Mentorship programs are often the unsung heroes of great workplace cultures. Employees that have role models they can go to for support and encouragement are more engaged, confident and find their work more fulfilling.
But that’s only possible if their mentors are equipped with the right skills. And ineffective mentoring can be worse than none at all.
So, for those of us trying to plan a mentoring program, what can we do to make sure all our mentors are ready to take on the responsibility of helping someone else? A mentor training program, of course.
What is a mentor training program?
Mentor training prepares leaders to better understand what is expected of them. During training, mentors learn how to communicate and understand their mentees. Mentors can meet with one another and share tips or helpful advice.
Mentor training is also a good time to clarify the expectations of the program, such as deadlines, meetings times, and goals.
Mentorship program admins from The United Nations and The Forum unpack how to run world-class mentoring programs. Watch the full panel discussion.
To summarize, mentor training usually involves the following checklist:
- Mentors learn how to listen to mentees;
- Learning communication strategies;
- How to help mentees identify and work towards their goals;
- What’s expected of the mentor in your mentoring program;
- What mentors and mentees should discuss during their session;
- What good mentoring looks like; and,
- Tips for building an effective mentoring relationship.
Covering these 7 items during mentor training will ensure your leaders know their responsibilities. Going through this training will also get your mentors in the right mindset, understanding that being a mentor is different than a coach or manager. It’s a distinct, but critical role in an employee’s development.
With that said, many leaders may question if training is necessary. “I’m already a great leader. Why do I need to attend training?” That’s a great question! Let’s unpack it.
Do mentors need training?
According to a study by the Department of Medicine at the University of California, mentor training has several distinct benefits:
- Training greatly improves the mentor’s communication with their mentee.
- Training aligns expectations.
- Training helps mentors assess and understand their mentees.
- Training equips mentors to address diversity issues present in the workplace and that impacts mentees from minority backgrounds.
- Training gives mentors more confidence
- Training promotes future program development.
Still, many leaders may feel they don’t need training. They’ve worked their way up into a leadership position and the experience they have should be enough, wouldn’t it?
It’s a good question, but training is still an important part of building a great mentorship program. Why? Mentor training gets all mentors in the same place to be on the same page with rules and expectations. Although leaders may think they know it all already, training ensures that any gaps they have (without knowing it) get filled in.
Wendy Axelrod, author of 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring spoke with our CEO, Matthew Reeves about what separates successful mentoring programs from those that flop. She shared that cultivating strong mentors was a crucial step in taking a good mentoring program to a great one:
Additionally, the training communicates to mentors that they have administrative support. If they run into any difficult situations throughout the mentoring relationship, they’ll know who they can go to with questions. This leads to more confident leaders.
It’s also a great opportunity for future mentors to meet other mentors. This is a great way for them to share advice on how to build a great mentoring relationship.
How long should mentor training be?
Unsurprisingly, more mentor training leads to more effective mentorships. According to a Mentoring.org study, more training allowed mentors to be more effective in their teaching and understand better how to approach a myriad of situations.
A crucial point to remember is that it is important to offer pre-and post-match training. Training sessions should be at least two hours-long seminars, in which the mentors can also ask questions and get advice from other mentors and administrators.
The pre-match training session should go over the overall goals of the program and anything that is expected from the mentors. Additionally, they can learn how to properly understand the mentee’s questions and point-of-view.
Once the mentor has a basis of what is expected of them and they’ve been paired, you can have shorter training sessions for basic details on the mentorship they will be leading and any questions they have. Remember to include any time frames and deadlines that mentors need to follow, as well as what will be going on in the program itself.
How to structure a mentor training program
If you find planning a mentor training session overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s a straightforward process. We’ll outline a checklist of items to cover in the sessions before and after mentors are paired.
Training for mentors before they meet their mentee
Pre-match mentor training should include an in-person session of at least two hours. According to the Ontario Mentoring Coalition, the following should be included in pre-match mentor training:
- Cover program requirements, such as length, frequency of meetings, what to do if mentees miss meetings, and what to do with a mismatch;
- Mentor’s goals and expectations for the mentee;
- Mentor’s obligations and appropriate roles;
- How to build the mentoring relationship;
- Ethical and safety issues that may come up when creating a mentoring relationship;
- How to conclude a mentoring relationship;
- Where mentors can assess support if they need it; and,
- Opportunities and challenges that a mentor can face when mentoring.
Training for after the mentor match
Once the mentee and mentor have been matched, mentors should have one or two follow-up training sessions. When it comes to post-match training, the following should be covered:
- Appropriate physical contact;
- Who the mentoring program administrators are;
- How to get feedback on mentoring;
- Discussions topics and activities;
- Policies on money spent on mentee and mentor activities;
- Remote vs in-person mentoring;
- How to end a mentoring relationship.
Further ways to train mentors
Besides the typical training, mentors should be able to get in contact with their peers to discuss any questions they might have during the mentorship process—this is called peer learning. One study showed peer mentoring increased knowledge sharing. This is a great way to increase learning, motivation and overall mentoring outcomes.
Peer-to-peer learning is a great way to get mentors to help eachother learn and become better guides for their mentees.
For instance, mentors can get together and discuss with one another what works and does not in a mentorship. This can lead to better communication skills, a support system between mentors, and more motivation to get the mentee to succeed. Here’s a resource on peer mentoring activities that can encourage discussion and new learning.
In addition to peer learning, encourage mentoring pairs to meet with other mentoring pairs. This is called group mentorship. They can discuss their mentoring relationship and give tips to one another. This can open up new perspectives.
Launch your mentoring program with ease
Together takes care of admin parts of programs so you can focus on delivering great mentorship programs.
With Together, mentors and mentees get paired with our intelligent algorithm.
Additionally, the platform allows you to update how things are going and get insight at the end of every program. Together also offers templated meeting agendas that can be customized to your liking, and we integrate with many company communication tools.
This easy-to-use platform allows employees to register for programs and communicate with mentors. To learn more, check out how our mentorship software can make launching your mentoring program a breeze.