Article by Terri Ross in April 2022 Issue of MedEsthetics magazine

Mentoring programs are an important employee retention tool. Here’s how to get started.

With so many job opportunities open across the board, employee retention is more important than ever. There are multiple reasons why people decide to leave their jobs. Some are personal. Some are professional. Typically, they have to do with a lack of leadership, culture, career development opportunities or clear path for advancement within the practice. Another major reason employees quit is because they feel ill-equipped or lack sufficient training to handle various situations or patient interactions. No matter the circumstance, staff turnover can disrupt your practice and cause a significant loss of valuable time and money.

Establishing and implementing a mentoring program is an effective tool to help you increase employee retention rates, engage your staff, demonstrate a clear career path, reinforce company culture and show your team you are invested in their future. In turn, your employees will be encouraged and inspired to perform at the level you want them to and feel valued, appreciated, heard and supported.

A mentorship program can involve several different strategies. On the clinical side, mentors will help employees develop and hone their clinical skills and their patient relation and consultation skills. Mentors can help new front office, administration or patient care coordinator employees develop their customer service, phone, sales, communication or leadership skills. For all mentees, a mentor can help them navigate the business culture to find their place and voice within the established system.

Ways to Structure Mentorship Programs

There are three main types of mentorship arrangements:

  • One on One
  • Whole practice “collective” rotation approach
  • Hire outsourced coaches/trainers

When most people think of a mentorship program, they think of a traditional one-on-one mentor/mentee relationship. In this scenario, a new employee is paired with an experienced team member. A “whole practice” collective strategy partners employees with various mentors and rotates them through these different mentors to learn new skills—both clinical and leadership related. If your team is small or the idea of a mentorship program does not seem feasible, another option is to hire an outsourced personal development coach or trainer with specific clinical or sales skills.

Mentoring programs should be aligned with your business goals. That means you should designate one staff member with strong leadership skills to lead the program and determine the purpose, structure, length of time, pace and best practices. Clearly outlining what you hope to achieve and then determining how you are going to match mentors with mentees or rotate your employees through various mentors is important for any successful program. Keep in mind, mentorship is not about increasing sales; it is about helping employees assimilate into the practice and develop professionally.

Providing training for your mentors is key. Here are some of the things mentors provide their mentees:

  • A sounding board to help them navigate challenges and further develop their skill set.
  • Someone who truly is there to listen. Sometimes being able to vent prevents resentment from building up and shifts their mindset so they are not sitting in negativity or dwelling and spiraling down a rabbit hole by holding on to frustration.
  • A guide for conflict resolution and effective communication.
  • Someone who can identify what is going on beneath the surface and what might be going on in the employee’s life that could be spilling over into the workplace, if there are performance issues.
  • A non-judgmental safe space with open door access. When an employee is not afraid to ask a question for fear it will make them look stupid, they tend to make less mistakes. Being comfortable asking for help before they proceed can enhance an employee’s self-confidence level, and assure them that their employer has their back and is invested in their success.

A mentor on the clinical side can ask questions such as:

  • How did you feel doing that procedure?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you doing a treatment plan?
  • How do you feel performing combination treatments?
  • What additional training do you feel you need?
  • How would you handle this adverse event?
  • How do you handle the price objection?

In the area of personal and professional development (leadership and communication side), employees want to be seen, heard and understood. This is where acknowledging and validating comes into play as well as listening skills and empathy. A mentor can ask questions or make statements such as:

  • How are you feeling in the day-to-day challenges?
  • I hear you and understand that must have been challenging for you (acknowledging). Anyone in your shoes would have felt the same way (validating).
  • What can we do to move forward and resolve this issue?
  • What support do you need from me?

Steps to Create a Mentorship Program

I suggest having monthly mentor meetings where you can talk through employee challenges and share your experiences and insights with each other. You can also discuss areas that need improvement. This is a time to focus on the human capital aspect of your practice, not discuss sales goals or hitting monetary goals. If this is the first time you are setting up a mentorship program, I recommend you start small and then gradually expand and tweak it as you go along.

Think about where you want your practice to be a year from now and what your goals are for your employees in terms of professional development through a mentorship program. Then work backwards. Determine monthly or quarterly milestones to foster happy employees who are invested in staying for the long term. Develop a mentorship growth development plan to monitor progress. You can download the APX Mentorship Growth Development Plan Template here to help you get started.