As an HR rep or leader in the modern workplace, it can be difficult to get buy-in on your aspirations.
Everyone's busy with their respective work duties, and establishing a new program – especially a mentorship program – can be seen as a daunting extra task. Worse still, you can become so drowned by your other tasks that the need for mentorship may not even be recognized.
Yet, the need is certainly there. Just look at some of these benefits. Mentorship programs help businesses by:
- Nurturing and developing talent from within the company
- Reducing staff turnover and promoting a learning culture
- Encouraging innovation and creativity
- Improving team morale by building relationships and fostering social connections
If you're a People Leader frustrated with the lack of mentoring opportunities in your workplace, we're here to tell you that you've got the right idea – and you can create change. It'll come with challenges, no doubt, but you are in the right place to learn.
In this guide, we cover the crucial first steps of establishing a mentorship program. You'll learn how to make a case for the program, identify mentors and mentees, and lead through principles that will ensure your program is successful.
Ready? Let's get started.
6 easy-to-follow steps to build your mentoring program
It's easy to throw out surface-level recommendations for building your mentorship program, like 'pick quality mentors' and 'create a system that encourages feedback'. But what are the tangible, actionable steps you need to take in order to make your mentorship program a success?
Here are six concrete steps you can take to get started.
1. Know your north star: the primary goal
First, let's iron out a common misconception – the goal of mentorship is not simply 'mentorship'. (Or if it is, you aren't going to get very far.) The goal of your program needs to be specific; aim to achieve a certain outcome, whether that's developing leadership skills in new employees, increasing retention rates, or fostering a community culture.
Why? Because this is the goal that will direct your efforts and keep everyone on track. It will also help you measure the success of your program down the road. Here are some examples of goals that could be specific to your organization:
- Increasing the number of female leaders in the company by 25% in the next five years
- Doubling the number of mid-level employees promoted to senior positions within two years
- Halving employee turnover rates within six months
- Providing support for new employees, with the goal of them feeling more comfortable and integrated within their first three months on the job
You may be reading this saying, “I already know my goals.” If that’s the case you’re next challenge is getting leadership to give you the resources you need to run a successful program.
2. Get leadership buy-in for the program
A mistake HR leaders often make is to lose faith in their own program. Instead of letting valuable selling points do the talking, they try to wrangle leaders into the program – but if they're not on board, it's going to be difficult.
This is why getting buy-in from the top is key; it legitimizes the program and signals that it's important. The worst thing you can do is have a mentorship program that only a small fraction of employees are actually using.
When making your case to leaders, make sure you:
- Clearly articulate the specific goal of the program
- Highlight how the program will benefit the company as a whole (increased innovation, better problem-solving, etc.)
- Showcase how mentorship can help leaders reach their own goals
- Demonstrate your game plan for rolling out and promoting the program
Remember that a mentorship program is a totally viable suggestion for leaders looking to invest in their employees and further develop their team – so don't lose faith in your idea.
Now, once your leaders are on board and you’ve got the budget and resources to launch your program you’re only missing one thing: participants. Time to get mentors and mentees on board!
3. Generate excitement so employees join the program
Create a good program, and the spots will fill themselves – right? Not so fast.
In the workplace, people are often too busy to think about anything other than their to-do list. They might shrug off your program as irrelevant or too much extra work. Or worse, they might not see a point to it at all.
That’s why you need to generate excitement around the mentorship program. Show employees how it will help them grow, learn new things, and advance their careers. Paint a picture of what their life could be like if they participated in the program and became a mentor or mentee.
Here are a few ways to generate excitement:
- Host an information session or lunch-and-learn about the program.
- Include a brief overview of the program in company newsletters or on the intranet.
- Make sure managers are briefed on the program and can talk to their employees about it.
- Send out personal emails or videos from the CEO or other executive leaders about the importance of mentorship.
Whatever you do, remember to continue sending out reminders and making the case for the program as strong as possible. Employees are more likely to participate if they feel like it’s an opportunity they can’t pass up.
4. Match mentors with mentees: criteria and pairing methods
In a perfect world, mentor-mentee pairings would just click. There'd be no awkward reshuffling, no hurt feelings, and definitely no need for a referee. But alas, the perfect world doesn't exist – and people clash.
To create successful mentor-mentee relationships, it's important to have criteria for pairing mentors with mentees and to use an effective method for matching the two. Don't just think about job roles; take into consideration factors like:
- Personality types
- Communication styles
- Life experiences
- Goals and ambitions
- Work styles
Considering all these factors makes a good match, yes, but who has the time to do this for every single match?
