How to run a successful mentoring program pilot.

articles for businesses building a mentoring program

How do you run a successful mentoring program for your business?

You are interested in having a business mentoring program at your company, thats great news! Your people will thank you for it.

You have probably heard the advice that firstly you must learn to walk before you can run, and it is no different with building a mentoring program.

So if you are starting from scratch or you have had a mentoring program in the past but it didn't work or fizzled out, then we recommend you start with a pilot.

This video covers the various the items you will need to consider in your pilot mentoring program including how to measure how successful it has been.

The transcript from the video is below. 


Full transcript

Where to start with your mentoring program

Well, hopefully that's explained to you why having a mentoring program is a good thing. So let's say you're saying to yourself, "Okay. I would like a mentoring program. Where do I start?". If you've got nothing, you start with a pilot program. If you're watching this and you already have a mentoring program, you can still take a lot of learnings from this where you can start to freshen it up and think of new ideas for your program to make it from good to great.

What are the items you need to consider for your pilot mentoring program.

1. Who shall be your mentors and mentees?

If you're a company of 500 employees or 3000 employees (the size of the company doesn't really matter) you wouldn't go picking a selection of different people for your pilot. You'd want to choose a group or a function that firstly you knew would be engaged in having a mentoring program. They may have talked about wanting a mentoring program already. You may want to target a group that is not going through current other initiatives that you may be running because you don't want to have initiative fatigue. So think about the group you would be targeting and try and have as an enclosed group. Who would be the group of mentors and where are they coming from? Who would be the group of mentees and where are they come from?


2. How many people should be on the mentoring program?

You don't want to have too little such that you don't get enough learnings from the program to be able to develop a company wide program, because really that's the aim of your pilot program. You're trying to get enough learnings quickly such that your next step will be to have a company wide mentoring program.

So you need to have enough people in your pilot to be able to get effective feedback, but you also don't want too much such that it becomes cumbersome and unwieldy.

So a suitable number would be between 15 to 30 mentoring pairs which is equal to 30 to 60 employees (1 mentoring pair is 2 persons). Anything larger than that and it starts to become a bit unwieldy for your pilot. Anything less than 15 and you start to not get enough feedback and difference to be able to properly take the learnings to build the next program.


3. How long should your mentoring program run for?

I would think for a pilot program, you'd be looking at anything from three to six months.

Anything less than three months is just too quick as you just don't have enough time for the mentors to really get to know each other. And you actually probably put a bit too much burden on the mentoring pairs because they have to hit the ground running and they also have their day jobs.

But you don't want your pilot to extend out too long.

So between three and six months, it depends on your timeframe.

How long would you want your main programs (post-pilot) to run from? Let's say they should maybe run for a year. You could do a calendar to calendar year, you could do mid to mid year, it doesn't really matter.


4. How will you attract willing mentors and mentees into your program?

That's something you've got to look at.

So expressions of interest, you've got to make it fun for the people. You've got to make it engaging such that they want to be part of it.

You can run workshops or webinars for mentors because there'll be a lot of people that probably would like to mentor, but are a little bit nervous and don't have the confidence to decide straight away to become a mentor.

You run the webinars and workshops for them to give them enough confidence and skills Because you really want to try and attract a strong mentoring pool. Because when you have a good pool of mentors, you're going to attract good mentee's, that's just how it works.

You may want to think about tiering it where your mentee's maybe a certain job grade / job level and your mentors will be a higher job grade / job level for your pilot.


5. What mentoring guidance should be provided?

You want to think about what guidance, learning and forms you will provide for the mentors and mentees.

You don't want to be overbearing with too much information such as hundreds of website links to this and links to that and read this video and do this "stuff" because it just becomes unwieldy and the mentors and mentees just don't do any of it.

So you want simple guidance, you want simple webinars and workshops to provide initial training and then simple forms and templates that will be used by the participants during their mentoring to make it effective.


6. How we do the mentorship matching?

You need to consider how will the matching happened between your pairs.

Now, lots of companies decide that they will do the matching for the pairs themselves. So they'll spend their time going through the list of all the mentors and all the mentees and they'll start saying "I think this person works better with that person" etc.

