Guide to starting a mentoring program, Part 2: Mentee training

November 16, 2015

Once a business case for a mentoring program has been agreed on, you will need to consider how you will qualify and train your mentees.

A well-trained mentee stands to gain much more from a mentoring program than one who is unsure about their role or how they will be expected to contribute. There are some critical elements that mentee training must include to ensure that mentees get what they need from the program.

Outline the commitment

Before starting a mentoring program, it's important that mentees understand what is expected of them. Both parties must make the time to invest in their mentoring program for things like meetings, correspondence, and program evaluations. A mentee who enters into a mentoring arrangement without a clear understanding of what is expected from them has a much higher likelihood of becoming frustrated or leaving the program early; explaining the required commitment should be the first step in mentee training.

Identify their learning style

Every mentee learns new skills their own way. Some prefer to get an in-depth explanation of a technique or idea before they attempt it, while others prefer to jump right in and learn as they go. Still others might learn best by watching someone else demonstrate a technique and then attempting to emulate what they see.

Identifying a mentee's learning style before the program begins will help their mentor do a better job of creating an engaging, fulfilling mentoring relationship that allows the mentee to learn efficiently. Learning style is also one of the critical data points for matching mentees with appropriate mentors.

Choose desired goals

While it is important for a mentee to be open to learning in many different areas, mentees should also have specific personal goals they want to achieve from their mentoring program. These goals can vary widely depending on the mentee's professional role, but some examples might include:

  • Learning or getting better at a specific function of their job
  • Improving their workplace communication skills
  • Balancing many different types of tasks
  • Adjusting to a new work environment and/or function
  • Balancing work and personal life

The nature of the goals themselves is not as important as making them clearly stated and understood by everyone before the program begins. A mentee should engage in some self-reflection and then speak honestly to their mentor and program manager about which areas they want to improve in the most.

Understand potential obstacles

There will always be some things that stand in the way of a successful mentoring relationship. A mentee and their mentor might live far away from each other in different time zones, making it hard to schedule meetings. Perhaps a mentee is in the process of moving into a new home with their family, making it challenging for them to find time to dedicate to their mentoring program. Whatever these obstacles may be, it is vital that they are addressed and accounted for before the program begins.

For example, if time is a potential obstacle, a mentee might agree to reserve a certain time slot in their schedule every week to devote only to their mentoring relationship. Planning for obstacles in advance helps reduce the likelihood that they will actually become a problem once the mentoring relationship begins.

A well-prepared mentee is much more likely to have a positive, successful mentoring experience. For the latest research about mentoring to help you launch your program, check out Insala's 2015 mentoring benchmarking survey.

Related articles:

Guide to starting a mentoring program, Part 1: building the business case

How to start a mentoring program without software

The role of mentoring and alumni relations in a career progression plan

Benefits of corporate mentoring programs for onboarding: case study

How employee motivation and retention has changed in 7 years

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