That’s why our Together platform uses a powerful algorithm to pair employees with the right mentors and mentees based on the factors that matter. Using our tool, there are three main methods we recommend:
- Mentee-led matching allows mentees to select five preferences from the options presented by our platform. The first preference to accept a mentor request is the one who will be paired with the mentee.
- Admin-led pairing requires the program administrator (aka, you) to review the platform's suggestions and approve them or reject them. You can also choose to manually pair mentors and mentees.
- Hybrid pairing uses a mix of algorithm and facilitator input. The platform generates all pairings based on data, but admins can change the settings and preferences around until they are satisfied with the results.
Of course, you might choose to pair mentors and mentees without technological help. But we strongly recommend using a tool if you instead to scale your mentoring program. It's simply too difficult to pair people manually and still ensure that everyone is satisfied with the outcome.
Okay, you’ve launched pairing. You’re job is done, right? Not so fast. Some of these mentors and mentees may be meeting for the first time. Having some structure to the meeting can help ease tensions, break the ice, and get things off the ground. What you need are session agendas.
5. Provide session agendas for mentors and mentees
You've successfully paired mentors based on all the right factors, and everyone's happy – but your job isn't done yet! You'll need to provide some structure and guidance to make sure the pairing is successful.
One way to do this is by providing session agendas for mentors and mentees. This will help everyone know what to expect in each meeting and will give you a way to track the progress of the mentorship.
For instance, you might recommend prompts like:
- Discuss your goals and ambitions, as well as the goals for this program
- Share experiences and advice about your career or field
- Give feedback on each other's work or professional development goals
- Talk about challenges you're experiencing and how you might overcome them
Not only will this help the mentorship run smoothly, but it'll also give participants a chance to learn from each other and get the most out of the program.
6. Know the metrics you need to measure
And now, onto our final step in starting your mentorship program – know what you need to measure in order to evaluate your mentoring program’s success.
Often, leaders simply launch their program and hope for the best; but this strategy is much like setting up a new fish tank and then never checking the water levels or adding food. Upon returning, you may have a thriving ecosystem on your hands, or you may just have a lot of dead fish.
The same is true for mentorship programs: without proper measurement and tracking, it can be difficult to tell whether the program is successful or not.
Here’s what we recommend you track:
- Participation rates. How many people are actually participating in the program?
- Retention rates. Of the people who participate, how many stick around for more than one session or cycle?
- Satisfaction rates. How do participants feel about the program? Are they getting what they need from it?
- Impact. How is the program affecting participants’ lives (e.g., professionally, educationally, etc.)?
- Cost-effectiveness. Is the mentorship program achieving its goals at a reasonable cost?
- Scalability. Can the program be easily replicated and scaled up if needed?
By understanding the answers to these questions, you can start to get a sense of how well your mentorship program is doing. Together tracks all of your importahhhhhhhnt metrics automatically, so you can focus on what’s important – building a successful and impactful mentorship program.
Quick tips for successfully leading your mentoring program
Now that you know the six crucial steps to starting your mentoring program, we'll round out the article with some handy tips on how to take your program from good to great.
Open registration as early as possible.
As mentioned, employees are busy people – and they won't always catch onto things outside of their to-do list without plenty of notice. Giving employees a heads-up that the mentorship program is opening for registration and actively recruiting mentors will help ensure you get a good turnout.
Assign multiple mentees to each mentor.
This is especially important if you're short on mentors. It can be difficult for mentors to manage more than one or two mentees, so splitting them up will help ensure that everyone has a positive experience.
Give your mentees a voice.
Encourage them to take an active role in their partnership, rather than passive; let mentees know that it isn't just the mentors who can lead. This will help create a sense of ownership and connection to the program – both of which are key to success.
Don't force relationships that aren't working!
While it may be tempting to 'ride it out' with a mentor-mentee relationship that's struggling, it's ultimately not beneficial for anyone involved. If things aren't clicking, be proactive in finding a new match.
For more tips on making your mentorship program a success, check out our complete list of 12 best practices where we go into plenty more detail.
Creating a mentorship program at work with Together
When it comes to running a mentorship program – and in particular, one that doesn't flop – you can't just throw something together and hope for the best. It takes careful planning and thought to create an impactful mentorship experience for everyone involved, which is why we've taken you through six clear and simple steps to starting your own mentorship program.
But wait – it gets easier still.
With Together, you can automate some of the key steps and make the process even smoother.
- Use our algorithm to set up the perfect pairs,
- share our resources with mentors and mentees, and
- make the most of our powerful reporting features to track your progress.
At Together, our goal is to make sure that mentorship works for everyone. Work with us today by reaching out to learn more about our suite of tools and resources – we're here to help. (And we’ve got a free trial!)