Building a Mentoring Program for Success - 8 Tips to Get You Started
Mentoring … there sure is a lot of buzz around this topic, and it seems all sorts of companies are touting the benefits:
- Higher Retention of Talent
- Increased Engagement
- Improved Morale
- Clear Succession Planning and Bench Strength Depth
So, you’ve been selected to create a mentorship program for your organization … lucky you!
But wait, where to start? You can’t recall ever being in a mentoring relationship yourself, and for that matter, you’re not exactly sure what “mentoring” is. Is it coaching? Is it training? Is it counseling? All of the above, or none of these? Now that you start thinking about it, this is starting to sound like a LOT of work.
Fear not, you soon-to-be successful program-builder, MentorcliQ experts are to help!
Here are 8 steps you can take to implement mentoring in your organization:
- Understand what Mentoring is and isn’t
- Align mentoring with your organization’s objectives
- Socialize your mentoring concept and gauge buy-in
- Request and integrate feedback
- Create structure for delivery
- Recruit participants and train them
- Match participants
- Continuously measure, monitor, and modify
1) Understand what mentoring is and isn’t
Starting off, you can tell your Learning & Development team members not to worry, as mentoring isn’t a replacement for training. Mentoring differs from more traditional training initiatives in that the objectives for development are individual, and driven by the mentee. Training is usually a set curriculum covering lessons or skills required for a broader population.
Mentoring is a more interpersonal, informal vehicle for professional development. It doesn’t rely on lesson plans and evaluative assessment. It’s more one-to-one, up close and personal. Lastly, mentoring is a personal investment, for both mentors and mentees, and with investment, comes the expectation of benefit. The Association of Talent Development defines mentoring as:
"Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative at-will relationship with the purpose of the mentee’s growth, learning, and career development. Often the mentor and mentee are internal to an organization, and there is an emphasis on organizational goals, culture, and advice on professional development. Mentors often act as role models for their mentee and provide guidance to help them reach their career goals. Mentoring can be formal or informal. In an informal environment, mentees set goals, but they are usually not measurable and the relationships are unstructured. For a formal mentoring relationship, there are actionable and measurable goals defined and set with determined requirements."
2) Align mentoring with your organization’s objectives
People invest time and energy into things that have impact, things that move the right needles. Spend some time identifying which metrics, goals and strategic objectives will be positively affected through mentoring. No matter the positive intent of any program or initiative, if it doesn’t fulfill stated needs of your workforce, or identified needs of the company, support will be hard to come by.
Your target population will have to see the benefits they can realize through their involvement. Similarly, stakeholders and partners will need to believe the results will be worth their investment.
To do this, you’re going to need to ask questions. Start with: “What’s in it for my stakeholders?”
Check out this article featured in HR.com which explains mentoring ROI and the results from MentorcliQ customer Clorox:
3) Socialize your mentoring concept and gauge buy-in
Before announcing your intent to introduce mentoring, you’ll want to get a pulse from those you hope will benefit. Depending on your company’s size, you may want to start out with some roundtable discussions with your relevant stakeholders. What needs do they express? What solutions do they propose? Is mentoring a viable, and desirable, option? If so, enthusiasm and support from these front line conversations will identify potential champions for implementation and pave the way to your next discussions with leadership.
A great example of executive buy-in is MentorcliQ customer KeyBank. They feature their mentoring program on their career page with a video from their Executive Vice President talking about the value of mentoring:
4) Request and integrate feedback
When you’re ready, set time with appropriate partners and leaders to share what you’ve learned, and your initial thoughts for execution.
Why did we emphasize initial thoughts? At its heart, mentoring is a collaborative process, and creation of a program should be as well. Sponsors, stakeholders, and support resources will all have a vested interest in making the program a success. They’re likely to have some ideas of their own.
Leaving room to hear, discuss, and validate this feedback provides two key benefits:
- You are likely to be presented with perspectives, obstacles, and solutions you may not have considered.
- You’ll have the respect and support you need when the time comes to launch your program.
5) Create structure for delivery
With objectives set, buy-in from stakeholders, and support from leaders, you’ve got the green light to proceed! Now, how is it all going to work?
