Round-Table: How The UN And The Forum Run Successful Mentoring Programs
Brittany: Okay, we are just after one o'clock here, so we will get things started but first off, welcome, everyone. We are so, so excited to have you join us for a round table panel discussion. Today, we will be chatting about best practices and you'll be hearing from experienced mentoring program managers, so thank you again for joining. We're extremely excited to have you here. In terms of agenda, first off, I'll introduce you to all of the faces that you'll be hearing from over the next hour. We have some panelist questions for our two panelists you'll meet in a moment, and then towards the end of the session, we will have an open Q&A so you can pop in, just the Zoom Q&A and we'll direct questions to either Jacqueline, Kate or myself here from Together. One heads up is we will be recording this webinar, so there's no need to feverishly take notes. We will be sending over the recording following this call. So, without further ado, you've already heard from me but quick introduction, my name is Brittany Hendricks and I'm here representing Together. Together is a software that helps run mentoring programs at scale. So, we make it very easy to run a best-in-class program which you'll hear more about today. We have over 150 professional associations and companies who use our software and you'll be hearing from two of our customers today being the United Nations as well as The Forum. So, quick introductions of our panelists. I am very excited to be having Kate join us today. Kate is super experienced. She comes from the United Nations, where she spent 21 years specializing in career development. Her and her team launched mentoring with Together back in 2020 and they started with a pilot program but now have over 2,000 participants which is very impressive, so we're super excited to have Kate here with us on the call. And we also have Jacqueline. And Jacqueline is a mentoring expert. She's run mentoring programs at multiple organizations now. She's currently at The Forum, which is an organization that pairs women identifying entrepreneurs. So, she comes with a ton of backgrounds with mentoring and we're also just so excited and privileged to have her on the call with us too. So, welcome to our panelists. Thank you for joining us today. Before I hop into questions, Kate, Jacqueline, is there anything that you'd like to add?
Kate: Just hello and glad to be here, and wanted to clarify I've been with the UN for 21 years but only in career development for the last few, so I've worked in different areas and mentoring was a new thing for me but now I've got like, almost three years of experience with it.
Jacqueline: I just want to say hi and thanks so much for having me.
Brittany: Awesome. Thank you for joining. Okay, excited to kick things off. First question is a little more high level, but we'd love to hear, you know, from people who work in mentoring every day, why do you feel like mentoring is important and what prompted you to launch a mentoring program in the first place? Maybe I'll pass it off to Jacqueline to kick things off for us and we will go over to Kate.
Jacqueline: Sure, yeah. Thank you. So, The Forum has been with the Together platform since February 2021 but we've actually had an operational mentor program for over 20 years now, so we are no strangers and I think back when we launched the program, we really launched it to address the barriers that women entrepreneurs were facing at the time, which were, you know, access to community, being able to speak with confidence about your business, access to capital and kind of building out a trusted network of support. And a lot of those barriers unfortunately still exist today and mentorship really addresses all of those things in one way or another, and I think just being able to have somebody to speak with, to share their own experiences and knowledge as well as to kind of be that network of support for you is super fantastic in addressing all of those things, you know, building the confidence to speak more about your business and to trust your own decision-making ability and to be able to trust yourself as you grow. It's helpful to have somebody who's there along the way and I always say, you know, family and friends can be super great as a support network but sometimes it's just really nice to speak with somebody who has been in the position that you've been in and really understands the intricacies and the ups and downs. And in our case of entrepreneurship and in career mentoring, you know, in those different roles so who really understands those experiences and is able to speak to them and share with you their own experiences.
Brittany: Awesome. What about you, Kate?
Kate: I echo many of the things Jacqueline said. I think mentoring is simply a great way to learn. It's learning through a relationship with someone else, so it's totally different than being in a classroom for a one-time learning event or learning from online self-paced programs. You know, those things are good but I don't think they can compare in some ways to building a relationship with someone in your organization or a related organization that knows the context, the challenges, the good things about an organization and the negative things as well, so it's a great learning experience and we know that organizations or companies that have mentoring programs have higher engagement levels. Period. Right? So, it's kind of a no-brainer in terms of improving a culture in an organization.
Brittany: Amazing. That is so great to hear, and I also love the diverse perspectives of your mentoring programs. Jacqueline, I know yours is very focused on supporting women, versus Kate, yours is more general around career development and growth, so I'm very excited to hear from the both of you, given that you have different approaches to mentoring and your programs serve different needs within your organization, so that's fantastic. And yeah, I fully agree. Perfect. You both have very successful mentoring programs right now but I'm sure it hasn't always been that way. You mentioned that prior to working to Together, you had mentoring programs that were in place, and I imagine there are obstacles along that journey. I would love for you to speak to those and share some of those obstacles that you faced as well as what you learned from it. Maybe I'll pass it off to Kate first for this one.
