Mentorship programs

How to design a workplace mentoring program employees can't wait to join

Are you tasked with starting a workplace mentoring program? Consider this your guide to launching a program that drives impact and will have employees banging on your (virtual) door to join.

Matthew Reeves

Published on 

June 10, 2022

Updated on 

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Running a great mentoring program—one that drives employee engagement, retention, career development, and leadership— is not as easy as many may think. It’s a finicky process that requires insight into what people need and want from mentoring relationships. 

Many might say that mentoring can’t happen at work, but it needs to be organic. We disagree. At Together, we’ve built a mentorship platform that makes it easy for companies to start small and scale successful mentoring programs across their organizations. 

There are simple steps to ensure your mentoring program is one that employees will want to be a part of. When designing a workplace mentoring program employees can't wait to join, you need to keep three things in mind:

  1. A structure that allows for formal and informal relationships.
  2. Strategic planning to ensure that the program meets your organization's needs.
  3. Clarity about the program's objectives and how it will benefit employees.

These tenets are the foundation of a successful mentor program.

With that being said, let's dive into this guide. We'll explain how to design a workplace mentoring program employees can't wait to join.

Are formal mentoring programs even worth it? 

Yes. In fact, most Fortune 500 companies (71%) have mentoring programs. The benefits are hard to ignore. 

Not convinced? Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Examples of mentoring programs

3 examples of mentoring programs

It’s no wonder that employees are openly requesting more mentoring opportunities. 79% of millennials believe that mentoring plays a vital role in their career success

There just aren’t enough mentors to go around

Sadly, the supply of mentors pales compared to the demand for mentors, this report cited by HBR says. 

  • Although 75% of professionals (men and women) desire mentors, only 37% have one. 
  • Employees lacking mentors often feel disengaged and are more likely to leave the company they’re at.
Only 37% of people have a mentor

On the other hand, aside from happy employees, your company will benefit greatly from having an effective mentoring program. We're talking about:

  • Higher retention rates, 
  • a more inclusive company culture, 
  • with a significant increase in engaged employees. 

But how do we get there? Let’s look at what the best mentoring programs have in common.

This is how the best organizations design their mentoring programs

Between 2018 and 2019 we interviewed 50+ leading companies and collected what we learned in a report that revealed a big gap in mentorship.

While 68% believe that mentorship is important, only 57% have launched one.

While 68% of the respondents believe that mentorship is important, only 57% have launched a mentorship program. With the study results, and having worked with over 100 companies, we also packaged an extensive list of best practices, enabling us to many more companies to launch world-class mentoring programs. 

Goals: Effective mentoring programs know their North Star 

The Saskatchewan Research Council believes that offering mentoring opportunities positively impacts a business. While this motivates companies to launch mentoring programs, they should define their goals beforehand. A profitable mentorship program has a direction and never strays away. Goal-setting helps the organizers design the program and correctly measure its performance. 

We published a detailed article explaining how organizations could identify the purpose of their mentoring program. And also listed some of the goals organizations have to pursue in the program.

Having clear organizational goals will benefit your mentoring program. If your goal is to lessen employee turnover, build the program around that reason. It takes discipline, devotion, and a reliable mentoring platform to effectively manage your company's talents.

Employees want qualified mentors 

One thing we know is that employees crave qualified mentors. Companies eager to perfect their mentoring programs must invest in enrolling highly-trained individuals to become mentors. Our recent State of Mentoring and Coaching Report shows that despite the glaring importance of coaching and mentoring, only a minority reveals that over half of their organization's mentors are effective. 

A survey showing that time and avoiding difficult conversations are the top challenges hindering workplace mentoring and coaching - from the State of Mentoring and Coaching 2022 report

The facts don't end there. We also got to hear from a pool of HR professionals. More than half of them say their organization's coaches and mentors lack a decent degree of effectiveness in the following eight key areas:

  • Active listening to gain a better understanding
  • Instilling confidence 
  • Giving useful feedback 
  • Helping others develop strategies for meeting their goals 
  • Guiding conversation toward positive outcomes 
  • Building rapport and trust 
  • Asking questions to generate insights 
  • Holding difficult conversations successfully 

What can we gain from this? Mentors shouldn't be thrown into the role without any support. You can support them with training and resources. With this support, they can effectively guide their mentees to improve their company engagement.  

To learn the kind of training mentors need to succeed in their role, you can refer to our guide on mentor training programs. It recommends that mentors be trained before and after getting matched with the mentee. Doing this will enhance communication and align expectations between both parties. 

