Three Tips for Growing Your Mentoring Program

Chris Browning
Written by
Chris Browning

The Secret for Mentoring Success

Our research with our clients has shown some pretty impressive ROI data when it comes to the impact mentoring programs can have on individuals and organizations. We know that mentoring can improve employee retention and engagement, and that productivity can increase as well due to mentoring. In fact, our research found that:

  • 90% of mentees and mentors said the mentoring program helped them develop a positive relationship with another individual in the company.
  • 89% said that they feel like their company values their development because they offer a mentoring program.
  • 89% said mentoring allowed them to contribute to the success of their company.

(Download River’s ROI of Mentoring eBook here to get more data on this topic.)

Tips for Growing MentoringWith proof like that, the next logical step for most organizations is figuring out how to implement a mentoring process. But what about if you already have a mentoring program in your organization? What’s next for you?

Maybe you need to enhance your existing program by making it easier to match, monitor, and measure impact to the organization. Or, it might be that you want to take the success you’ve had in your existing programs and begin to address additional organizational needs. Perhaps you have successfully integrated mentoring into a targeted high-potential program, but also have the need to expand mentoring to support New Manager Development and Early Career Onboarding programs.

To start you down the right path, consider these three tips for growing your mentoring program.

1. Use Mentoring Software

First of all, make things easier on yourself and automate as much of the mentoring program as you can. Stop doing things by hand that can instead be done via software and smart technology. This is where mentoring software can be your best friend. If you are going to expand your reach with mentoring, you don’t want to also expand your workload. Mentoring software can handle the bulk of the work for you, such as with matching and monitoring participants, and make it easier for you to administer the program.

Now, you might think, “Of course River would advocate for this. They sell mentoring software.” While it’s true that we do sell mentoring software, the reason we advocate for this is simple. There are a host of software products on the market that help to facilitate connections and collaboration for a variety of purposes (social networking, document sharing, etc.), but while they may do those things well, they do not support mentoring well. It can be tempting to try to leverage an existing investment in one of these other systems for mentoring, but deciding to do so will guarantee only one thing: your mentoring program won’t be very successful. It won’t have the robust design and feature sets needed to support mentoring initiatives and connections. (Learn more about our administrative controls and features here.)

Customize Mentoring2. Customize Your Mentoring Programs and User Experience

In our experience, a one-size-fits-all mentoring program does not work. Different programs will have different requirements, just as different administrators and users will have different needs. Taking an existing mentoring program and just adding users to that group is not a recommended way to expand your mentoring program. If you want to actually grow your mentoring program, you will need to think about different audiences and what they need, segmenting them into their own customized mentoring programs. For example, you could have one program that targets new hires, while another program targets your leadership development pipeline. The audience for each would differ, and being able to segment them into their own unique mentoring program will allow you to address their development needs.

In addition to your audience, we recommend that you customize the individual mentoring programs within your overall mentoring framework. Doing so will allow you to target the right audience of mentees and mentors with the appropriate messaging, competencies, potential matches, resources, and so on. It will also allow you to have different administrators running different programs as needed—without stepping on each other’s toes. You can configure what competencies each mentoring program sees, what type of matching each program allows (self-directed, admin-match, etc.), the goals for each program, the resources used within each program, and so on. This will give each of your mentees and mentors a unique and personalized mentoring experience, and will save you time and money from the administrative side.

3. Promote Your Programs

No program will survive without some effort to promote it. Getting the word out to your employees about the mentoring program is an important part of attracting your user base. We have found that personal invitations work well, along with first-person stories on why mentoring matters and what it can do for participants. It can also be helpful to have a company executive or leader share why mentoring is important to them, and have that person overtly express their commitment to the practice of mentoring within the company.

There are certain times of the year when promoting mentoring will elicit a stronger response from your workforce, for example when someone has just been hired or promoted, or at the beginning of the year or the beginning of your performance review cycle. We suggest you look times when learning and knowledge sharing needs are at their peak and then promote your mentoring program in relation to these specific times. You can also look for times when your target audience is already meeting and use that as an opportunity to join them and promote your mentoring program. For example, if you are tying mentoring to a pre-existing initiative in the organization, such as leadership development, look for times when that group is meeting or when they are recruiting people to participate, and use that time to also promote the mentoring program that supports the overarching development initiative. This will let you connect with a captive audience, while also showing what mentoring can do for them in conjunction with their bigger program.

Growing your mentoring program is much like growing a plant. You need to water it, feed it, give it plenty of sunshine, provide it with the room it needs to grow, and allow it to sink its roots into the earth to establish a firm foundation. For your mentoring program, you need to give it nourishment, feed new people into the system on a regular basis, bring it into the light and attention of the company, provide it with a robust system to support the program, and potentially let it expand organically as it evolves. Your mentoring program will provide you with rich fruit if you allow it to grow in its natural way.

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