Kate: Sure. Okay, so at the UN, before we used Together, there were various mentoring programs coordinated by different offices. Some by my parent office, the HR department in New York, but there hadn't been any centralized approach like we were trying to do, and certainly there hadn't been, you know, the use of software to facilitate a mentoring program like we wanted to do. There had been a small HR pilot actually using software two years before and the woman who ran that one was the one who first started building the idea for a more comprehensive one. So, we had no idea about interest level that we were going to get. We didn't know the best way to invite people, we didn't know if we would have a balance of mentees and mentors, so I think the obstacles were, it was a great unknown. You know, we just didn't know how it would go over, we didn't know if the algorithm would work well in the cohort format that we were trying in the pilot. So, you know, we did what we could with a project plan, got feedback from colleagues to some extent and worked, you know, closely with Together to get their ideas and it's not really part of this question but we decided to go small in a pilot at first and that was a way of giving us a sense of control and feeling like we could manage things. So, we limited how many people could join and which profiles of people we could accept in the initial pilot.
Brittany: That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.
Brittany: Jacqueline, anything you'd like to add?
Jacqueline: Yeah, I mean, I think for us, one of the biggest obstacles that we faced at the start of the program, and I'm sure for folks who are listening in and maybe have a smaller mentorship program, is really just kind of keeping track of all the different moving pieces. You know, we were purely working out of Excel spreadsheets before we started working with Together and being able to kind of manage who's paired with who and who exists in the program as well as like, being able to kind of manage that reporting piece as well. It is a little tricky and starting to gather all that information and learning how to gather all that information was challenging, so, you know, we're obviously very grateful for the Together platform because it has been a super huge help in supporting us in overcoming a lot of those challenges, so definitely I would say those were two things as well as kind of around the recruitment piece, just being able to ensure that we have the right fit for everybody within the program. We do have quite a wide range of Industries, backgrounds and stages of business for the mentees that are participating. So, for us, just being able to ensure that we did have enough folks and folks in the right places who were willing to be mentors to those people as well.
Brittany: Amazing. That's great to hear. Thank you both. And just one quick call out, I’m loving the engagement within the chat and seeing the Q&A questions roll in, which is fantastic. I do just want to call out that we will cover all of the questions within the Q&A towards the end of the call. I think some of them may be answered in the coming prompts that we have here. So, don't want anyone to feel ignored. We will definitely circle back to all the questions that are in the Q&A, so keep them coming. Amazing. So, we will move to our next question here, which is specific for Kate. So, Kate, you have grown your program, as you mentioned, from a small pilot to now a much larger program that I think has a cumulative 2,000 participants over the years. Can you share more about why you chose to pilot first and then what you learned?
Kate: Sure. So, I'm with the UN Secretariat, which is the largest body or entity within the UN system, but we wanted to open the pilot to everyone in the whole UN system, which is over a hundred thousand people. So, at first, we thought okay, we have to limit this in the pilot stage, and that was important so that we just felt comfortable with running the program, right? And making sure that people found their way okay in navigating the flow, in identifying and requesting people all of this. So, like I mentioned, we started off small, we had to figure out, all right, who are the groups in our organization that spans, you know, like, hundreds of locations in the world, who are the groups of people that might be most in need of having a mentor. And, for example, one group were people in peacekeeping duty stations. Duty station simply means like a city. One of the global cities where we have staff. And so, people in peacekeeping duty stations are often in hardship duty stations, we call them, where things can be rough. You know, there may not be steady electricity, for example, and there might be security risks with even getting to work and back, because there might be armed conflicts in the region. So, we were deliberately trying to market the program to people in some of the big peacekeeping duty stations. We know that people in the junior professional levels at the UN tend to be more dissatisfied in some ways than others, so we made an effort to market to them. So, we did a little bit of that, figuring out which groups might be most interested. Yeah, I could talk so much about what we learned but that's a little bit, I don't know how you want to take it from here.
Brittany: Okay. I think that's super helpful so far. It sounds like you started with like, really identifying your goals and priorities of who you felt like should be in that pilot program. There's a question in the Q&A that actually very closely ties to this question, so maybe I'll ask it now. Someone wants to know like, how small is small? So, when you started your pilot, like, exactly how many people were in there?
Kate: Okay, so, we were aiming to come up with like, 200 pairs in the pilot. We thought that that could be manageable, and so we decided to go for it. We wound up with like, I think over 350 or 400 pairs just in the pilot alone. There was a huge amount of interest. We launched in September 2020, so people, you know, it was the height of the pandemic still in many ways and people felt, I think, very isolated of course and lots of un staff were working from home full-time regardless of their location. And I think this contributed to the huge outpouring of interest, you know, the idea of connecting virtually in a Team's meeting was just normal everyday activity by that point, and a year prior, it definitely had not been. You know, we were not using Teams at all. So, yeah, we learned that people are receptive to this and that they were eager to connect with others in other locations, in other job families. People just took to it very easily.
