The goal of a mentorship program is to accelerate the personal and professional development of mentees. This is achieved by providing mentees with guidance, advice and feedback from mentors with more experience than themselves.
We at Together have found that the key to a successful mentorship program is the need for a north star. A north star is the cornerstone of every effective mentoring program. It highlights the purpose or goal of the program and how it’s intended to benefit the company.
Many HR and L&D professionals use Together's mentorship platform to realize their north star. Our platform replaces cumbersome, manually run programs with an customizable program templates that use our pairing algorithm to match hundreds (even thousands) of mentors and mentees instantly rather than spending weeks manually matching employees in spreadsheets.
Whether you use Together or not, you need to have clear goals and objectives for your program. In this article, we’ll help you understand the best goals for your program and how to align your goals with your company's mission so you get executive buy-in and budget. Throughout the article, we’ll also have many tips on running a successful mentorship program.
Why it's important that you set clear goals for your mentoring program (before launching)
Having clear goals for your mentoring program is an important part of its success. You should determine the purpose and then build a plan to fulfil that purpose.
Wendy Axelrod, author of 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring, shares that the purpose of your mentorship program should always “be linked to some type of strategy, whether it is a talent development strategy, a diversity, an inclusion strategy, [or] a succession management process.”
Watch the full conversation: What Separates Successful Mentoring Programs From Those That Flop?
Goals help with outlining your program priorities, setting benchmarks, finding clear objectives of outcome and providing a mechanism for individual improvement.
So we know goals are important, but what should your goals be? Let’s explore in more detail the specific aims of workplace mentoring programs.
Common objectives for your mentoring program
At Together, we strongly emphasize clearly defining the goals of your mentorship program. It sets the tone for the whole program. Among our customers, here are some of the most common objectives companies align on when building mentorship programs.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a popular goal setting framework created by Google. We've found it helpful for mentorship program managers to use this framework when starting a program. Below, we'll list out the common OKRs. By aligning on what your OKRs are, it will make it easier to know what metrics you want to measure to determine the ROI of your mentorship program.
- Develop emerging leaders: Helping high performing employees develop their leadership abilities
- Onboard faster: teaching new workers about the company and the expectations of management
- Promote diversity: mentorship programs encourage and empower employees from minority groups who may not currently be reaching the next level of career development
- Career development: assisting employees in meeting their career goals by honing new capabilities
- Remote Work: Allow people to build their career and network in a remote work environment.
- Succession planning: seasoned workers who will be moving into retirement can impart their knowledge and wisdom to those who will take over when they leave
- Improving culture: building productive relationships among co-workers can lead to a healthier workplace culture.
- Employee retention: employees who perceive that the company cares about developing their career path and their future are more likely to stay with the organization longer. Research done by Deloitte identified that younger employees who are given a mentoring opportunity are more likely to stay with that employer for longer.
- Reputation building: organizations who show a commitment to their employees’ development will gain a reputation as a desirable place to work
Common key results:
- Increased internal promotion rate by 10% within 12 months.
- Decreased time to hit full sales quota of a new rep by three weeks (Onboard Faster).
- 20% of Junior VPs are racial minorities (Promote Diversity).
- 80% of employees have a positive outlook on their career trajectory (Career Development).
- Achieved a Glassdoor rating of 4.3 (Improving Culture).
- Kept employees within the company for longer (Employee Retention).
- Increased conversion of new hire offers from 50% to 75% (Reputation Building).
5 tips for choosing goals for your mentoring program
We're about to throw another goal setting framework at you. If OKRs are confusing for you, this might be a better alternative.
The SMART goal setting process is another widely used framework. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Specific goals are clear and concise and have well-defined objectives. The possibility of achieving these goals increases when they are clear-cut.
- The best way to make your goals measurable is to split them into two parts. The outcome you wish to achieve and, secondly, the steps you’ll need to take to get there.
- Break your goals into smaller, achievable parts. A broad goal like “increase diversity” can be vague unless broken down.
- Align your mentorship program with other initiatives put on by teams, like Learning & Development programs or Employee Resource Groups. Their goals likely align with yours.
- Making your goals time-bound means setting up progress points along the way so that you know where you're meant to be and when you’re meant to be there.
When using the SMART framework for your program, here are five tips we'd like to share.
Tip 1: Encourage the mentee to own the objective
To clarify, it's important for program admins to have overall goals for a workplace mentoring program. However, it's also beneficial to encourage mentees to choose their own goals within that framework. This approach can increase motivation and relieve pressure from mentors.
Tip 2: Establish challenging but attainable goals
What do you want to be able to say at the end of your program? Wendy Axelrod warns, sharing, “please don't say 25 people graduated. That's very nice, but it's not concrete enough. It's not specific enough to show the financial return, the benefit to the business, and the benefit to the individuals.”
Instead, pick a lofty goal that energizes you and the participants. For example, in The Forum’s mentoring program, they wanted to scale the number of female entrepreneurs with mentors. That was a goal everyone could rally behind. But the outcome wasn’t just reporting on the number of participants, it was their ability to provide career-changing mentorship to more female entrepreneurs than they did last year.
