Many institutions in the health professions have discovered the power of a well-run mentoring program. Mentoring can provide exceptional benefits, such as increased promotion and retention rates, higher faculty satisfaction, improved faculty development, better results in obtaining grants and publishing research, and more trust in the sponsoring institution. See, for example, “Mentorship in Medicine and Other Health Professions” and “Developing a Culture of Mentorship to Strengthen Academic Medical Centers.”

Developing an effective mentoring program is not overly difficult, but it does require thoughtful planning and sustained attention to ensure that faculty buy into the program and find it valuable. If your institution is interested in developing mentoring, the essential steps are provided below.

  1. Ensure support of the leader of the area implementing the mentoring program, discern his or her goals in developing the program, and gauge support of his or her boss. If the immediate leader is not interested in mentoring, such a program will be much more difficult. When instituting any change, the support of the leader’s boss is always very helpful, especially if resources are required.
  2. Undertake a needs assessment of faculty. This can take multiple forms such as individual interviews of key stakeholders, group interviews by faculty rank, online surveys, and even whole faculty meetings to receive input and generate interest.
  3. Administer personal assessments to all faculty. Frequently these instruments measure such constructs as communication style, workstyle, and/or team orientation. These results can be very helpful in matching mentees and mentors and particularly in assisting pairs to develop a strong relationship.
  4. Discuss the results of the needs assessments and personal assessments with leadership and then develop a customized mentoring program based on the results. The program should include a clear consensus on program goals, the structure of the program, training for faculty, an evaluation plan, and thoughtful steps to sustain the program.
  5. Training for faculty is essential to help mentors take a coaching stance in this role (as opposed to simply telling their mentee what to do) and to assist mentees in making optimal use of their mentoring experience. Likely part of the training will include coaching skills, how to use the results of the personal assessments to form effective relationships, role playing with feedback, and whatever other needs are demonstrated in the needs assessment.
  6. Evaluate the outcomes of the mentoring program. The important outcomes should reflect the goals of the program and should be shared with faculty. Adjustments to the program should be made based on mentee and mentor feedback.
    • Typically, there are three types of outcomes. First are the “soft” outcomes like faculty satisfaction, faculty engagement, etc. Those are typically measured by survey. Next are the “hard” outcomes like number of research papers published, dollar value of grants received, etc. Those outcomes are usually measured by counting, like papers/dollars/number of faculty publishing, and comparing these figures to the same measures prior to implementing the mentoring program. Finally, a third set of outcomes relates more to the institution, such as promotion or retention rate, feeling supported by the institution, etc. These can be measured by counts or survey. The important part is that the outcomes are measures directly related to the goals for setting up the mentoring program.
  7. Finally, the leader needs to ensure steps are in place to make the program sustainable, not a one-time (“one and done”) training exercise. These steps can include the leader role-modeling coaching skills, support for mentoring such as providing coupons for coffee during mentoring meetings, building mentoring into existing systems such as annual reviews, reinforcement of observed mentoring, and booster sessions for faculty.

If you are interested in developing a mentoring program for one department, a school/college within the university, or the whole institution, assistance is available. AAL faculty have extensive experience in developing mentoring programs for the academic health professions and are available to consult with you. Just reach out to us at so we can discuss how your institution can support faculty to help reach your goals of increased faculty retention and satisfaction, bringing in more grant dollars and research, and/or improving trust in your organization.

Dee Ramsel, PhD, MBA