Three tips for designing a mentoring programme

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Written by Laura Francis on 27 September 2019

Reading time: 4 minutes.

With all the talk of mentoring these days, you’d think that every company had a formal programme set up and running smoothly. In reality, this is not the case. Just 27% of employees said their current organisation offers a formal mentoring programme, according to the 'Creating a Culture of Mentorship' report by Heidrick & Struggles.

And in a 2019 Olivet Nazarene University study, more than 75% of professional men and women reported wanting to have a mentor, but only 37% said they actually had one. Clearly, there is room for improvement when it comes to designing and running a mentoring programme. Here are three tips to help you get started.

Give your programme a purpose

First things first, you need to have a reason for why you are launching a mentoring programme. It might be because your employee surveys show that your workforce is not as engaged as you would like them to be. Or maybe it’s to help with retention efforts. Or perhaps it’s to improve your leadership pipeline.

If you find that you lack a clear answer for why you want a mentoring programme, this is a red flag that you should push deeper to find a more compelling reason for mentoring

There are any number of valid reasons for starting a mentoring programme; you just need to be clear on what your reason is.

If you find that you lack a clear answer for why you want a mentoring programme, this is a red flag that you should push deeper to find a more compelling reason for mentoring besides just that 'employees want it' or that 'it’s what other companies are doing.'

  • Can you tie it to a leadership development initiative?
  • Or perhaps you have a training effort that you could use mentoring with in order to help extend learning past a single event?
  • Or maybe you have a diversity and inclusion directive that mentoring can support?
  • What about any employee resource groups where mentoring could be a good fit?
  • Do you have an issue getting new employees up to speed and/or enculturated into the organisation?

Many organisations run successful mentoring programmes that support a mix of specific, focused initiatives (e.g., high potential development, new manager training), while simultaneously offering mentoring on a broader scale to a larger employee population - effectively tying mentoring to business needs of all types. Some common use cases include mentoring tied to:

  • Career development
  • Leadership development
  • High-potential programmes
  • Onboarding
  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Intern and new graduate programmes
  • Employee resource groups
  • Manager and supervisor training
  • Classroom training support
  • Technical skill development
  • Knowledge sharing

Measure what matters

Yes, you absolutely need to measure results and track metrics in your mentoring programmes. No, these measures and metrics will not be the same for all mentoring programmes across the board.

Each mentoring programme you run should have its own unique goals associated with it. For example, a high potential development mentoring programme may have a goal tied to it that seeks to increase promotion rates for participants by 15%. Therefore, you would need to track the participants in the programme and their career progression to measure if your mentees are achieving the promotion rates you’ve set.

In an onboarding mentoring programme, however, you may not need to track that same measure. Instead, you may set a goal for your programme that results in the need to evaluate retention rates of your new hires. In that case, you would need to track your participants and evaluate how many stay with your company over a set period of time.

Your measurement strategy should not be a one-size-fits-all model. Each mentoring programme is unique and your measurement strategy should reflect that.

Personalise your user experience

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for mentoring programmes; the same can be said for the user experience within a mentoring relationship.

The way you design and run a mentoring programme for leadership development will likely differ from how you design and run a programme for new manager training. The process you want mentees and mentors to follow, the data you want to collect, and the way you want the programme to operate overall should be unique for your various programmes. The way you configure each programme should reflect your audience and programme goals.

For example:

  • Do you want your programme to use one-to-one mentoring, group mentoring, or both?
  • Will matches between mentees and mentors be self-directed or will programme administrators be involved in matching?
  • What profile fields and information do you want to collect to subsequently use in configuring the matching algorithm and for reporting purposes (assuming you’re using mentoring software)?
  • What competencies, skills, and experience areas are important for your programme that you want people to profile themselves against?
  • Do you want to adjust the matching algorithm to account for matching criteria that are important to your programme?
  • What activities do you want to prompt participants with throughout the lifecycle of their relationships to help guide conversations?
  • What questions do you want to ask within surveys to help you monitor participants’ progress?

These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when configuring your mentoring programme. How you set up your programme can impact the way mentees and mentors interact with it and affect adoption rates when using it.

With some planning and forethought, you can create an engaging mentoring experience for your employees that positively impacts them as individuals and your organisational culture as a whole.


About the author

Laura Francis is chief knowledge officer for River, a mentoring software company based in Denver.

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