Brittany: That's fantastic to hear. And in a lot of ways, that is what, you know, the pilot is for, to gauge interest and then hopefully to grow it, hopefully there is interest in it. It scales from there. Which is exactly what you've done. Awesome. Okay, next question I have is specific for Jacqueline. So, Jacqueline, your program has the goal of supporting women. So, curious if you can share more about how that may have influenced your approach to building the program itself.
Jacqueline: Yeah, absolutely. I think the ways that it's impacted our program are kind of twofold. So, first, with regards to outreach and pairing, we do our best to kind of curate and listen to the needs of our mentees when we are going through the pairing process. We understand that some folks might have more specific needs or want somebody who has an aligned experience to their own. So, for example, we have some mentees in the program who are moms and they want to be paired with somebody else who has the experience of raising a child while building out their business because it is a quite unique experience. And so, being able to listen to what the needs of the mentees are and be able to respond to those needs is super important as well as of course when we do our outreach, finding women champions particularly in male-dominated fields because it's important, again, to have that understanding of a unique experience. And so, being able to have the mentors available to support and to be paired with folks, it's super important to us. So, the way that we approach our outreach and our pairing is pretty unique as well. Within the platform as well we do have an option for mentees to request whether they'd prefer to be paired with a woman identifying mentor or if they don't have a preference, just so, again, we can ensure that they are comfortable completely throughout their impairing, and we also do take into account at the unique experience of women entrepreneurs in the program structure. We provide some additional support or we ensure that we always make ourselves available to listen to their needs and we also make the program a little bit more flexible as well. We let the mentor and mentee determine when they would like to meet, what works best for their schedule and it kind of allows that additional work-life balance by not setting a rigid structure in what times they're meeting, just because, again, we do understand that as a women entrepreneur, you do tend to have a lot of other responsibilities outside of your business, so we want to be able to make the program as flexible and as accommodating as possible.
Brittany: That's really amazing. It sounds like you very much understand what people are looking for out of the program and then you try to bake that into, you know, who you invite to participate as mentors than perhaps even the pairing algorithm itself. Is that fair?
Brittany: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing, Jacqueline. Next question is for both of you. So, I think we've chatted about this already but you both have really impressive enrollment metrics, just how many people have participated in the program. Are you able to share, you know, what you did to really maximize enrollment and participation in the mentoring programs that you run?
Kate: Sure, yeah. I can start off. Some of the key things we've done are quite straightforward. We've done articles on our intranet, so we reach people there. We've done a lot of targeted emailing. You know, we're able to dissect our staff population by level, by location, by the learning programs that they've already finished. For example, people who have done leadership and management programs might be more interested in continuing their learning through mentoring. So, we send targeted emails, you know, with a link to the registration page. That has worked well. We plug the program in various HR meetings on a range of other topics. You know, so if there's a big discussion, a big event on the anti-racism campaign, I might attend and put in the comments, you know, something related to the topic but also plugging the mentoring program, because some of these big discussions or big meetings have huge audiences and we've seen that this can, that advertising a little bit, you know, can trigger some registrations the next day. Yeah, those are a few of the key things that we do.
Brittany: Awesome. Jacqueline, any other tactics that have worked well?
Jacqueline: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, similar things to what Kate was mentioning, kind of leveraging existing events and communication networks to share more. Sharing success stories and sharing testimonials as well is something that we've found has been super helpful because it allows people to see like, themselves in the program and say, oh, if that was beneficial for somebody who's going through something similar to me, then it could be beneficial for me as well. So, I think sharing testimonials as well as word of mouth has been very successful for us as well.
Kate: I just want to add that we early on realized that we had to focus marketing on recruiting the mentors much more than the mentees for a long stretch, and still to some extent, we don't have to do any marketing to get mentees to sign up. They hear through word of mouth like Jacqueline mentioned, and our concern is always, you know, do we have enough mentors? The mentees will just come organically.
Brittany: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, those are both really helpful responses and I think very useful tactics that people can take away. Just to add on some other things I've heard have worked well, I think is getting senior leadership involved. I think having, you know, someone sponsor the program or really reinforce the message, so it's not just coming from one team or one person usually goes a long way. Sometimes having a launch event can also help to, you know, formally kick off the program and create kind of the buzz. And then, Jacqueline, you mentioned this but sharing employees’ success stories or even just emphasizing the benefits of mentorship, I think, particularly the benefits of being a mentor can sometimes create more interest from that group as well. So, awesome. Thank you so much. And I am blown away by the comments within the Q&A and I do just want to reiterate. I promise we're going to get to these questions here towards the end of our time together but please keep them coming. It's awesome to see the engagement. Amazing. So, next question is for both of you, and this is actually a popular one within the Q&A now, so definitely seems like there's interest in the answer here. But I think we can all agree that, you know, when mentors and mentees are supported, then they're more likely to get the most out of a mentoring relationship. Are you able to share what you have done to really ensure that mentors and mentees have that training and guidance to do so?
