7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Mentoring Program

May 11, 2012
Implementing any new company sponsored program can seem a daunting objective and pitfalls lay at every turn. Corporate mentoring programs are no different. To minimize challenges and maximize program results, we’d like to share seven recommendations that have proven successful to real-world mentoring program challenges. Most recommendations seem obvious, but it’s in the questions asked and details examined that the most compelling information is gathered and utilized in the creation, implementation and management of a truly successful and sustainable mentoring program.
  1. Create a well-defined plan.
  2. While it may seem a no-brainer, planning is always the first step. Those responsible for implementing mentoring programs are sometimes pressured to just get it done and done quickly. But creating a well-defined plan in advance will allow you to envision the program in its various stages and hopefully see where challenges can arise that you can respond to prior to implementation.
    How does one approach planning? Consult with those who have been there and done that successfully. Work with experienced subject matter experts to ensure inclusion of all critical elements in your planning. Defining critical elements is very organization-specific. Your subject matter expert should ask you to consider the following questions:
    • How will you determine if mentoring is viable for your organization?
    • What are the organizational goals/objectives that will support the implementation of a mentoring program?
    • How will you tie mentoring to these goals/objectives?
    • How will you measure results?
    • Do you have support and commitment from all appropriate levels?
    • Can you link mentoring to your overall talent development strategy and process?
    Consider consulting with subject matter experts to guide the planning process and ask the right questions. Insala, the leading mentoring, career development and career transition solutions provider, offers a Hi-Impact Mentoring® Readiness Workshop for companies organizations exploring mentoring. Insala works with organizations to assess and define program scope, and create a realistic and achievable mentoring program plan that aligns with each organization’s unique strategic goals.

  3. Define specific and relevant measurements of program success.
  4. Once you have identified the objectives of your mentoring program and what you want to accomplish with it, you will be able to more easily define success metrics that make sense for your organization. This, too, is a critical element where subject matter experts in the Hi-Impact Mentoring® Readiness Workshop can assist. Determine how you will retrieve specific data to determine how the program is doing, where improvements can be made and identify what is not working. Presenting hard data on success factors to decision makers with ties to funding can ensure program success and longevity.

  5. Select mentoring program participants.
  6. Assuming all executives want to or have the skills to be good mentors can be detrimental to your mentoring program and the mentee assigned to the unprepared and possibly uninterested mentor.

    Ensure your mentoring program has an application process where skills and competency assessment along with commitment level can be determined. Don’t assume all executives have the skills or desire to be a good mentor and be sure to prevent unsuitable applicants from participating in your program. This will go a long way in ensuring good mentoring participants and satisfaction of both mentors and mentees.

    Your subject matter experts can guide you on appropriate tools useful in selecting participants, but to conserve time, energy and resources consider Insala’s Hi-Impact Mentoring® Application Process to assess participants, build a participant pool for effective matching and prevent those unsuitable for the program from participating.

  7. Train participants.
  8. Not everyone may know his or her role in mentoring. Offer informative and relevant training to mentors, mentees, their managers/supervisors and administrators/coordinators of the program. Give them access to engaging content and resources created by mentoring experts in various formats, i.e. online webinars, on-site workshops. Insala’s Hi-Impact Mentoring® Training Programs can help eliminate program dropouts by creating proper training methods, dissemination of mentoring content and resources to ensure effective and positive mentoring experiences.

  9. Ensure program participation is voluntary.
  10. Participants will be more likely to show up for meetings, complete assignments, be more engaged and have a more meaningful mentoring experience if participation is voluntary. With Insala’s High-Impact Mentoring® Application Process individuals can apply as mentors and mentees using an efficient and simple set of online tools. Administrators/coordinators can review and report on application responses and match with suitable mentors. Making it voluntary with a simple, accessible online application process ensures a high-quality and engaged participant pool.

  11. Ensure mentee-driven partnerships in your program.
  12. Without proper training mentors may assume they know what mentees need to learn rather than be guided by the mentee’s goals. Use training time to communicate to participants that partnerships are mentee-driven. During the application process mentees should be able to specifically identify areas of interest and develop a learning plan for both mentee and mentor use.

  13. Save time, energy and company resources by using a technology solution.
  14. The response to a successful mentoring program can be more applicants and greater participation. To keep up with the increasing demand of a large and growing program implement a technology mentoring solution to save time and energy on program administration. Insala’s Hi-Impact Mentoring® Software enables administrators/coordinators to:
    • Manage large pools of program applications more efficiently
    • Generate a greater number of compatible matches faster
    • Monitor program activities and progress from a single online platform
    • Easily report on the effectiveness of the mentoring program
    • Match/pair, track and manage mentoring programs more easily
    Laying the groundwork with experienced professionals, ensuring proper training and using customized mentoring software solutions can help organizations overcome potential program pitfalls and create a sustainable best practice mentoring program with measurable results.

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