7 Ways to Improve Mentor and Mentee Engagement

August 18, 2015

You've spent countless hours creating the goals for your mentoring program, assigning mentors to mentees, and establishing a timeline.

But if you're like most organizations, there's one key element you are forgetting: engagement.

Without sustained engagement, even the best-planned corporate mentoring program is doomed to fail. Here are 7 tips for improving engagement among mentors, mentees and program managers alike:

1. Position it as an organizational strategy

Participants in your corporate mentoring program shouldn't think of this initiative as a trivial team building activity at the bottom of their priority list. You need to make it clear to both mentors and mentees that working on the mentoring program is the same as working on the business.

This attitude shouldn't be limited to program participants. Everyone at the company, even top-level leadership, needs to view mentoring as a critical element of organizational success. The Harvard Business Review says that mentoring needs to be "embraced as part of the ethos of a firm." In other words, you can't just tell people that your corporate mentoring program is important: you have to actually treat it that way.

2. Clearly define the commitment

It's easy for a person to get overwhelmed by a commitment to a mentoring program that requires more time than they expected. To avoid this situation, be clear at the very beginning about exactly what the mentor and mentee roles will entail, and get buy-in from the participants’ respective managers. Both sides have to commit time and energy to make mentoring a success: it's your job to make sure that they fully understand what this commitment will be before the program begins.

3. Communicate what's in it for them (and everyone else)

Mentoring is beneficial for both mentors and mentees. But according to the Wharton School of Business, mentoring can be even more valuable to organizations today than it was in the past, because of the increased frequency with which people, especially Millennials, change jobs in the 21st century.

You should be upfront about the benefits of mentoring programs, not just for the mentor and mentee but for the entire organization. The best way to do this is with a thorough training program. These programs help participants learn about mentoring benefits that they might not have thought about before.

4. Prepare the managers

Your mentors and mentees aren't the only ones who should be going through training. Managers also need to be aware of the desired results of the mentoring program and what they can do to support its participants. Without sufficient training, the manager’s expectations will constantly conflict with the time requirements of the mentoring program. Mentors and mentees will quickly start to use their “day-jobs” as excuses for skipping out on their regularly scheduled mentoring meetings.

5. Book meeting time up front

But don't just block out time on the calendar: make sure that there is an agenda in place at each meeting so that both the mentor and mentee know what they will be discussing. Insala's mentoring software makes it easy for participants to schedule program events and create notifications, but it is the process and plan that will make you successful, corporate mentoring software simply enables your process!

6. Check-in frequently (and engaging content)!

If you aren't regularly asking your mentors and mentees how the partnership is going, they will sometimes go outside of the guidelines of the program, which often results in a drop in engagement levels. If there is an issue that causes them to want to change the mentoring rules that you've set out, you need to understand what the problem is and how to fix it.

But remember that check-ins don't always have to be for troubleshooting. In an issue of its HR Magazine, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) talks about IBM's approach to mentoring. The company provides participants with easily accessible mentoring resources like podcasts, success stories, even a "Dear Mentor" chat area where participants can electronically submit questions.    

7. Allow no-fault reassignments

Everyone has the best of intentions when starting with a mentoring program, but things don't always work out. No one in the program should be made to feel like it is their fault if a certain mentoring partnership doesn't work out. Mentoring program participants should know that they can go to the program administrator and get re-assigned without being penalized.

Following these seven steps will help you ensure that your mentoring program lasts well beyond the kickoff phase and has a sustained positive impact on mentors, mentees, and the organization at large.

Insala offers some valuable mentoring solutions that can help you with the training, scheduling, and communication that your program needs for success.

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