Here at Together, we love studying the strategies behind successful mentorship programs.
It's fascinating to see the different approaches companies take and the results they receive. One of our favorite case studies is Google's many mentorship programs; there's a program for everyone, from students, to the 'Nooglers' (new Google hires), to the more experienced employees.
Google's programs are incredibly successful. Summer of Code, for instance – Google's online mentorship program for new open source contributors – consistently has success rates of 85 percent and above.
So, what can we learn from Google's success? What strategies can we replicate to create a successful mentorship program of our own? In this article, we’ll answer these questions.
Does Google have a mentorship program? Yes – many
Google is among the most forward-thinking companies when it comes to employee growth and development. The company offers a wide range of mentorship programs that are tailored to different needs, allowing their employees to get the most out of their work experience. Their various mentoring pograms contributes in part to their strong employee retention rate among competitors.
Google's best-known program is Summer of Code, or SoC. This program pairs experienced mentors with new contributors who have never worked on an open source project before. The mentor guides the contributor through coding challenges, teaching them how to write code and use software tools.
And that's not all. Google also runs:
- 'Build your future' programs. For its employees, Google has curated a selection of both remote and on-site programs across a range of topics – like engineering, marketing, sales, legal, and more. They all involve being mentored by those more experienced in the field.
- The 'Road to GDE' mentorship program. Since women are often underrepresented in tech, this initiative invests in up-and-coming female Google Developers Experts. It's a mentorship program that supports women over a three-month period to develop their skills.
- The 'CS Research Mentorship Program (CSRMP).' Google seeks out aspiring computer research students from historically marginalized backgrounds; they are paired with peers and a Google mentor, then invited to participate in training, networking, and career guidance.
- Onboarding buddy system. Bringing on new employees can be tricky, but Google has managed to improve outcomes by 25 percent through deliberate efforts. One aspect of onboarding is the buddy system, where new hires are paired with experienced employees who act as mentors for the first few months.
These programs are just a few of many, and Google has become a leader in the mentorship space. Their success can teach us valuable lessons about how to launch our own successful mentorship programs.
Key lessons from Google's successful mentorship programs
It's interesting to look through Google's mentorship programs and notice that many of them have some key elements in common.
Let's take a look at the tips, strategies, and lessons we can learn from Google's success.
1. Provide paid student internship programs that promote recruitment.
Google is very open about its emphasis on internship mentoring. Simply navigate to the 'Build your future' page, and there's an entire tab dedicated to paid and unpaid internships – business, info tech, software engineering, design, and more.
The idea is to give students the opportunity to get their foot in the door and make a name for themselves. Internships provide an excellent way to attract new talent; the company has a chance to see how potential employees perform, while the interns can gain valuable experience.
2. Match new hires with mentors
As mentioned, Google has designed an excellent mentoring program for new hires. Their philosophy is to match each person with a mentor who has the skills, experience, and background to bring out the best in them.
Google mentors are expected to serve as advisors and coaches who can help guide new hires through the onboarding process and beyond. The idea is to provide a safe space where they can ask questions, receive feedback, learn from mistakes, exchange ideas, and build confidence.
Based on the process they follow to curate the best pairings and successfully onboard new hires, here are some steps you can take:
- Define objectives. Make sure both mentors and mentees are always aware of their goal, be it to transfer specific skills, make the mentee feel comfortable, or introduce company policies. If you don't have clear objectives, it's hard to measure progress.
- Create a mentorship plan. Establish the finer details of the pairing. How long will the mentorship go for, and what will it entail? What are the success indicators?
- Make the right match. Ask mentors and mentees to write down their skills, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Understand what new hires want and need to learn, then find mentors who can provide the necessary guidance.
- Consider group mentorship. Group mentorship can be a great way to facilitate knowledge transfer, especially in complex settings. If you're onboarding multiple hires in the same area, consider pairing them with a mentor who can help them learn from each other.
Once you've made the match, set up official protocols for how often feedback should be provided to new hires. Employees who feel they're being invested in are much more likely to stay with the company.
3. Make your program specific rather than broad
Google's programs are highly specific, as we saw in the CS Research Mentorship Program, in which "students from historically marginalized groups [are matched] with peers and a Google mentor to support their pursuit of computing research pathways."
If you make your program specific, you'll be better able to focus resources and attention on ensuring that the objectives are met. Also, by targeting a specific group or population, you can make sure that your program is tailored to their needs and relevant to the challenges they face.
There's no point in creating a generic program that doesn't address the needs of your mentees. Instead, define the target audience and tailor it to their specific requirements.
4. Celebrate your mentors
Something Google does exceptionally well is recruiting new mentors. How? By openly celebrating its mentors each year and advertising the experience to other potential mentors.
If you can maintain a social media account or YouTube channel for your organization, it can be an excellent way to get the word out about your program and attract new mentors (like Google did in this video here, for example). Emphasise anecdotes from previous mentors and the impact they had on their mentees.
You can also use this opportunity to showcase your mentors' achievements and highlight the value that they bring to your organization. This will help you attract more experienced, talented individuals who are keen to mentor others.
You can’t grow a mentorship program without mentors, so it's best to make this a priority – and we've got plenty more information to help you attract more mentors in this article.
5. Create peer learning networks
Have you ever heard of Google's G2G network? It stands for Googlers-to-Googlers, and it's a volunteer network connecting over 6000 employees. These volunteer mentors take time outside of their day jobs to advise and support those who need it – from teaching specific skills to providing support.
The magic of the program is that all of the volunteers are there by choice through passion. No one's forcing them to do it, so they're driven by the desire to help others and share their knowledge. It's incredible what trust can do when you grant it freely to your employees.
It can be difficult to implement something like this if you don't have the infrastructure for it, but even simple Slack channels can get the ball rolling. Can you set up a Slack channel for each area of expertise and assign a few people to act as mentors? It's a great way to create a peer learning network and encourage knowledge sharing.
For more ideas, take a look at more of our content on peer to peer learning.
Launch mentoring programs that drive impact across your organization today
Mentorship programs can do wonders for the success of your organization, so it's important to get them right from the start. Google has done some amazing work in terms of creating successful and sustainable mentorship programs. Not only are they effective, but their programs are based on the principles of inclusivity and collaboration.
By following these five lessons from Google – providing paid internships, mentoring new hires, making your programs specific, celebrating mentors, and creating peer networks – you can create an impactful mentorship culture that drives real results.
Don't forget to check out our guide on how to start a mentoring program if you're looking for more information. And, if you're ready to take the leap, book a demo of our mentorship platform. Good luck!