Jacqueline: Yeah. I'm happy to start here, Kate. I know for us, specifically, we host quarterly mentor events for all of our mentors where we do focus on different learning opportunities that specifically surround how to get the most out of your mentorship and how to be a great mentor. We record all of those events and we kind of keep them on the Together platform in the resource section along with other resources that we've created and some other resources that are available that do support folks in understanding, you know, maybe whether it's understanding how to how to use the platform or understanding how to make the most out of their mentorship. Those resources are always available to them. And another thing that we do is we do have onboarding calls with folks as they're joining the program, so that provides us with an opportunity to have that first point of contact where we can explain a little bit more about what the program entails and kind of how to approach it to get the most out of it as well as answer any questions that they have, right off the top. And then we also just make ourselves available throughout their entire pairing. We do regular check-ins just to make sure that everything's going smoothly. So, that's kind of our approach.
Kate: So, I can add that at the very beginning, when we first did our pilot, I was actually very concerned that we were not going to be able to have a serious formal series of training sessions for our mentors. We realized we couldn't support that with our tiny team and the other projects and programs we're trying to do. So, I was really worried how this would go. You know, would we have mentors that signed up and really, you know, couldn't communicate well and dissatisfied mentees would be complaining to us. I was really curious to see how that would go over, given that we were simply going to do an orientation webinar, which is about an hour and then encourage mentors to do some self-paced online programs. And we were so happy with the result, and we still, you know, over two years later, don't have a formal, you know, hybrid or fully online with a facilitator type of program for mentors. What we've found is that people who, as you can imagine, volunteer to be a mentor, generally for the most part have good communication skills. They want to be generous with their time and to share their experiences. So, we've been very pleased about that because with our huge numbers of participants and now with our Evergreen model where people are joining all the time, we would not be able to make sure everybody went through a training. And in our program, we are positioning it as the type of program where everyone has something to share regardless of their level, regardless of how long they've been with the UN. You know, if someone's been in the UN for six months, they've actually picked up so much cultural knowledge and have a lot of things that they can share with somebody who just started. So, just wanted to add that about like, the need for training. Now, I realize this might vary a lot according to the type of organization you're in. And then these days, what we do are similar to the things that Jacqueline talked about, we have online learning programs to refer them to, we have handbooks, mentor and mentee handbooks which are PDF documents on the platform and then a separate dedicated HR site. We hold monthly support sessions which are simply hour-long Teams meetings where we invite all mentees and then separately, all mentors to come and ask questions. We had one this morning. I did a little mini presentation. We do like, learning moments where we can cover a specific topic to help generate conversation in the meetings. Yeah, and I think overall, people feel very well supported. Some mentors would like more, but at this point, you know, we're only able to manage to do a few things.
Brittany: Totally. Totally. It also seems like there's, you know, common themes between your two responses that maybe people can take away, like, both of you are very available if mentors and mentees do need. Like, if they have questions or need support, the concept of almost like, mentorship mixers or check-ins, I think you're both doing, which is fantastic, and then also providing like, additional resources. I know many of those are part of the Together platform but really making sure that you've tailored, you know, agendas or linked to your own content within the platform to provide that like, extra that context that might be unique to The Forum or the UN, so that's great. Thank you. Awesome. We can move to the next question, which is for Jacqueline. So, Jacqueline, your program participants work entirely remotely, which I think is now becoming more and more common and we have a lot of attendees on the call who may be in similar positions. How do you find managing a mentoring program within a remote first organization?
Jacqueline: Yeah, honestly, I think since we transitioned to a remote first, you know, mentorship, it's been fantastic because it's widened the options for mentor-mentee relationships, because previously, you were kind of locked down by geographic location, whereas now we have a nationwide program and folks can connect cross-country, so you can set preferences, and we do have that set up in the Together algorithm to say, if someone would prefer to be paired with somebody who's in their province or their time zone, that's an option as well that we've factored into the algorithm. But for the most part, it expands people's options and it allows them to have more opportunities to connect with folks that they maybe wouldn't have, had it been an in-person program. So, I think for us, the decision to move it to be a remote program was really fantastic and we've got a lot of great feedback. I mean we have some folks who are paired coast to coast with someone in Nova Scotia paired with someone in DC and if it works for them, they're able to make that time difference work and they have a fantastic relationship that they likely wouldn't have had otherwise, so it's been really great.
Brittany: Good, that's awesome to hear. Yeah, I think definitely a common theme we've heard from you guys of course but from many of our other customers is setting those rules around time zones is important, even like, things like the calendar integration can help a lot with that as well. And yeah, I don't know maybe this is more of a personal anecdote but working from home, it's almost more important to stay connected and mentorship can even play an even larger role within an organization if you are remote first, so thank you, Jacqueline. Kate. So, Kate, you began with a cohort program and now you've moved over to an Evergreen program. There's probably people on the call where, you know, those are new terms and might not understand what the differences are between the two formats and when an admin might consider each. Are you able to explain that a little bit and then also share more on your journey and experience with cohort versus Evergreen?
