Three Tips to Make Mentoring Programs Stick
Social media provides a powerful way to have voices heard that would not normally have a platform or space to share their views. Yet with the growth of social media, people too often talk over one another, not really listening to what others are saying. On top of that, each day new hashtags trend, canceling out the previous day’s popular topics (or outrage). In the wake of #MeToo, there was a call to #MentorHer; but if history shows us anything, it’s that these trends today may be forgotten by next month, if not next week, as other topics take our attention.
We don’t want to see this happen. Both of these movements are too important for them to be forgotten or overlooked. As a mentoring software and services provider, we feel especially connected to the #MentorHer movement. So how can we ensure that mentoring doesn’t become just a fad, a hashtag too quickly forgotten? We have three suggestions.
Invest in it.
When you bring a mentoring program into an organization, you need to give it the time, money, and staff needed to ensure that it runs efficiently and effectively. Some companies have informal programs, but these programs don’t have any significant resources devoted to them. Too often they are run by volunteers who want to see mentoring succeed in their organizations, but who have not been given the money, time, or staff to actually make the program work. The programs are well-meaning, but not well-positioned to bring about systemic change to the organization.
For mentoring to have staying power and not been seen as a flavor of the month, we suggest you invest time and people to run a more structured program that has overarching goals tied to it, as well as accountability to the powers that be at the company. Providing the staff to focus on mentoring will make it clear that mentoring matters. And giving them the time they need in their workday to run the program will express overt support for the practice. (Check out our blog on Three Ways to Sabotage Your Mentoring Plan to learn what to avoid.)
We also suggest that you invest some money in mentoring software to help run the program, particularly when your program has 100 of more participants to match and manage. This can help ease administrative burdens your staff might have when it comes to running a full-fledged mentoring program. From matching and supporting mentees and mentor, to running reports and monitoring relationship progress, mentoring software can help make an administrator’s job easier, which in turn can make the other investments you are making in terms of time and staff that much more effective.
Give voice to it.
As we’ve seen with social media, voices coming together to shout for change or awareness on a topic can be a powerful movement. A mentoring program in an organization also needs powerful advocates to raise their voices in support of it and to bring attention to it. If you don’t want mentoring to just become another unknown organizational opportunity that is little used and poorly marketed, then you need to bring attention to it.
Enlist senior executives, team leaders, influencers, and others in the organization who have a ready-made audience with whom they can share their mentoring excitement. Ask these people to talk about their personal mentoring experiences, why mentoring is important to them or the organization, what they hope the organization and individuals can achieve through the mentoring program, and how to sign up to participate. Have these people be your voices for mentoring, spreading the word about the program and helping to enroll people. They can put a face to the program and help make it seem real to people. (Learn more in our blog on 5 Mentoring Program Pitfalls.)
Report on it.
As many of us have heard over the years, “What gets measured gets done.” To make sure your mentoring program does not become a dying dream, you have to have a goal against which you measure success. Do you want more women to be promoted in your organization? Do you want to retain more employees? Do you want to impact underrepresented groups? What is the goal of your mentoring program?
Once you have that figured out, you can then recruit the ideal people to be a voice for your program and can make sure you are enlisting the target mentees and mentors to participate. From there, you can determine what you want to accomplish and how you will measure mentoring success. By using mentoring software, you can easily report on such areas as satisfaction, progress, and competency improvement, and you can tie these results to other factors such as retention and promotion data. This will help highlight the value mentoring brings to the organization and individuals, and it will help cement mentoring as a critical practice in the organization rather than just a fad.
We’ve helped hundreds of organizations launch, manage, measure, and expand their mentoring programs over the years. We’ve seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t work. These three suggestions will help you position mentoring as the critical and long-lasting development opportunity that it is. #Mentoring