We also have a mentor handbook that will equip your mentors with tips for handling mentoring.

Together mentoring handbooks

World-class mentoring programs focus on great mentor matching 

Most organizations often take the old approach to match mentors and mentees. They match mentees to the mentors based on similarities, likeness, or background. 

Avoid mismatching

Mentor matching is an important aspect of the program because it determines whether the program succeeds or not. When an bad match happens, it's obviously going to affect the program's success. It's not surprising that many organizations get it wrong.

The right process to follow

Program managers can ask their employees to fill out a mentor-mentee matching questionnaire to get the perfect matching. This way, you better understand their skills, personality, and professional needs.

The mentee seeks guidance and direction, while the mentor desires to enhance their leadership skills. Remember that these roles can't be interchanged. It's common to believe that matching the participants based on industry or skills is the best strategy.

The difference between 'okay' matching and 'great' matching

This approach involves asking certain questions that'll aid you in pinpointing employees' skills and matching them accordingly. You can ask questions cutting across the three broad categories listed below: 

  • Profile questions 
  • Skill questions
  • Experience questions 

But, instead of doing this manually, we want to help you reduce the time spent matching mentors and mentees by using our platform that uses an algorithm for mentor matching. With Together, you can customize every element of the program to support your needs, enjoy the best user experience for employees, and more

The mentoring manager mustn't fall off their chair when employees have been matched. And effective workplace mentoring provides the appropriate resources to help the pairs build a well-off relationship. 

Successful programs include mentoring resources 

Mentoring program managers should offer session agendas to support the participants during discussions. This facilitates meaningful conversations and thoughtful questions. Essentially, it gives the pairs a structure to always abide by. 

Examples of mentoring session agendas

Know that the type of mentoring used will influence the session agendas you'll adopt. For example, a program using the peer mentoring and coaching model will feature discussion topics like: 

  • Similarities and differences between your roles 
  • Your strengths and weaknesses 
  • Goals you have for your career 
  • Challenges you face in your day-to-day operations 

Although the program manager has to generate session agendas, mentors must have a suite of questions to yield meaningful discussions with mentees. It's a sure-fire way of unlocking growth for mentors and mentees. There are certain questions mentors should ask their mentees to create quality discussion and a conducive atmosphere:

  • Ask them about their goals 
  • Ask them about their career journey 
  • Ask personal questions to better understand them
The mentorship loop

Keep informed: check-ins and collecting feedback is critical for a mentoring program’s success

As the mentoring program runs, your program manager should monitor the participants closely. Regular feedback enables the manager to resolve any difference and foster a positive experience. Frequent check-ins ensure that the program always aligns with the set goals and that everyone grows together. 

It can be tough to monitor the program’s process when administered manually. However, Together offers a unique mentoring software equipped with multiple means of gathering feedback. Below are the methods with additional information on how they work: 

  • Registration questionnaires
  • Post-session feedback forms
  • Periodic surveys 
  • Pairing ratings 

With Together, our platform enables you to easily access these insights and improve the program accordingly. It features a health monitor that lets your program manager know if any pair is at risk of collapse. And also reacts to signs like a low feedback score after a session. This is a handy tool to fix issues promptly. 

Your program manager can also periodically check in with the pairs and request qualitative feedback. Doing this lets the manager address underlying concerns. 

Creative mentoring programs experiment with different structures 

Testing your mentoring program with a different structure helps you get the best out of mentoring. Best mentoring programs can take different shapes and forms—these structures can be group mentorship, always-on-mentoring, peer mentoring, reverse mentoring, and traditional 1-on-1 mentoring. 

4 ways to structure a mentoring program

The best program managers will look at the goals they want to achieve and see if one of the above program structures will be better for reaching them.

What defines the structure you adopt is the program's goal. What does your program hope to achieve? Once you've figured this out, you can then decide to go with a program structure that aligns with that goal. 

To design an effective mentoring program, you need the right tools 

Together's mentoring software has helped many industry leaders achieve greatness by developing a perfect mentorship program. Our software simplifies the registration process, pairing process, and feedback collection. Our software also allows you to measure and track the program's progress efficiently.

Available mentoring program template on Together Platform

Mentorship deserves a place in your company culture today. It offers a variety of benefits to the company and employees alike. To attract employees to your mentoring program, you need to invest in the right software. 

Our software is suitable for existing or new programs. No matter your preferences, you will experience great ease when running the program. Choose Together to scale your program today.

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