Kate: Sure, yeah. So, a cohort format is several months long. It has a finite start and end date, it encourages people to pair quickly. So, once the ‘Go’ button, so to speak, is pressed, then people have, you know, you can give them like a week or two to find a mentor and then pairing closes. So, new people cannot join for say, the spring season. So, we ran three cohorts. We did like, spring, fall, spring, something like that. And, you know, then we were hearing about the Evergreen format and we decided to go for it for a few reasons. One, it would make it easier for clients to be able to join. So, you know, they could join more easily at any time of the year. We were hoping that this would result in higher numbers overall, you know, maximizing the opportunity for people out there. They wouldn't have to wait until June you know to sign up again. It also would be… it has been easier on us with the Evergreen format in terms of workload related to marketing and communications. So, we launched the Evergreen in March of this year and we've done some marketing of the program but we don't have to be tied to the start and end dates of a cohort. We don't have to track things very closely, we can like, you know, step back from monitoring when we need to for other projects because it's a year-round program. So, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, but for us, so far overall, I think the Evergreen is working better for us.
Brittany: Okay, that's super interesting. Thank you. Yeah, and I definitely agree, if you're going to have like, an always-on program, like, for the course of the full year, then Evergreen can make a lot of sense. And also, if you're in an industry where, you know, the pace of change is really quick, maybe people are joining your company or leaving your company frequently, then the Evergreen format really naturally accommodates for that, versus cohort sometimes having that fixed length can actually be really important to the structure of the program. Maybe it's specific for interns and you want to have a time down for that reason. So, very helpful and great to have your experience as you've worked on both formats with the platform before, so that's helpful. Thank you. Okay, this is my favorite question. I love hearing anecdotes of people who have been like, impacted by mentoring. I would love to just, you know, see if either of you have any success stories from mentors or mentees that stick out, and is there any takeaways on how you could replicate that experience.
Kate: I can start off. Yeah, I like thinking about this question and one story came to mind. Let me preface it with how in our program when you're filling out a questionnaire as a mentee or as a mentor, there's a question about which social groups do you affiliate with? And we have the responses as like, women, parent, caregiver, lgTbq community, persons with disabilities, maybe one or two others but those are some of them. We want to expand that actually, so I'd love ideas on what other groups to include. Anyway, so, in one of our mentor support sessions, we heard from a mentor just simple but moving story about how in the first meeting she had with a mentee, the guy said, you know, I saw your profile and I saw that you had worked in X Duty station. I honestly can't remember which country it was in. And she said yes, and then he asked a lot of questions about the work that she had done there. And then in the second meeting though, he said, you know, he brought up how she had put in her profile that she, you know, was open to talking about the lgbtq topic or issue that she had listed that in her social affiliation groups. And so, he brought this up kind of shyly but then basically said look, you know, I really… he either had a job opportunity in that city or was thinking of applying there and he really wanted to know about life in that country because it was a place where, you know, people are not allowed to express themselves the way they are in a lot of other countries and he was worried about his own personal security, you know, working in that place, but he really wanted the job. So, I found this just so enlightening to hear about because she said, he was so grateful that he could open up to her that he could get the information he actually really needed to make a decision and get, you know, career help and guidance too on that level. So, that just stood out because we hadn't been able to get much feedback about how that feature in the questionnaire had been working, and it also just tells us that, you know, how important these conversations are and how you really cannot get information like that from other sources in a comfortable way. But if you're building a relationship with another colleague, you know, you can. So, that was one story that stood out.
Brittany: Awesome. That's very special, and I agree, there's not always a great forum to have those types of discussions in organizations and your mentor or mentee can be a really important outlet to have those types of conversations, so thank you. Jacqueline, is there anything that has stood out for you or special stories from your program?
Jacqueline: Yeah, I think it's interesting having a mentorship program that's focused around business specifically, because there is a lot of opportunity to have kind of cross-industry mentorship pairings as well, and it's funny because folks tend to shy away from those because they come into the program saying, ‘I want to be paired with somebody who's in the exact same industry as me, who knows all of the ins and outs’ but sometimes that's not necessarily what actually will be supporting them or the most helpful for them kind of moving forward. And in one of my previous roles, I had the experience to watch a mentor pairing between an entrepreneur who owned an exotic plant business and a banker as the mentor. So, very different Industries, you know, very different backgrounds, very different experiences, but hearing from the mentee at the end of the program that she was so thrilled to have been part of the program and she learned things that she never would have expected and kind of that her mentor was asking her questions and kind of challenging her ideas and perspectives in a way that she never would have been able to experience if she had been paired with somebody who was in the same industry as her. So, just being able to kind of have those really different perspectives and entrepreneurship, it allows you to kind of have somebody who can see your products through the eyes of your customer which you might not get from somebody who's so zoned into your industry, and so that's always really fantastic. And then on the flip side, I've had pairings where folks have been in the exact same industry but the mentor obviously is just much further along and I think something that is always super inspiring for me to see from those pairings is that the mentee will say, ‘well, wow, this person has so many more years of experience but they still feel like nervous and it makes me feel validated in the end in my feelings that I'm nervous and I sometimes don't know the right answer’, and to see somebody who even has those years of experience and who is so qualified in that profession still have those questions, it just makes them feel so much more comfortable and, you know, it feels like they can really relate and they feel a lot less lonely coming out of those pairings, so seeing those is really fantastic as well.
