Mentoring is one of the most effective development forms, and there are at least several reasons to use it in an organization. The previous article in this series focused on the benefits of implementing a mentoring program in an organization and presented ways to consciously use it to grow the company. However, to be able to take full advantage of the potential of mentoring, it is worth some effort and taking care of the key elements when implementing it. What are these elements and how to get to them? You’ll find the answers to these questions below.
Mentoring in the company – start with defining goals
Even the cat from "Alice in Wonderland" knew that "if you don't know where you want to go, then it doesn't matter which path you take." Mentoring, like any other development program (and any project in a company!), should have clearly defined goals, related to and consistent with the goals of the organization. It can't be an entity detached from business reality that only comes up because it looks good in the company’s website description.
Therefore, it is worth answering the question at the beginning – what do we want to achieve? What needs or challenges do we want to address? Clearly formulated goals, as well as the intended effects and benefits understood by the participants, will allow us to do more than make the right decisions on what the final shape of mentoring in the company will be like. If, while defining the goals, we also identify measurable indicators for their evaluation, they’ll provide a great basis for checking the effectiveness of the program, and thus for improving and potentially developing or modifying it.
How to implement mentoring – within or outside the organization?
When deciding to invite employees to benefit from mentors' support, we can immediately implement the program internally, within the organization, and this path will be described in the next steps. However, we can also use the support of mentors from outside the company at first. Each solution has its pros and cons. Depending on our goals, resources, and capabilities, we should choose the one that works best at a given time. The table below can serve as a starting point for thinking the topic over.
|Implementation of a mentoring program|
within the organization
|Implementation of a mentoring program|
with external mentors
|Pros||• Leveraging the potential of experienced employees as mentors|
• Increasing the level of knowledge about "own" mentors
• Strengthening relationships within the organization
• Transfer of internal know-how
|• Potential for rapid implementation|
• Ability to "test" the power of mentoring without investing in the entire program
• Taking advantage of a broader base of experienced mentors who are proficient in their areas than those available within the organization
• Mentor – mentee relationships free of corporate dependencies
• An influx of knowledge from outside the organization, an objective perspective
|Cons||• Time and resources needed to implement the entire program|
• A limited base of mentors and the need to train them properly
|• More difficult verification of mentors|
• A lack of knowledge of the specifics of the organization by mentors (note, this can be both a minus and a plus)
Consider expert support with implementation
The decision to implement a program internally is not the last one in this category. The next step is to answer the question of whether, as an organization, we are prepared to implement the project on our own, or if it makes sense to seek the support of someone who has already implemented similar programs. Regardless of the decision, we must remember that it is a large project and, like any other one, it requires creating a project team, determining roles, listing tasks, arranging a schedule, and defining the budget, time, and rules for implementation and communication. If the company has proven approaches to running projects, we can properly manage the course of the project, but can we be sure that our task list will include all the necessary elements?
Establishing the rules of your mentoring program
At this point, we already know what our goals are, we know that we want to implement the program in-house, we have a project team, and we have a plan. We can say that we have a certain organizational framework, and now it's time to fill it with content. Whether we implement the program in-house or use the support of an external company, we need to define certain key "business" assumptions. While defining them, we’ll again refer to the objectives. Below, we list some of the most important ones, but they don’t exhaust all the nuances that should be thought about beforehand:
- The flow of the mentoring process, from the duration of a single process, through the timeframe of the entire program, to the criteria for becoming a mentor or mentee.
- Selection of mentoring pairs, i.e. how we will match people into pairs, to what extent this will be decided by the interested parties themselves, and to what extent by the mentors of the program and based on what criteria. It is also very important to define the rules for resigning from the role of mentor or mentee during the course (which can also happen and should be taken into account).
- The ethical principles of the program, which are often overlooked, and in the case of a mentoring program within an organization very important! This is because we should build a safe framework for all program participants, for whom at least formal dependency issues can be a serious blocker holding them back from getting involved in the program.
Training and support for participants – a must-have!
I remember my first adventure as a mentor many years ago. Full of enthusiasm and eagerness, I flew to the meeting with my mentee. I was convinced that since I love to share knowledge, I already know something and have experienced something, and it is actually enough. Oh, how wrong I was! Mentoring is not about meeting over coffee and telling stories about yourself. I mean, coffee is fine to drink together, but the role of a mentor is not only a privilege but also a responsibility.
Mentoring is a structured process, directed at the mentee's objective, using specific tools and techniques. And at the time, after the first meeting, even though we had a fascinating discussion, I didn't even know what my mentee's goal was... That's why it's so important to equip mentors with the right knowledge of what their role should look like and also verify that they present the right attitude. David Clutterbuck, a mentoring guru, points out that in a good mentor, experience in developing others is key, as well as the ability to develop oneself. He further adds that humility is important (and I visibly lacked it...). We can teach all this to mentors during dedicated training. However, it is important to take care of the mentee as well, so that they know what to expect from the program, and what to expect from the mentors, and are aware of the importance of their responsibility and involvement in the process.
Tools and system support
When we know the principles, we know the process and we have trained the participants, it is worth taking care of the tools and system side. By tools, I mean appropriate guides for mentors and mentees, pre-prepared forms for setting the contract, defining goals, or applying selected techniques in working with the mentee. It is also important to identify the person responsible for the program, to whom one can report any question or challenge. At Sii, we have also created a dedicated knowledge-sharing platform for mentors, where they can share their best practices and address program-related topics that are important to them.
It is also worthwhile to ensure that the program is properly supported at the system level. By this I mean a dedicated IT solution that will streamline the process of collecting data on mentors, mentees, enrollment in the program, reminders of certain steps in the process, and, finally, providing data to measure the program's effectiveness. This could be a simple functionality built in SharePoint or another tool that the company uses to support business processes.
Well, how to "sell" it now?
What we unfortunately often see among our clients is that the communication and promotion area of the program is neglected. Glad that we have come so far, we know what we want and how we want it, we forget that the project team that knows all this and believes in the success of the project consists of a limited number of people. And yet, we create the program for all employees! That is why it is so important to include a communication and promotion plan throughout the project. There can be many ideas for such a plan, but what can help tailor the content to the audience and present the program in the right way is a survey among employees, checking the current state of knowledge and understanding of the mentoring topic. Knowing the concerns of potential participants (because there certainly are and will be some!) will help us address them in advance.
Effectiveness assessment, monitoring, and evaluation
The moment of implementing any project and observing how it works is, on the one hand, a big "whew" and "hooray", and on the other hand, the question "and does it work?". This should also be the case with the mentoring program. Just putting it in place and launching it is not enough. In the following step, we should take care of a proper evaluation of its effectiveness, based on which we’ll be able to improve activities for even better results for both the participants and the entire organization.
The above list doesn’t cover the whole topic, but it shows how extensive and multi-threaded the project of implementing a mentoring program in an organization is. And just as a mentee benefits from the support of an experienced mentor, we invite you to take advantage of Sii's support if you want to embark on this exciting adventure and be sure to take care of everything you need at the start.