In a 2019 survey from Nazarene University, 76% of respondents considered mentors important, but less than half had one in their life. At Together, we're looking to change that.
At Together, we help companies large and small launch incredible mentorship programs. We’ve learned a few things about what makes them work. We aim to leverage our experience and empower companies with the knowledge we’ve gained by sharing some key guidelines for running a mentorship program.
The benefits of mentoring programs
Mentorship programs have been shown to provide long-term benefits for both the mentee and the mentor. For the person being mentored, these programs offer an opportunity to develop skills, knowledge, and confidence.
They also provide access to a larger professional network and can help with career planning. For the mentor, these programs can lead to increased job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, mentors experience a host of benefits, including skills in coaching and communication.
By helping hundreds of companies launch and scale mentorship programs every year, Together has positioned itself as a best-in-class solution for bringing people together.
But how does a mentoring program work?
In this guide, we'll examine how to get started, the path to scale, and some step-by-step guidelines that successful programs follow.
Where to get started if you’re building a mentoring program
Over the years, we’ve built a comprehensive library of resources that you can use (for free) to get that mentorship program up and running.
This includes guides for topics like:
- Getting started building your mentorship program
- Goal setting for your mentorship program
- Program templates
- How to build a business case for a mentoring program
- The best practices of successful mentorship programs
- Promoting your program
- Tracking results of your mentoring program
All of these will help you build an outstanding mentorship program. Below, we’ll go through the overall mentoring framework and some helpful mentorship program guidelines you can use along the way.
The path to scaling a successful mentoring organization
You can’t run before you walk, and at Together, that’s a lesson baked right into our core framework. We never ask a company to install the full-scale program on day one.
Instead, we start with a three-phased approach:
In the first phase, we help you get your program off the ground by covering the basics. This usually only requires around 5-10% of your workforce and is to demonstrate the benefits working with a mentor can bring. This is commonly where you launch a pilot mentorship program.
The second phase is all about building on that initial success and getting more people involved in the program. We typically see programs expand to include 10-15% of the company during this stage as word starts to spread about how beneficial the program is.
That scaling process is extremely important and has to be done with care, or it can quickly bring diminishing returns.
In the final stage, the program is in full swing with support from senior management. By this point, the program should be self-sustaining and making a real impact on company culture.
This is where we see mentorship and coaching becoming a core part of the company culture. This is where mentorship programs go from a cohort-based model to—what we call—Evergreen mentorship. This is where anyone, at any time, can opt-in to match with a mentor rather than wait for the next formal program to kick off.
Now that we’ve looked at the Crawl, Walk, Run framework, let’s unpack the guidelines every mentorship program should follow if they want to be successful.
The guidelines every successful mentoring program follows
Without a clear plan, it’s easy for it to lose steam or fizzle out altogether. Employees lose motivation, and eventually, the program dies. That’s why we recommend all companies, no matter the size, adhere to some simple mentorship program guidelines.
A note on the below guidelines:
Our team is always unpacking the latest research on mentoring programs to share the best practices and advice. The below guidelines summarize much of the work done by several researchers from the National Library of Medicine in the study, “Ten simple rules for establishing a mentorship programme.”
Below are the key takeaways.
Decide on the overarching goal of your program
Before anything else, it’s important to decide what you want your mentorship program to achieve.
Is the goal to…
- improve retention rates for new hires?
- Help employees develop hard skills?
- Address specific pain points in the company culture?
By having a north star to guide you, it will be easier to make decisions about how to structure your program and what kind of support you need from senior management.
Don't just have this idea floating around in your head, either. You want to define the key business objectives of the program with performance indicators that address a specific need.
- Reduce new hire turnover rates by 25% in the first year
- Increase self-reported confidence levels among mentees by 30% after six months
- Help 100 employees develop hard skills such as coding or public speaking by their next review
These are all specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that will give you a way to track progress and ensure the program is making a real impact.
Build your administrative team
Now that you know what you want to achieve with your mentorship program, it’s time to start putting the pieces together. The first step is to build an administrative team that will be responsible for developing the program, setting up processes, and ensuring its success with the target audience.
It doesn’t have to be huge, but at a minimum, this team should include at least these two roles.
