Best practices for corporate mentoring programs


Published on

Guidelines to run a successful mentoring program.

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

Best practices for corporate mentoring programs

  1. 1. Mutual Force Mentoring program management software Free guide to run a successful mentoring program Mutual Force: All rights reserved
  2. 2. Following are some of the common questions which come up while setting up a mentoring program. Each mentoring program is different but the below can be used as general guidelines in running a successful mentoring program. 1. For mentors, what are the dos and don’ts during mentoring? The mentor is critical. There’s no other way to put it. Even if there is a good program administrator and an eager mentee, without a mentor who is a willing and active participant, the process will break down. Here are three ways that a mentor can be a good teacher for mentees, followed by three things a mentor should avoid. The first quality for the mentor is to exhibit the highest professional standards. A mentee may be young in age or new to the field or simply new to the company. In every scenario imaginable, the mentee is looking to the mentor for guidance and information, and is going to be more impressionable than a peer-to-peer relationship. The mentor should keep this in mind and remain professional at all times. Second, the mentor should give out pearls of wisdom. The mentee may already have hit roadblocks, and is looking for the pieces of the puzzle that will allow him to make progress. When a mentor freely gives from his accumulated wealth of resources and knowledge, everyone benefits. The mentor should provide specific examples with detail to help the mentee think through as many of the variables as possible. Third, a mentor should go ahead and say “I don’t know.” Admitting a lack of knowledge can be a mark of a great teacher. It encourages joint learning and problem-solving, and can bring additional colleagues into the conversation to create a team dynamic. It also demonstrates to the mentee that the mentor, too, faces adversity and strives to overcome it. On the flip side of positive attributes of successful mentors, there are some definite negative behaviors that should be avoided. First, mentors should avoid being casual, crass, or negative. While the mentor may have become disheartened in his job, it doesn’t have to be that way for the mentee. Indeed, if the mentor hears himself wandering into dead- end remarks like, “That will never work,” it may be time for the program administrator to consider whether the person is appropriate for a mentoring roll. Second, mentors should try to avoid either a sugar coating or an acid wash. The “sugar coating” by mentors are comments like “This is a great company. Everyone gets along every day.” The “acid wash” can be things like “The system doesn’t work. It never has. It never will.” Mentors that are too positive or too negative can set false expectations for the mentee. If asked for an overall opinion, a mentor will do better to offer some positive and some negative examples, coupled with thoughts on why the mentor has remained at the company or in the profession as long as he has. Third, a mentor should avoid offering a mentee more than he can deliver. The biggest example in this category is that the mentor should avoid offering to help a mentee get hired or get promoted or even get a project finished, unless the mentor is in the position to actually perform right away on that representation. If the question is presented by the mentee, best practices would suggest a direct and honest answer about the mentor’s limitations and about any program guidelines that restrict against this type of request. Mutual Force: All rights reserved
  3. 3. And, as one overall comment, it’s not a bad idea for mentors to remember that the program administrator is also a resource. Many of the awkward situations that can happen in the course of a mentor-mentee relationship are easily rectified with a little help from the program administrator in a quasi-role of a neutral third party. Mentors who communicate questions to the plan administrator also assist with corrections to the program design to help it function at its best for all participants. 2. For mentees, what are the dos and don’ts during mentoring? Tips for mentees are easier to make. Of the three participants – mentor, mentee, and program administrator – the mentee has the highest need to take the initiative and ask questions to his or mentor. In fact, the most important responsibility for the mentee is to show up prepared to ask questions. It is important for the mentee to have goals for the mentoring relationship. The goals should be aligned with the program level goals. The number one tip for a mentee is to use the mentor’s time wisely. The mentor is offering to help, but there can be nothing worse than offering to help and having the mentee show no interest. Good questions from a mentee inspire a mentor to be thoughtful and helpful. Another tip for mentees is to demonstrate a willingness to learn. The best way a mentee can pull more information out of a mentor is to demonstrate an application of what has already been taught. When teachers see their students making a good faith effort to learn, it brings out even more instruction. Indeed, learning is a building process. Mentees who show themselves to be the proverbial sponge are more likely to grow themselves and their mentoring relationship. Finally, a mentee should use good manners, including sending a thank you note. The pace of modern communication can be blistering, but a mentor is one of those persons who should be properly thanked. It may not be until the mentee progresses sufficiently in his career to become a mentor before he realizes just how much the mentor influenced and contributed to success. 3. What is the role of the mentoring program administrator? The role of the mentoring program administrator can be dynamic and involved from program inception to mentor-mentee matching and facilitation. Let’s walk through a range of functions that can be served by the program administrator, keeping in mind that one can select as many or as few of these recommended functions as are appropriate for a particular mentoring program. A mentoring program administrator can design and update the program specifications. A well-functioning program can include writing guidelines, matching, monitoring, evaluating, and modifying. The administrator can lay out all aspects of the potential program in writing and work with supervisors and consultants like Mutual Force to create a program that is an appropriate fit for the administrator’s company. Mutual Force: All rights reserved
