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8 best practices to build a successful mentoring program

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of mentoring programs. They’ve been found to improve confidence in handling challenges, increase job satisfaction, and boost career ambition.

But not all mentoring programs are created equal. Before introducing one to your organization, we encourage all HR and company leaders to ask themselves: what makes a good mentorship program? While there’s no “right” answer to this question, we want to share the top mentoring best practices that we’ve observed while helping employers build their programs from the ground up.

1. Identify your goals for the program

Establishing clear goals will help you determine the design, format, and overall direction of your mentoring program.

For instance, if your goal is to reduce turnover among junior staff members, you want to focus on building a mentoring program that increases engagement. You can do this by encouraging frequent touchpoints between the mentors and mentees and making the program more accessible to employees in that demographic. 

On the other hand, if your goal is to create a pipeline of potential leaders, your mentoring program will look quite different. It may be helpful to sit down with all the stakeholders in your mentoring program and go through the following questions together:

  • What do we want to achieve with this mentoring program?
  • What problems are we hoping to address? 
  • What does success look like for participants and the company?
  • What metrics do we want to measure or achieve? 

This exercise will create alignment and a clear strategy for your mentoring program. 

2. Choose your mentors

When it comes to selecting mentors, you have to decide whether you’re going to use internal or external leaders. Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches.

Sourcing mentors internally is great because they’re familiar with your company and can provide tailored advice to those who want to progress in the organization – not to mention the mentors themselves will experience many benefits while establishing relationships with other employees at the organization. However, internal mentors may bring more subjectivity into their relationships, which can be harmful to the mentee. 

External mentors, on the other hand, bring objectivity into the relationship. They’re also a great option for organizations that don’t have enough leaders to support their mentoring program. The downside of external mentors is that they don’t have any company-specific knowledge and may not be as helpful in that regard.  

3. Be thoughtful about your matching process

Matching mentors and mentees is a process that, if not approached with care, can be prone to biases. For instance, if you allow people to pick their own mentors or mentees, they’re likely to end up choosing someone similar to themselves. This can limit growth opportunities for the mentee. That’s why we encourage companies to use a matching survey that takes an algorithmic approach. 

Remember that effective matching is about more than just skills, interests, and job descriptions. The key is to develop a well-rounded picture of each mentor and mentee and make a match based on the goals of the employee receiving mentorship.  

4. Provide guidelines 

To set your mentors and mentees up for success, we recommend establishing general guidelines. When your mentoring programs have a structure and a clear set of expectations, all the participants will have a strong foundation to work off of. This also ensures consistency across the program. You can offer guidance in areas such as:  

  • Frequency of meeting between mentors and mentees
  • How to track progress
  • Expectations of both mentors and mentees
  • How to navigate potential challenges

While you want to offer some structure, you also want to build in flexibility. This allows your mentors and mentees to create a relationship that works for their specific goals and schedules. For example, you can recommend that mentors and mentees meet at least once a month – but it’s up to the participants whether they want to meet more frequently.

5. Ensure your program is equitable

As we mentioned before, there are a lot of biases that can trickle into your mentoring programs. This is harmful, especially to the development of women and minorities in your organization. Despite the fact that mentoring programs are especially important to people in these groups, they tend to receive fewer opportunities to participate in them. 

That’s why you want to ensure that everyone at your organization has equal access to your development programs. We also recommend regularly surveying your workforce to identify any biases in your program. 

6.  Plan a successful launch

A successful launch is critical to getting your program off on the right foot. Engage the help of your leadership and marketing teams to come up with an announcement strategy for your mentoring program. This can include tactics like: 

  • Sharing the announcement across multiple channels, such as Slack, email, and at a company-wide meeting
  • Hosting a lunch and learn so employees can learn more about the mentoring program and ask questions
  • Having some of the top executives at your organization sign up to be mentors to create excitement around the program 

You may also want to consider running a pilot of the mentoring program before the “official” launch. This allows you to work out any kinks before the program rolls out to the rest of the organization and can lead to powerful testimonials from the pilot participants to encourage other people to sign up.

7. Measure the impact of your program

Remember those goals we identified at the beginning? After your mentoring program launches, start collecting the metrics you need to support those goals. This includes helping your mentees track their goals, collecting feedback from participants, and looking at the overall business impact of the program. 

While you can do this manually, it’ll save you a lot of time to use a mentoring platform instead. 

Having the right platform can help you more easily visualize progress, demonstrate the ROI of the mentoring program, and provide a big picture of the capabilities of your employees.

8. Share the results with the rest of the organization

As your mentoring program grows, make sure everyone else at the company is aware of its success! Your leadership team will probably want to see tangible metrics, such as the impact of the mentoring program on employee-related outcomes like engagement and retention.

But you can also share more qualitative results, such as stories, testimonials, and personal progress from mentees who are willing to share. You could even create a spotlight program that highlights the accomplishments of mentor-mentee pairs to encourage more people to participate. 

When approached thoughtfully, we believe that mentoring programs can be a powerful addition to any company. Follow these mentoring best practices to build a successful program at your own organization. To learn more about Torch’s mentoring program, request a demo