How to start a mentoring program without software

October 30, 2015

A successful corporate mentoring program requires a strong plan of action, measurable goals, and an understanding of what is required from everyone involved. While mentoring software can make your program more effective and easier to manage, there are several things that should be done to get your program on the right track before investing in software.

Building the business case for mentoring

Before a mentoring program can get underway successfully, there needs to be an understanding of why the program will be beneficial to the organization.

A successful business case for mentoring contains the following elements:

  • The benefits of mentoring for mentees
  • The benefits of mentoring for mentors
  • The connection of mentoring to specific business objectives (recruitment cost reduction, creation of a leadership pipeline, etc.)
  • Clearly defined mentoring program objectives
  • Relevant metrics to determine mentoring success

This step gives participants, managers and company leadership a good understanding of why you need a mentoring program and how it will serve the goals of the organization.

Mentee training

Mentee training is important for ensuring that mentees get all of their questions and concerns addressed, and that they understand what is required of them to be a successful participant in the program. Mentee training should address concerns such as:

  • Phases of a mentoring partnership
  • Defining what a mentee wants most from their mentor (specific areas of improvement, particular skills to be learned, etc.)
  • Addressing "what if?" scenarios involving the mentoring program
  • How to ask for feedback from a mentor and how to provide it in return
  • Characteristics of a good mentee

Mentees must go through adequate training before a mentoring program is launched to ensure that they understand their responsibilities. The specifics of mentee training will depend on the exact goals of the program.

Mentor training

Mentor training is required to make mentors feel confident that they can fulfil their role as a helpful source of knowledge for mentees. During the mentor training phase, mentors should be educated in areas like:

  • How to be an effective mentor
  • Styles of learning and communication
  • Working directly with a mentee
  • Maintaining a mentoring relationship
  • What to do when a mentoring partnership isn't working

In some cases, a separate mentor workshop may be necessary so that mentors can receive in-depth knowledge about how to observe and document mentee behavior and then give effective feedback based on those observations.

Manager training

Although the manager's role isn't as direct as the mentor or the mentee, they still have an important function: addressing and resolving any issues in the mentoring partnership before they become a serious obstacle. In that vein, manager training to create an effective mentoring program should touch on the following subjects:

  • An overview of manager responsibilities in mentoring
  • Common questions from mentors and mentees and how to respond
  • Addressing obstacles to a successful mentoring relationship
  • How to be a supportive manager without interfering in a mentoring relatioship

It is especially important that managers are aware of the business case for mentoring and how the program ties in to core business objectives. This helps them ensure that mentoring partnerships are on track to meet objectives based on metrics like time-to-productivity and employee satisfaction.

Following this process when implementing your mentoring program ensures that when your organization is ready for mentoring software, it will facilitate significant improvements in the program's effectiveness.

For more information about mentoring and what a valuable mentoring program looks like, download Insala's new 2015 mentoring benchmarking survey.

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