  4. 4. Designing the mentoring program involves several questions, including: 1. mentoring program objectives; 2. matching criteria to pair mentors with mentees; 3. data collection; and, 4. articulation of mentoring program metrics. The first point – mentoring program objectives – is the critical question to be answered by the mentoring program administrator. Why is the mentoring program going to be undertaken? Is it for rapid on-boarding of new employees? Is it to improve cohesion among minorities in the workforce? Is it to retain knowledge of existing workers? A clear articulation of the goals for the mentoring program will shape its structure, launch, and function. Here’s an example of a hypothetical mentoring program purpose statement: “The Widgets & Gadgets Company has 150 employees with an average workforce age of 57, and an anticipated retirement rate of an average of 5 employees per year through 2016. The company mentoring program will start by connecting recently-retired plus soon-to-be retired employees with new employees in their first five years of work, providing an on-line mentoring portal to facilitate knowledge transfer on specified aspects of the production process.” Once the program administrator writes a purpose statement for the mentoring program, it is easy to make a list of the policies and guidelines for implementation of the mentoring program. One policy recommended for all forms of mentoring programs is the privacy policy. A written privacy policy, drafted by the program administrator and distributed to both mentors and mentees, can define the parameters of the mentoring relationship, express the prohibitions against releasing mentoring communication through social media or other public channels, and limit the amount of personal information shared by the program and between the mentor and mentee. Among the benefits of a written privacy policy are use of the policy as a teaching tool to mentors and mentees and use of the policy to create accountability against inappropriate behavior. The program administrator can also be responsible to design the metric by which the mentoring program will be evaluated. Specific, measurable indicators of success should be laid out, and the method of data capture implemented. For example, continuing with our hypothetical Widgets & Gadgets Company, a metric for success might be laid out on an annual basis, as follows: Year 1 – design the mentoring program; write policies and guidelines; obtain approvals; Year 2 – launch the mentoring program; recruit 2%-4% of employees over age 55 and within 5-years of retirement date to participate as mentors; match mentors to employees within 5-years of date of hire; train to use on-line mentoring portal; limit attrition to 5%; Mutual Force: All rights reserved
  5. 5. Year 3 – evaluate results of first year of mentoring program; make modifications; expand mentor recruitment to a ratio of 1:1 for company mentees. By laying out the tangible results to be achieved during the first three years, in particular, the plan administrator sets the benchmarks against which the success of the mentoring program can be measured. In this example, the statistical data for collection and measurement are clear, and can be part of periodic reporting to management. The additional primary function for the program administrator is to correct problems, as they arise, which is discussed in respect to the next question. 4. How can mismatch happen during mentoring and what can be done to rectify it? The program administrator needs to understand that mismatches can and will occur given enough matches and enough time. A mentor-mentee relationship is no different than any other human relationship. The good news is that there appears to be no research to suggest that a mentor-mentee relationship is any more or any less fraught with difficulties than other relationships. What is important in a mismatch situation is that one or both of the participants reaches out to the program administrator. If the relationship simply breaks down and neither the mentor nor the mentee alert the program administrator, the gulf will only widen. That said, it is recommended that the program administrator reach out to the mentors and mentees on a periodic basis to make an actual inquiry whether any problem has arisen and the overall satisfaction experienced. It is important when the mentor or the mentee identify a problem in their relationship to the plan administrator that it be taken seriously and acted upon promptly. The typical steps apply: validation, collection of narratives, option identification, and solution adoption. But, it might be a situation where the program administrator might want to go the extra step of both providing direct in-person or video-conference time, along with an expression of appreciation for participation in the program and soft recruitment to be matched with a new partner. 5. What can cause failures in a mentoring program? Mentoring programs need a program administrator. The program is not going to start itself, nor will there be a point at which the program will be self-sustaining. A mentoring program requires a conductor, just like any orchestra. The program needs to be designed and policies adopted. Matches need to be made, and the mentoring environment needs to be nurtured. The most likely place for a mentoring program to fail is during the design phase. Someone thinks it is a good idea and assigns it to someone else. Drafts are not completed. Or, if completed, are not reviewed. There’s no budget, either in personnel or in funding. And, at the end of the day, the necessary buy-in didn’t happen to build the plane, let alone send it down the runway and get it off the ground. The other fail point that should be highlighted is a successful mentoring program that suffers a gap or a shift in plan administrators. Successful mentoring programs under the guidance of a plan administrator need to be captured in writing, so as to be preserved for the inevitable transition and, in the best case, transition training. If a plan administrator has a particular passion for the program, involvement of that plan administrator in securing a successor should be encouraged. Mutual Force: All rights reserved
  6. 6. 6. How can you improve success rates in a mentoring program? Sometimes, success can be harder to figure out than failure. Careful planning helps. A supportive company environment is a factor. A dynamic and committed plan administrator – absolutely. Mentors that are truly engaged in their line of work and welcoming of new employees are the best. And mentees excited to be entering the profession round out the list. Perhaps what can be said as a take-away relates most to the plan administrator. A company should look for that person who believes in the value and benefits of a mentoring program, and, ideally, has participated in a mentoring program. When a plan administrator shares the values attributable to the mentoring concept, it will flow through to all associated tasks, most particularly recruitment and issue resolution. Beyond that, it’s worth a quick highlight of a point made above under the “mismatch” question. If a mentor or a mentee raises a concern, the plan administrator must promptly address it. A delay in response could make the problem worse. It could also lead to negative conversations by the mentor or mentee with others in the mentoring program or work setting. If your program has more than 50 participants, a mentoring program management software is a must for matching, tracking, and scaling your program. About Us: Mutual Force provides a simple and intuitive web based mentoring program software to create, match, scale and manage your program. Learn more at Mutual Force: All rights reserved