Brittany: Yeah, those are two great examples. I love them. I think the unlikely pairs, like, someone you might not seek out, like, a lot of people, you know, try and source their own mentor which can lead you to finding someone maybe more similar to yourself, so yeah, I definitely think that that resonates. And then of course, like, almost the more cultural elements like really boosting feelings of belonging or having employees feel like heard and understood can go a long way as well, so thank you. Okay, we'll move on, so we do have enough time for Q&A towards the end. But we've heard stories of how mentorship has made an impact at the employee level. I'd love to also hear of… I know, hear a bit about how mentoring has made an impact to the organization/ (in The Forum's case) Community. Are you able to share a bit more on results?
Jacqueline: I can start. I mean, I think a lot of the stuff that I've spoken to in some of my previous answers really kind of relate to this question as well, in terms of like, the impact, a lot of things that we hear, it's often increased focus, clarity, support and perspective. So, a lot of feedback that comes in around those things specifically, you know, a reminder to stick to your values, a challenge to think about things from different angles and also just I think a lot of more, you know, we do see a lot of improvements around kind of hard skills, for lack of a better way of putting it, you know, how to manage your money, how to register your business, those types of skills. But then also a lot of the feedback and the impact that we see is really around a reminder to be kind to yourself, a feeling of confidence after having someone be genuinely interested and invested in your success, in your business's success and really just a feeling of confidence and support and in the building of that community, I think has been so integral and such an amazing impact and outcome of the mentorship program, and for us to have almost, we're just shy of 500 active pairings right now across Canada. So, to be able to even know that we are impacting that many women entrepreneurs just through mentorship is so incredible and I know that within the mentor pairings themselves, it's their own little community, so being able to grow that community is super special.
Brittany: Yeah, definitely inspiring. Thank you. Kate, what about you? Any notable results at the UN?
Kate: I would say that, you know, our program has made a really strong impact. We have gotten such positive feedback from participants, the whole last two years plus. And, you know, that says a lot because at the UN, what our staff engagement surveys show is that engagement overall for our staff, our employees is pretty high, but in the survey on the questions that relate to careers, the scores are much lower. So, for a variety of reasons in the UN, people have a lot of dissatisfaction about their career paths, about their career opportunities. We're structured in many ways like a government is, so there's a very strong sense of hierarchy and there are fewer positions available as you move up. Anyway, I'm happy to report that in our last step engagement survey which was a year ago, on a couple of the career questions, there was a spike, you know, of like, four or five percentage points. And one of the questions was ‘I am given opportunities for professional development’. That went up like, five or six percentage points from 2019 so, you know, we had launched already. Now, I don't have proof that the mentoring program is really, you know, directly related to that increase but I think it might be. You know, we've had thousands of people join and partner with people at this point, and hopefully, going forward, we'll figure out how to measure this through the survey and through other means, you know, on an ongoing basis.
Brittany: That's incredible. Well, whether it's related to mentorship or not, although I hope it is. That's impressive. So, congratulations. It's very great to see such an improvement on important metrics like that. Thank you. Okay, both of you have been running mentoring programs for a couple of years now. I would love for you to speak to like, what the vision is beyond what you're doing now and really how you see mentoring sit within your community or learning and development strategy.
Kate: Okay, one thing I can share on this that might be interesting is that we've realized that mentoring is one great way of doing peer-based career support but there are other programs that could use the same type of technology and the same fundamental ideas, like peer coaching. You know, we're going to be using the Together platform to set up a peer coaching program next year. Basically, involves staff who have coaching certification being connected with staff who seek short-term career-oriented coaching. We also hope to launch a buddy system using the Together technology. That will enable people who are transferring to other cities or countries to connect with somebody who's already there, who can help them get oriented as they move their families sometimes and, you know, their whole lives to a new country. The idea is that the buddy will help get them acclimated. So, mentoring is now, we see it as one piece in the puzzle that is career support and orientation induction support, and that's pretty exciting because we don't have a big budget for learning and development like a lot of places, right? So, the more that we can use our staff as learning agents, all the better.
Brittany: Yeah, definitely. That's great to hear. Thank you. Jacqueline, what about you?