Tip 3: Create an action plan
Once you’ve established clear goals for the program, outline them in a clear action plan that includes the mission statement, timeline, the employee population that will participate, resources they’ll have and how you’ll measure success. We’ve put together this templated mentoring plan to make it easy to create your own.
Tip 4: Provide assistance and direction
With support from your organization and willing participants, you want to ensure that the individual goals of mentors and mentees align with the program's purpose. Admins should be available to answer any questions from participants and lead them in the right direction with goals that align with any strategic initiatives. This involves keeping lines of communication open, offering honest feedback, and giving advice when necessary.
Tip 5: Celebrate every step
Program managers should celebrate every small step that mentors and mentees take to achieve the mentorship program's bigger goals. This promotes encouragement and demonstrates to mentors and mentees that they’re fully supported.
Tips for tracking the progress of your mentorship program toward your goals
Establishing key performance indicators that measure the effectiveness of your mentoring program is essential. These metrics for success should be decided on and tracked from the onset of the program.
Without them, it will be difficult to gain support from leadership and know if all the participants are getting value from it.
Measuring success in large programs
If your mentoring program is small (less than 10 people), then understanding if the program is a success just by talking to them is reasonable. But as the program scales, it becomes increasingly challenging to get qualitative and quantitative data to support and provide feedback on your mentoring program.
Together's mentoring software was built specifically for large mentorship programs:
- Together handles the registration process of mentors and mentees, collecting critical information on them that will help pair them later on with a mentor or mentee.
- Leverage both existing employee data and the data collected from registration to build a questionnaire that informs our pairing algorithm. It cuts the time spent on the pairing process to a fraction of the time.
- Receive resources like mentee and mentor handbooks that help participants know the best practices for building a successful mentoring relationship.
- Reporting features are built into the software to ensure program administrators can monitor the program's progress and demonstrate its results.
Employers thinking of adopting a mentoring program will need to consider how they’ll access the information they need to determine program success. One such measure might be staff retention with the program in place vs. without the program. Understanding how well a program is working allows overseers to make adjustments accordingly.
Gather meaningful feedback from participants
All mentoring programs must meet a single, important requirement: the ability to assess their effectiveness. Setting up steps to measure the program's success is crucial.
As a program manager, advising on how program participants can give constructive criticism to mentors and mentees is beneficial. This is because they may neglect to pause and consider their relationship as they become preoccupied with their daily activities.
Here are a few examples of questions to ask your mentors and mentees in a feedback survey:
- Do you feel there was a broad enough range of mentors to choose from?
- What would you change about the pairing process going forward?
- How is/was your relationship with your mentor/mentee on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What did you enjoy or not enjoy about the program?
- What would you change (if anything) about the program?
These surveys help mentors and mentees think critically about the mentorship program, and motivating them to consider the program's benefits can inspire them to continue fostering their relationship.
Common goals for mentors and mentees
Helping mentors and mentees understand what they want to achieve through the program is an important step in their careers. This can be done through goal suggestions that inspire mentors and mentees to kickstart their journey in a mentoring program.
Goal suggestions can be emailed at the start of a program as examples for participants to adopt on their own personal journey. By helping mentors and mentees take on the program as if it’s their own, you encourage them to set out on their ideal journey.
Being a mentor is an excellent opportunity for senior leaders or experienced employees to give back to the company's next generation. It’s also a valuable learning experience that reveals their communication skills and ability to build relationships with others.
Ultimately, mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.
Here are some specific goals mentors may have when beginning their mentoring relationship:
- Validate the mentor’s leadership skills. The responsibility of helping guide someone’s career and goals requires the senior employee to teach, motivate and offer honest feedback in difficult conversations. All these skills are at the top of the required list for a leader.
- Become recognized as an advisor throughout the company. As a mentor provides uses their wealth of experience to advise more junior employees it’s likely that they will recognize the value they received from their mentorship. In this way, others may begin to recognize them as valuable sources of advice and guidance and seek their mentorship. In short, they’ll gain a reputation for being a great mentor.
- Learn to clearly communicate. If you’ve ever had to explain something to somebody, you probably noticed that you had to think it through and clean up your explanation to make it easy for another person to understand. Mentors will become better communicators and listeners by virtue of being in a mentoring relationship.
- Expand their understanding of new perspectives. While the mentor is usually in the position of imparting knowledge to the mentee, a mentoring relationship can also help the mentor gain new perspectives. Learning about new technologies or the values of younger employees can be a valuable outcome for mentors.
- Find hidden talent for potential promotions or leadership roles. Being a mentor is a great opportunity to find up-and-coming talent for promotions or special projects. Mentorship is helpful for both the mentor and mentee’s networks in this way.
The goals of a mentee are central to the success of the mentoring relationship. What do they want to get from meeting with a more experienced leader once or twice a month? Some may wish to gain visibility from leadership so they’ll be considered for new opportunities.
Other mentees may want to learn specific hard or soft skills like communication, negotiation, or conflict management.