- Program Manager: This is the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the program. They develop and track metrics, keep an eye on the budget, and make sure everything is running smoothly.
- Communications Specialist: This person is responsible for creating program materials, maintaining the website or intranet page, sending out communications, and managing social media accounts.
Of course, you can always add more people to this team depending on the size and needs of your organization. For example, you might also want to include someone responsible for training mentors and mentees or developing a program curriculum.
Whatever you decide, the team will be responsible for the following things:
- Building a business case for the program to get funding
- Encouraging participation and interest in the program
- Matching mentors and mentees
- Providing resources like session agendas to participants
- Resolving any mismatches
- Monitoring the progress of the program and evaluating outcomes
- Reporting success to stakeholders
Luckily, with Together’s mentoring software, you won’t need any technical expertise on the team. It’s all baked into the product.
Build supporting resources for mentors and mentees
It's not as easy as just seating a senior employee down behind a webcam and letting them say whatever they like.
- You will need to give some thought to what your mentors will talk about. Do you want them to focus on hard skills, company culture, or career guidance?
- You will also need to provide some resources for your mentors and mentees to use during their sessions. This might include an online forum, a library of articles and books, or even just a set of discussion prompts.
More than 62% of successful mentoring programs enrol their potential mentors in some sort of formal training beforehand to make sure they are well-prepared for these significant roles.
Promote your mentoring program
This isn't Field of Dreams, they won't come on their own. Make sure your employees know that the program exists and how to sign up. The best way to do this is to send out a company-wide announcement and include information about the program in new employee onboarding packets.
You can also encourage managers to push participation among their team members, and get excited about the program themselves.
If those aren’t enough, you could try these other techniques.
- Leverage influencers: If you have employees who are particularly well respected or liked within the company, see if they would be willing to promote the program. This could be as simple as writing a post for the company blog or sending out an email to their network.
- Use social media: If your company has a strong social media presence, use it to generate excitement about the program. You can use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to share articles, stories, and announcements related to the program.
- Emphasize success stories: As people start participating in the program, make sure to share their success stories. This could be as simple as sending out a monthly email highlighting different mentee/mentor pairs.
- Hold an event: If you want to jump-start participation, consider holding an event. This could be something as small as a breakfast or lunch, or something more involved like a half-day retreat.
- Provide incentives: In some cases, you may want to provide incentives for people to participate. This could be in the form of a gift card, extra vacation days, or even just public recognition.
You might have some other outside-the-box ideas for promoting your mentoring program. The important thing is to make sure you’re always doing something to get the word out.
Track the progress and success of your mentoring program
Nothing is worth doing if you can't track the results, and a mentoring program is no different.
At a minimum, you should be tracking the following metrics in your mentoring program:
- Number of mentoring relationships formed
- Number of hours spent mentoring
- Mentee satisfaction ratings
- Mentor satisfaction ratings
But more specifically, you need to make sure you are tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) for the goals that you set at the beginning.
For example, if your goal is to improve employee retention, you should be tracking:
- Number of mentees who left the company within 6 months of starting the program
- Number of mentees who stayed with the company for at least 2 years
- Mentee satisfaction ratings related to their experience in the program
You can track these goals and KPIs using a variety of tools, including surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and data analytics. This is where running a program through Together's software can help, as it is easy to build in tracking options that can give you the details and data you need.
Choose the right mentoring platform to support your program
Not all mentoring platforms are created equal. You will want to make sure you choose one that is customizable and scalable to support your program’s needs both now and in the future.
Mentoring software should also come with a few key features, like:
- The ability to easily connect potential mentors with mentees
- A simple way to schedule and keep track of meetings
- Progress tracking and reporting capabilities
But there are more advanced things to look for as well. Together’s pairing algorithm, for example, removes the need for you to manually match participants. There’s no more guesswork; it’s based on their current skills and where they want to take their career.
Together: Making mentorship easy and scaleable
These aren't just a few random ideas strung together, we've spent years working with real-world businesses on their mentorship programs to determine the best practices. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve distilled it all down into one easy-to-use platform.
So trust us when we say that we know what it takes to make a mentorship program successful. Try our platform for free today, and let’s get started on making your mentorship program the best it can be.