Jacqueline: Yeah, I think for us, we've had such significant growth in our mentorship program over the past few years. We're really just hoping to kind of continue with that momentum and continue to grow the program itself. Our goals are really around kind of expanding our reach and also creating more diversity, equity, inclusion, focuses on our mentorship pairings and on the people that we bring into the program as well, so kind of approaching the program with that lens as we grow it is something that's super important to us. And we really just want to continue to use the mentorship program as one part of our community connection. We're all about creating community, as I'm sure I've said the word a thousand times in this panel today, so just having that as one of our opportunities and options for women entrepreneurs to continue to grow their community is something that's really important to us, and we're also really excited to continue to leverage and integrate some of Together's new tools that we're really looking forward to using. You know, we've got plans to start using the survey function, we're considering, you know, Evergreen, so Kate was so lovely to hear some more insights about that. So, just being able to kind of listen to what the folks in our community are saying and implementing new tools and options for them.
Brittany: Awesome. Okay, that's really, really amazing to hear. It's just great to hear stories of, you know, mentorship of course growing with an organization but also just like, the general theme of learning and keeping community members or employees connected. That's great. Thank you. Okay, this is the last question I'm going to ask and then we have a ton of questions in the Q&A, so we will have time for those, but last question from my side at least for Jacqueline and Kate is, what final advice would you give to someone who either has just started a mentoring program or who has one already but really wants to take it to the next level?
Jacqueline: For me, I'll keep it as short and sweet as I can. I would say, listen to the people in your community about what they want in a mentor program and actually implement their feedback as well as leverage a platform like Together because it's so helpful in honestly managing a program and helping it grow and expand. So, those are my two pieces of advice.
Brittany: Thank you, and we appreciate the love for Together. That's awesome to hear. Thank you.
Kate: And I would say, it's just, you know, super important to do regular old project planning basics, you know, identify who you're trying to connect and why, and figure out what, you know, just write down what the goals are for your program, what your target numbers might be. Yeah, those are some nuts and bolts that I offer.
Brittany: Okay. Perfect. Okay, I'm very excited to move over to the Q&A. There's been lots of activity in the chat. I wanted to shout out Ryan, Brent and Nathan who are from Together and have been actively answering some questions there, so thank you for sharing those resources while we've been chatting. I'll focus on the questions that are in the Q&A. The first one is: Were your programs initiated by HR or a specific department?
Kate: So, in my case, it was definitely HR. I'm with the central HR department.
Jacqueline: Our program is kind of its own program just because it's not an internal program within The Forum, it's an external program that's offered to our community. So, it was its own program.
Brittany: Okay. There are a few different questions about criteria for participation and qualifying mentors. I'm curious if either of you did anything to help qualify who should participate as a mentor or mentee.
Kate: So, as I mentioned, for our program, we realized we wouldn't be able to train people to be mentors because of capacity reasons, so we've been very, you know, let's say, fair about that. But to help, to make that work, our program's goals are broad. So, in our mentoring program, we encourage people to come with a range of career-oriented issues, right? It's not very specific. They might be talking about problems they have with their boss right now or they might be talking about the next promotion they want to get or moving to another country. So, when you keep the range of topics broad, then it kind of gives you more confidence in terms of not being able to train your mentors, right? Because they might be asked various things and they can say, you know, I can't really help you on that one, what else would you like to discuss? So, yeah, that's what I can offer.
Jacqueline: I think for us, we do have some criteria, both on the mentee and the mentor’s side. So, for mentees, we tend to say, it's folks who are beyond the idea stage and kind of ready to operationalize their business can benefit the most from a long-term mentorship. Our program is a 12-month program, so you're paired one to one with one mentor one mentee for a 12-month period. So, it is a longer term relationship, which means that those goals are a little bit more long-term and do require to be a little bit more specific. So, having someone who's beyond the idea stage for our mentees and then for our mentors, folks with five years or more experience, either running their own business or as an industry leader in their industry, so just to ensure that, you know, everyone's getting the most that they can out of the program, those are our criteria.
Brittany: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you. Maybe, I think I can answer this next one, which is around how you map skills between mentors and mentees. So, if you are using software, I think ours definitely does, and I think other software as well. There'll be like, a registration questionnaire where both mentors and mentees can input their skills or what they view their skills to be and then where they want to learn and develop, and those responses are then part of the algorithm. So, you're matching mentors who have expertise in certain skills with mentees who want to learn those skills. So, that's a function of software. If you are running a manual program, then I think you could do that in a similar way through a survey and then try to, on your own, match people based on survey responses there. Okay. There's a question around how you integrate D E and I into your mentoring program. Did either of you consider that when building the program and how did that come to life?
Kate: Go ahead, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline: Okay, thank you. Sorry. As I kind of mentioned, it's something that we're hoping to expand on and really focus on in the few, the upcoming years is how to better integrate that into the program. As of right now, like I said, we do take a quite personalized approach when it comes to the pairing. So, if there are any preferences or if there are any unique experiences that folks would like to be reflected in their pairing, then we do take those into account and do our best to accommodate and find somebody who has an understanding of that experience and will make that individual feel comfortable within the mentorship hearing, so that's where we're at right now, and Kate, I mean if you're doing anything else, I'd love to learn because like I said, it's something we're working on right now.
