Is your mentoring programme the right size?

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Written by Laura Francis on 13 August 2020

When first considering and planning a mentoring programme for their organisation, most administrators will ask: How big should my mentoring programme be?

The core part of this question revolves around how many people an organisation wants to impact with mentoring. Many companies will say that they want to reach every employee and offer mentoring to everyone. This is a laudable goal and can certainly be accomplished. One way to get started is by segmenting audiences and breaking them into unique programmes, each with a distinct focus.

For example, you could design a mentoring programme focused on onboarding, which means your audience includes new hires and the core mentors who can assist them (sometimes referred to as 'buddies').

You could offer another mentoring programme centred on your high-potential employees, with a different set of participants as the mentees and mentors in this group. You could also run a more open programme where anyone can join and choose to be a mentee and/or mentor.

All of those programmes could easily be managed concurrently by leveraging mentoring software, but the participants would only have access to the programmes that you want them to be a part of.

You will get better results by having a clear audience in mind, because when they see that they are a part of a programme for a specific reason

When you start to run individual programmes with more tightly focused audiences, the question of how big your mentoring programme should be becomes more nuanced. To help you visualise the variations that can occur in mentoring programmes, consider the examples below.

And keep in mind, there are numerous other types of mentoring programmes that you could consider; these simply illustrate some of the possibilities.

High-potential programme

For a mentoring programme tied to high-potential development, you might identify a small percentage of mentees out of your entire employee population. From there, you should determine the subsequent mentors you want to invite based on that mentee audience size and anticipated needs of the mentees relative to the focus of the programme.

In total, you may discover that you have identified only a few dozen or perhaps 100 or so participants for this mentoring programme. That is to be expected for such a select programme. Don’t view small participation numbers as a bad thing for this audience; it is a highly targeted audience and your participant makeup should reflect that.

Ultimately, your high-potential pipeline and process at your organisation will help you figure out the size that your mentoring programme should be for this audience.

Onboarding programme

For an onboarding programme, you may find you have potentially a few hundred or even a few thousand employees who could be a part of your programme, depending upon the size of your organisation and the number of people you hire each year.


As a result, a mentoring programme tied to your onboarding efforts may need to be larger than one tied to a high-potential development programme. The size of the audience will be determined by how many new employees you need to onboard over a given period of time.

As a point of reference, some organisations consider including employees who are in new roles but not new hires to the organisation as they look to build on the success of initial onboarding efforts and expand the impact of mentoring.

This approach provides those employees with the support they need as they make a transition to a new job in the organisation and leverages existing mentoring investments to increase the overall positive impact of mentoring for the organisation.

Diversity and inclusion programme

Mentoring often plays a large role in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Creating an inclusive mentoring programme could mean that you still segment your audience for targeted mentoring relationships, but the scope could be broader than you first anticipate.

For example, a 'women in leadership' mentoring programme could potentially have a large number of employees involved.

While mentees would be women in your organisation, mentors could potentially be any other employees in the organisation from across a wide variety of divisions, departments, locations, etc. A programme such as this could seem to have a small scope when you first think about it, but in actuality, it could be quite large in scale.

All in all, you need to have a clear focus for your mentoring programme(s) and target people who fit your criteria for each specific programme’s audience.

You will get better results by having a clear audience in mind, because when they see that they are a part of a programme for a specific reason, they are more likely to actively participate and be engaged in their mentoring relationships. This, in turn, will impact the success rate for your programme and help you grow your numbers as the programme expands.


About the author

Laura Francis is Chief Knowledge Officer for River, a mentoring software company based in Denver, Colorado. 


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