A mentorship program is a valuable tool for dealerships. While training gives a new hire your standards and practices, mentoring imparts nuance. Mentors deliver the more subtle aspects of your dealership culture and can cover training material with more detail and personalization than regular training programs can.
That said, many dealerships see mentoring as simply pairing veteran staff with new employees. While that paradigm might occasionally have success, it underutilizes the potential of mentoring.
Organize for Success
One of the first places where dealerships stumble with their mentor programs is by not setting up a cohesive plan for mentorship. This includes:
- Having clear, visible goals. What would a successful mentorship relationship look like? What are some of the outcomes you would want to see on both sides?
- Creating actionable steps. Draw up a list of steps you need to take to make mentorship happen, as well as steps mentors and mentees must take to reach the goals you’ve outlined.
These steps should be flexible because good mentor relationships need to be able to grow somewhat organically, but at the same time, having a framework helps keep your program focused. Partners can refer back to the steps if they feel something’s not working/progressing.
- Communicating the plan. Everyone at the dealership should be on board with the mentorship program. Even though not every employee will be a mentee or a mentor, they need to be supportive of those who are and the idea. Knowing that the program is coming from the top also can help establish your dealership’s culture as one of growth and shared knowledge.
- Ensuring longevity. Good mentoring isn’t a one-off thing. Long-term mentorship leads to lower turnover and greater employee self-growth. Find ways to continue mentorship throughout careers so that both parties can continue to benefit. Include these in your goals and actionable steps and reward relationships that last.
Broaden Your Definitions
Often when we think of mentor-mentee relationships, the image of an experienced veteran salesman helping the green new hire comes to mind.
Today that model is evolving. There are many different ways to create a mentorship relationship, with each form bringing different benefits.
This new mode of mentorship flips the conventional paradigm with younger employees mentoring older ones. In some cases, this can also mean newer employees mentoring veterans. This type of mentorship is gaining popularity as newer, younger workers are bringing 21st-century skills to dealerships that existing employees may not have, like social media or tech abilities.
When setting up reverse mentorships, be sensitive to both sides. Older employees may not like the idea of being put in the position of learning from younger, less experienced hires. Find ways to make the mentorship go both ways, preserving the dignity of each participant.
In a group mentorship system, you enlarge the mentor-mentee relationship and make it a little more diverse as well as efficient. Groups work together to learn from one another and support newer members’ growth. This can be done within structured, facilitated groups, in peer groups, or teams.
As mentioned, group membership brings diversity. New employees benefit from hearing more than one way or style of thinking. It also pulls more of your employees into the program, advancing a dealership culture of mentorship.
A Word of Caution
Whether you want to stick with the traditional model of mentorship or try something new, bear in mind that not every employee would make a good mentor, even if they are a rockstar salesperson. A good mentor needs to be open to sharing and good about communicating. Many people can do things well, but come up short when asked to explain their process.
If the information shared in the relationship is going to be helpful to the mentee, make sure you’re selecting mentors who are comfortable working with others and can breakdown and articulate their methods. Keep an eye out for the employee’s others gravitate to for advice.