groups.

For example, PWC hosts a gender-themed program to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles. Other firms will focus their programs on graduates to help them develop in the firm. Professional services are a business that involves interaction and collaboration with clients and colleagues and often a lot of autonomy, so it’s not somewhere that all employees will be used to and can take many skills to succeed in. That’s why a mentoring scheme where mentors are experienced in this different way of working can be beneficial to those who are new to it, like graduates.

Once you know the program’s objective, you need to identify your stakeholders and who will be responsible for planning, organizing, and implementing the mentoring program.

2. Consider virtual mentoring

The nature of a professional services role is that employees or consultants will work for different clients in different locations. This means it can be difficult for managers and employees to see each other regularly, making a mentoring program more complex.

Therefore, a virtual mentoring scheme may be a consideration for all or some of your mentors and mentees. Mentoring software is essential for virtual programs. To learn more about how you can implement a virtual mentoring program in your professional services firm, you can view our eBook: Virtual Mentoring: A Guide to Engaging you Remote Workforce.

In addition, we discuss how to engage individuals in a virtual mentoring program in our mentoring series.

3. Selecting mentors

Your mentors and mentees will depend on the nature and objective of the program. If you’re running a mentoring program that includes employees from all levels and areas in the firm and does not have a specific focus (like a graduate mentoring scheme), you have more flexibility in who your mentors are. If, however, your scheme is to increase women in leadership, you may aim for more female representation in your mentors.

Once you establish this, you can either ask for volunteers or ask managers to select mentors (but ensure that you have committed mentors as you need buy-in and support from them for the program to succeed).

4. Selecting mentees

Again, your mentees may be guided by the program’s theme, or if it is open to everyone, you might need to be more specific, so you’re not inundated with employees who want to be mentees, and you have to disappoint them! Therefore, if the program is only open to graduates or those of a particular grade, it will be easier to select mentees.

5. Selecting technology

You don’t have to use technology in your mentoring scheme, but the right software can save time, increase matching success and help your mentoring program thrive. If you select a mentoring software provider that provides mentoring experts, they will be able to advise on your program, drive results, and help you create a strategic program that enhances performance and development and aids attraction and retention.

6. Communicate the program

Once again, the type of mentoring scheme you offer will influence how you communicate it. For example, a graduate mentoring program will be something you communicate at the graduate selection stage and will be discussed once your graduates start. Alternatively, new mentoring programs that aren’t limited to graduates can be communicated via management, social channels, email, recruitment, onboarding, etc. It’s essential to be clear who the program is for and why so that if individuals can’t apply for it, they understand why (e.g., it’s only for managers or specific grades etc.).

7. Review the program

Like any new program or scheme, you need to assess how it is going, what is working well, and where improvements could be made. The same applies to your professional services mentoring scheme. The review is essential, and to gain a rounded view of the program, you will need to gather feedback from mentees and mentors and review the software you are using.

The software should be able to give you ad hoc reports and feedback reports via automated surveys. Our software will also provide you will a metric dashboard to show you how the program progresses.

8. Make changes

Once you have the feedback and reviews of the program, you can put into action any changes that are required, develop the program and even consider running more than one mentoring program.

It's crucial to retain top talent in professional service firms. Mentoring can help employees feel valued, engaged, and develop themselves, and with the baby boomer generation edging towards retirement, investments in different generations are essential for retention and succession planning. If you can develop and engage your people through mentoring, then take the time and effort to plan, implement and review your mentoring program for optimal success.

To learn more about our employee mentoring software or speak to us about how we can help you set up a mentoring program in your professional services firm, check out our employee mentoring program software.  

Judy is the Director of Consulting and Mentoring at Insala. She has over 30 years of experience providing customized human resources consulting services to medium to large organizations across a variety of industries. In the area of mentoring, Judy has designed and delivered workshops, training, and a complete mentoring methodology. Judy’s mentoring process is the foundation of Insala’s mentoring solution we know today. Her thought leadership articles have been published in journals such as The Diversity Journal and Industrial and Commercial Training and she has spoken at many conferences throughout her career.

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