Mentorship program

How to Run a Pilot Mentorship Program

Running a pilot mentorship program is a great way to get early feedback, work out any tweaks, and get comfortable doing it before rolling it out to your whole organization. Here are several helpful tips to run a successful pilot program.

Together Team

Published on 

August 16, 2023

Updated on 

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Mentorship comes with a myriad benefits that extend from expanding the skills and expertise of mentees to enhancing the leadership skills of mentors to cultivating a more motivated and engaged workforce for employers. 

9 out of 10 employees who have a career mentor report higher job satisfaction. Our 2022 State of Coaching and Mentoring Report found that mentoring has a positive impact on organizational productivity and boosts performance.

However, despite the benefits, mentoring programs don't always make an impact.

Additional statistics have found that 67 percent of businesses say mentoring improves employees' productivity, and 55 percent said they’ve seen increased profits after introducing a mentoring program in their workplaces. 

With strong evidence that signals the advantages of having workplace mentoring, perhaps it’s time to build your own pilot mentorship program?

What is a pilot mentorship program?

A pilot mentoring program is like a Hudson Bay Start for workplace mentoring programs. A Hudson Bay Start was a test that traders would do hundreds of years ago. They would pack up their canoes, head a short distance and camp for the night. In that way, they would be able to see if they forgot any crucial supplies. 

In the same way, a pilot mentoring program helps organizations start mentorships on a small scale. Once they’ve worked out the kinks, they can scale it up. It also serves as a training ground for program admins so they can learn the ropes and plan for a larger rollout of the mentoring program. 

Jennifer Petrela, a mentoring expert, shares some quick tips on kicking off a pilot program:

The full interview is worth a listen. Jennifer Petrela discusses inclusive mentoring and how organizations can connect more women with mentors in male-dominated workplaces.

Should you run a pilot program?

The short answer is yes. 

Pilot programs are a way to get early feedback and discover challenges and obstacles you may face in starting a large-scale mentoring program. 

A pilot program provides insight you can use to make tweaks, deal with logistics of tools and, overall, get program managers comfortable and confident with running a mentorship program.

If you're concerned if your organization needs mentoring programs, check out our article on informal vs formal mentoring. We'd argue that you absolutely need a formal mentoring program.

How do you choose mentors and mentees in a pilot?

Pilot mentoring programs are usually run with smaller groups of employees who have something in common. Examples include high potential employees or new managers. 

One of the benefits of a pilot mentoring program is that it’s easier to focus on similar groups of employees before you expand across the organization. 

Additionally, if you run a pilot program with a specific group of employees, for example, all new managers, you can adjust the resources or sessions agendas to fit that audience. Doing so with diverse audiences can make it more difficult for mentors and mentees to prepare or get as much out of a session.  

Two of the most common groups of employees that pilot mentoring programs work well for are high potential employees and new managers of your organization. 

High potential employees can benefit from a pilot program because there are usually fewer of them, and you can match them with leaders in the organization. Doing this allows your company leaders to experience mentorship. Senior leaders will likely need some convincing to support the mentoring program for it to continue running. Allowing them the opportunity to mentor high potential employees gives them a first-hand experience so they may see the benefits of it. 

New managers can benefit from a pilot program because they’re all at similar stages of their careers. For that reason, you can focus the pilot on a single topic and see what works. New manager programs may want to include job shadowing so they can see how more experienced managers lead. Your new managers may also want to discuss developing certain leadership skills like emotional intelligence or conflict management. Because new managers are similar, the pilot program can be hyper-focused on what they care about.

How do you run a pilot mentorship program?

Running a pilot program may seem difficult for organizations that have not had a workplace mentoring program before, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some steps you can take to get your pilot mentorship program off the ground. 

Choose goals for the program

Before you can start a mentoring program, you need to consider what you want to achieve—for example, training your new managers in leadership skills. Ask yourself what the purpose of the program is. 

  • To increase leadership development? 
  • Aid upskilling? 
  • Increase engagement? 

To help you learn more about determining program goals, check out our article on setting goals and objectives.

Choose who will be a part of the program

The next step is to decide who will be part of the pilot mentoring program. Choose employees who are at similar stages in their career (think new managers) or similar teams (start with just the sales department). 

You want the group of mentees to have something in common. 

It’s also crucial that you select employees who fit the program's goals. For example, if you’re looking to increase leadership abilities, select mentors who are strong leaders and mentees who show potential to be good leaders. 

Promote the program

Planning your pilot mentoring program is one thing, but getting employees to voluntarily participate is another. 

You’ll need to start with your target audience and generate excitement to join. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. You can find some tips on doing this in our article on promoting your program.

Register mentors and mentees

Even with a pilot program, it’s vital to keep track of who’s in the program and how many mentors you have onboard. 

Mentoring software can make measuring your program much easier. 

With Together, participants can register online, and the program will track each mentorship. 

You won’t need to worry about documenting each session or tracking a mentorship to see if it's successful. Our program will do that all for you.  If you want to get senior leaders to join but are resistant because they’re too busy, here are a few ways to convince them.

Pair mentors with mentees

The pairing process is one of the most vital parts, even for a pilot mentoring program. A good match is half the work of creating a successful experience. Here’s a great resource on different ways to match employees.

Monitor relationships and provide resources

Monitoring your mentorships is essential for your pilot mentoring program. 

Make sure you check in with mentoring relationships and send out surveys to get feedback on what’s working and what needs improvement. 

This is one of the key reasons you run a pilot mentoring program. Document these learnings for future reference when scaling the program.

Ready to launch a successful mentorship pilot?

Following these steps will help you run a successful pilot mentoring program. When you’re planning to launch your official program, make sure you consult our guide on starting a mentorship program, so you don’t miss anything. Additionally, once the pilot has culminated, you’ll likely need to prove its impact and get buy-in from leaders to continue running it. If you want to learn how to sell mentoring to senior leaders, so they endorse the program, check out our ebook on making a business case for mentoring.

If you're ready to build a mentorship program to scale, use Together's mentorship platform. You can quickly prompt all employees to register for the program. Once in, they'll create a profile with their goals and skills among other information. Then once you're ready you can activate the pairing algorithm that automatically suggest 3-5 relevant mentors for each employee based on their profile. Mentees can then request a mentor and begin meeting with them.

The whole process is seamless for you as the program manager. Don't take our word for it. Customers on G2 have left dozens of reviews highlighting how easy it is to use and manage the program:

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