Kate: You know, it's an area we need to work on as well. Of course, the UN is extremely diverse. We have staff from literally hundreds of countries, right? So, while there's lots of geographic representation, as we call it, you know, when you're searching for a mentor, we know from different studies that people tend to look for someone like themselves, including how they look, right? And the country that they come from. So, yeah, we need to do more work on that. I just want to mention that like I said earlier, we have in the questionnaire a place where people can list their social affiliation groups, so that is one way, you know, to connect people who have common interests and those might be interest like with the lgbtq drop down, you know, in the case I mentioned, people were able to connect on that. We've thought about, you know, possibly how would work to allow people to put which ethnicity or nationality or race that they identify with. We have not done that yet. I think, you know, there's some sensitivities on how we would do that and, you know, we need to explore it more, but that would facilitate people to at least know ‘okay, when I'm looking at these profiles, I can look for somebody different from me if I want’ because there's more information, right? And then just lastly, in our support sessions and in our materials, we continually encourage people to look for someone who has a different profile than you in all dimensions, not just in work experience. Because of course, we have seen that people look for people that are like themselves.
Brittany: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you. Great. Next question is: It seems that mentors are often in more short supply than mentees. How have you really ensured like, maximum pairings? So, I guess the root of the question here is how do you attract mentors into the program so that you get more pairings?
Kate: Okay. A couple quick tips from me. I can say that we've learned to space out our marketing attempts or our communications around the need for mentors. So, we try not to bombard people too regularly with emails or with internet articles. Similarly, we always, you know, hope and wish that our most senior leaders at the UN will join because they've set a great example, you know, to see their name listed and as a possible mentor is always exciting and inspiring for staff but we have to be very careful with how often we invite them because they are asked to do so many things. So, yeah, it's just being mindful about all the obligations that mentors have beyond the mentoring program and, you know, doing a review of the records every so often to see ‘okay, who do we have on board now, who else might be, you know, what other groups might we want to target?’ So, really reviewing the information periodically can help as well.
Brittany: Makes sense. What about in The Forum's case, Jacqueline?
Jacqueline: For us, we have the benefit of being able to ask external to our organization, so we do have quite a large pool of options of folks to ask from, which has been really helpful for us. And I think leveraging other members of our community or other kind of professional service groups and other partners and stuff to ask them to share with their networks has been super helpful, so just kind of leveraging the community that we have and also not being afraid to ask because a lot of times, people do really want to give back and they do want to be able to support others and help them grow. So, not being afraid to ask and put it out there and see if it's of interest.
Brittany: Definitely. Definitely. And I see there's lots of chat in our chat on this topic as well, so I'll highlight a couple other things that have come up. I think one is more people can be a mentor than maybe you think. I think not everyone sees themselves as a mentor sometimes but really building that confidence up within your group of participants and providing the training so that they feel comfortable being a mentor is a good place to start. And then also, we do have peer-to-peer options as well. If you are in an industry where it's really hard to come by mentors, maybe it's like, a new industry in general and there just aren't that many people who are tenured in the space, then peer-to-peer programs may be a good option for you too. We are one minute away from two o'clock here and there's so many questions still outstanding, so we will follow up with some more responses and articles to those that asked within the Q&A but I do want to make sure that we're ending on time, in that everyone rent has time to jump to their next meeting. So, just some final thoughts from me. We do have tons and tons of resources on our website. I've highlighted four here, but there's a lot more. There's some interest on building a business case. We have a white paper that will walk you through that. And I do see some of the resources being dropped in the chat which is great but definitely check these out and they'll be included in the email we send with the recording after this call. And then finally, if you are interested in either expanding your current mentoring program with Together or launching one, I definitely can encourage you to book some time with us. We can talk through what that might look like and give you a demo of the product itself. But with that, we're right on time, two o'clock. I just wanted to say a final thank you to everyone who participated today. It's great to see so many people show up to chat about mentorship. We had almost 150 people which is crazy, that's awesome and so encouraging. And then of course, to our panelists, Jacqueline, Kate, you did an amazing job. I learned something today which is awesome. I'm sure the people on the call did as well, so thank you for giving us your time and expertise today.
Kate: Thank you, Brittany. It was a pleasure, and so nice to meet you too, Jacqueline. And yeah, look forward to future conversations.
Jacqueline: Yeah. Yeah, you too. Thank you. Sorry, I also just want to say, if folks do have questions, feel free to connect on LinkedIn. I'm happy to chat mentorship anytime, so definitely. But thank you so much for the opportunity and great to meet both of you, and thanks again.
Brittany: Awesome. Well, thank you again and I hope everyone has an amazing holiday season, and we're at the mid-December here, so enjoy the holidays, everyone, and thank you again. Take care.
Kate: You too. Okay, bye.