Mentees can have several goals - let’s explore them below:
- Learn the workplace culture. For newer mentees who have recently joined a company, it can be invaluable to connect with a mentor who can shed light on the company culture. They can quickly become more aware of workplace routines, policies, and expectations. Goals like these are common in onboarding mentorship programs.
- Accelerate skills development. Through the advice and guidance of a mentor, the mentee can develop specific skills like conflict management, problem-solving, communication, or negotiation. In some cases, mentees may even work with their mentor around developing specific technical skills like financial forecasting or project management.
- Networking opportunities. Being in a mentoring program is an incredible opportunity to build a mentees network. Mentees can build meaningful connections with mentors in senior positions at the company and be gain visibility for future promotions or special projects. Furthermore, mentors can connect their mentees with their own network making important introductions that lead to new opportunities.
- Career advise or professional development. Having a mentor who’s been where you are now is invaluable in navigating life’s circumstances. Mentees may have the goal of having someone they can go to for advice and guidance for the tough questions like whether a career path is right for them. For mentees from diverse backgrounds, having mentors that share their background is important to supporting their inclusion within the company.
Further guidelines for running a successful mentoring program
As you build and launch your mentorship program, you’ll notice that there’s nuance to how they run. For example, do all mentors and mentees pair at the same time, or can new participants join midway through the program? Additionally, how will you check in with mentoring pairs? Will it be weekly or monthly? And will you have them fill out a form or will it be anecdotal check-ins?
Let’s unpack some of these small, but important considerations. In doing so, you’ll start to form guidelines for how your mentoring program will run.
Decide on Cohort vs Evergreen model
Many mentoring programs have a clear start and end date. This is helpful for measuring results and ensuring that all participants are on the same timeline. But what if an employee wants to join as a mentor or mentee midway through the program? Do they have to wait or is the program flexible enough to accommodate this?
At Together, companies running mentorship programs decide between cohort and (what we call) Evergreen mentorship models. Evergreen mentorship programs don’t have a start or end date. Employees can come and go.
Depending on the goals of your program, Cohort or Evergreen models may make more sense. Each has its strengths.
Ensure every mentoring pair is meaningful
Program managers play an important role in helping mentors and mentees build strong relationships. If there’s a mismatch between pairs, program managers need to quickly accommodate a switch. A worst-case scenario is that an employee suffers through an incompatible match without speaking up.
Program managers can use mentor-matching software to guarantee that every pair is relevant and meaningful. Pairing algorithms like what we have at Together take into account employees' tenure, skills, goals, and preferences to match them with a hyper-relevant mentor.
Using pairing software also saves program administrators a lot of time. One program administrator shared that “The pairing for mentoring is seamless with the Together Platform. Prior to having the platform, it took at least 8 people and a couple of weeks to get it done.”
Check in with mentoring pairs and leverage feedback
It’s important to make a good mentor match. But it’s equally important to check in with pairings throughout their relationship. Similar to the above point, this can help catch any issues like a mismatch. But it’s also important for generating reports on your program.
To get meaningful data on how the program is progressing you should be measuring your mentorship program. This includes things like how many mentors and mentees sign up and how often they’re meeting.
But you should also measure sentiment. Have them fill out feedback forms after each meeting by giving the meeting a rating out of 4. Likewise, check in with them midway through the program to ask several questions about how they feel about their mentor or mentee, the program, what they’re learning, and more.
Getting feedback not only helps you build a better program, but it gives you data you can use to prove its success to your leadership.
Experiment with new mentoring formats
As you run your program, you may decide to switch things up. By offering different ways of pairing employees you can encourage new types of learning. For this reason, there are many different mentoring models you can choose to adopt.
Here are three worth trying out:
- Reverse mentoring. Reverse mentoring is when a junior employee acts as the mentor to a more senior employee. This is a great way to give leaders new perspectives. It’s commonly used for exposing executives to new ways of working or for connecting leaders with talent from underrepresented backgrounds for diversity and inclusion initiatives.
- Peer mentoring. In peer mentoring, employees at similar levels or tenures coach each other drawing from their unique skills or knowledge. This is commonly done to encourage cross-department collaboration.
- Mentoring circles. Mentoring circles get employees from all levels in the organization to share their knowledge and experiences. It’s a low-pressure way to introduce mentorship as more shy employees don’t have to feel pressured to engage 1-on-1 with a leader, which can feel intimidating. Likewise, employees can quickly build their network through mentoring circles.
These are just a few of several types of mentoring programs organizations can run. Which one is best depends on the goals of the program.
By now, you should have a clear mission for your mentoring program that energizes you, the mentors and mentees, and the leaders of your organization.
The next step is starting the mentoring program. You’ll start planning out how to pair mentors and mentees, what resources they need to build a successful relationship, and how you’ll keep track of it all to demonstrate impact.
There’s a lot involved. We want to make it easy for you. That’s why Together’s mentorship software exists. It takes care of all the heavy lifting—the registration, the matching (we have an intelligent pairing algorithm), the reporting, and more.
Together is recognized by some of the biggest companies as the #1 easiest platform to manage your mentoring program.