Through your discussions thus far, (hopefully) you’ve got answers to the following:
- Who is the target population?
- What are the requirements for mentors?
- What are the requirements for mentees?
- How will participants be recruited (open invitation, private invitation)?
- What criteria will be used to pair mentors and mentees?
- What sorts of resources, guidance and/or training will be provided?
- What is the intended duration of mentorship?
- How will communications be handled?
- When will the program launch, and how will this be executed?
- How will success be measured?
- Who will oversee the program?
Once you’ve outlined the above, you’re ready to kick off!
6) Recruit participants AND TRAIN THEM
There are many ways to recruit participation. You’ll probably want to begin with recruitment of mentors. This gives you an idea of overall capacity; obviously you can’t invite 1,000 mentees if you only have 10 mentors.
Or, you could allow participants to self-select their role (mentor, mentee, or even both). Most companies don’t do this out of the gate, preferring to start with a more defined list of mentors and mentees, and facilitating the first few matching cycles.
Whichever method you choose, it’s a good practice to:
- Give advance notice of enrollment start and end dates, and then remind people once (maybe twice).
- Provide a long enough window for enrollment … everyone gets lots of e-mail. Allow for messages getting buried, lost, or even ignored. Understand that even the best-intentioned individuals may procrastinate.
- Stick to your timelines … open and close enrollment as announced. This is a fine art, as you don’t want to be too strict and potentially exclude participants, but too much leniency can undermine sense of urgency and importance.
MENTOR TRAINING = MENTOR READINESS & CONFIDENCE
In order to be effective mentors, even the best and most seasoned employees need mentor training and guidance so they are ready to empower others. Companies sometimes hesitate to start internal mentoring because they do not think they have enough employees OR they fear that employees are not ready to be mentors. With mentor training, companies can ensure that mentors are ready, confident and motivated to empower employee development. MentorcliQ’s MentorLab is designed and facilitated by Jenn Labin, author of Mentoring Programs That Work and ATD Master Trainer. Contact MentorcliQ to learn more about Mentor Training »
7) Match participants
And now, the fun part: matching mentors and mentees! This is the step where you’ll be creating relationships that will change people’s careers and lives. That’s the good news.
What’s the “bad” news? Working through matches can be a time-intensive, laborious effort. To effectively review participant profiles, consider their preferences and create compatible pairings takes keen knowledge of the populace, solid understanding of interpersonal dynamics and a heaping helping of organizational savvy. In other words, it can be like herding cats … hundreds … thousands of cats. But we didn’t come this far to give up now!
If you’re reading this, you’ve also been reading about automation options and platforms to facilitate mentoring programs. With the right technology and expertise, creating engaging, impactful mentoring relationships can be as easy as clicking your mouse.
When should you consider mentoring software? The general rule of thumb is: if you’re matching more than 75 people, you’ll want to use automation. If you don’t, you’ll have to consider a total number of match scenarios that is approximately equal to NI/2 … let’s just say there’s a bit of math involved (the kind you won’t have to do if you automate).
However you choose to create your pairs, once they’re made, introduce mentors to mentees and let mentoring begin!
8) Continuously measure, monitor, and improve
Okay, so the program is announced, pairs are matched, and things are under way. Time to relax? Not quite.
Throughout the course of the mentoring cycle, you’re going to want to:
- Check-in with participants to gauge relationship satisfaction
- Gain understanding of time being spent in mentoring-related activities
- Identify trends in focus areas and topics discussed
- Gather feedback around program communication and structure
Keep your finger on the program’s pulse to identify areas of efficacy and success, as well as areas for improvement. This will ensure that each iteration of your program improves. Keep what works, and re-think what doesn’t.
And there you have it … 8 fundamental steps for implementing mentoring in your organization. With a little research, collaboration, planning and stewardship, you’re going to have a successful program, and make significant impacts to your people, and your organization.
You’ve taken the first step. Now keep going!
Are you ready?
Do you want to see how mentoring programs powered by mentoring software can help your mentoring program take off? Connect with MentorcliQ to learn more.
If you're curious for a more in-depth step-by-step approach to launching a mentoring program with MentorcliQ, download our Whitepaper, to help you define goals, secure sponsorship, engage participants, and launch your program.