That takes a lot of time, that's one problem with it. And the other problem is the mentee doesn't get as much ownership of the selection. This lack of ownership is one common reason why programs fail. So I strongly recommend that you actually make it mentee led.

What we do in Next Level Mentoring in our programs for clients is we actually give each mentee options of potential mentors. For example, a mentoring program's Expression of Interest form will have a range of questions and key checkboxes that will include what a mentee is looking for in a mentor and the skills they would like to develop. The same form, completed by the mentor, would ask what they can offer a mentee as well as having the same skills checkboxes that the could help a mentee develop.

From this you can easily start to see who would match well together. You can now give each mentee four options of mentors and they then say, "well, this is my first preference, this would be second, this would be third etc.". In most cases they should get their first or second preference.

And it gives them ownership because they then say, "I wanted that mentor... and I got that mentor. That's brilliant!".

With this you've already moved your program and people wanting the program to succeed, up one level. So my recommendation is that it's mentee-led but there's many ways to do this.


Keeping your mentoring program Simple, Sustainable, Engaging and Effective.

As a reminder, your pilot program has to be Simple, Sustainable, Engaging, and Effective. So everything you're doing and considering, always look at it with these four lenses. And if it doesn't pass the test (if it's not simple enough, it's over complicated, it's not engaging etc.) then fix it. Because you want to make sure your program succeeds.

Treating your mentor and mentee's like adults is one of the best ways to ensure your program is successful. Not telling them what to do, "You need to meet this number of times. You need to meet every Tuesday of the week. You need to fill in this 20 page mentoring handbook before every session". It just becomes too much and doesn't allow them to naturally find their way.

If you give them too much information then your program may just stop after a few months. But too little information and you can also make it the opposite, you can make a directionless.

You can just put two people together and say "away you go!". You don't want that as well because they just turn into nice coffee chats that soon fizzle out. You want to have a level of structure to your mentoring program. Getting each mentee to really think about what goals they wants to achieve from mentoring, and getting the mentor to help them evolve their goals, is a great way to add structure.

At Next Level Mentoring, we have good tools and techniques for both defining goals and for running your mentoring sessions.


How to measure success of your mentoring program.

So how do you know if your program has been successful? You've got to think of this question upfront rather than just starting it and hoping for the best. To know if it's been successful you need to be able to measure it.

Success can be measured in many ways, but we recommend these two main measures of success; Satisfaction and Effectiveness.

Satisfaction, you will get this measure through questionnaires where you're asking questions such as

  • Are you happy with your mentoring pair?
  • Are you getting value from it?,
  • Are there areas of improvements? and
  • What are the highlights and lowlights.

The standard questions for measuring satisfaction.

You also need to measure Effectiveness. Now, running a pilot program is over a short period of time, your initial measure of effectiveness should really be based around goals. So you can start to ask questions like

  • How many goals has the mentee got?
  • How many goals are they working towards?
  • How many goals did they complete?
  • Did their goals change throughout the program?

And that's one way of measuring effectiveness because the initial goals that the mentee has may not be the real goals that they want. And one of the mentor's role is to work with the mentee to be able to help them evolve these goals.

To get the feedback you can issue out simple monthly feedback forms to the mentors and mentees asking questions covering both Satisfaction and Effectiveness.

You can also have mid pilot pulse checks, which we recommended. This is where you get all the mentees together and you ask them questions, maybe based on the initial feedback from the forms, to be able to get deeper learnings. You will also run a similar session with the mentors, take them as a cohort and you're asking questions to them to get their feedback.


Great mentorship programs

Ultimately you're trying to get as much feedback so that the end of your program you're able to say, "Right, our program was good, but these are the areas we can work on to make it GREAT".

Then you repeat the process next year and you go, "Our program was great, but these are the things that we need to work on to make it Outstanding!" And once you've got an outstanding program and it starts to become part of your company culture, then you're onto a winner!

That's perfect, that's top level for mentoring program (if you're thinking about the levels of mentoring programs and mentoring in your company, top level would be everyone in your company is being involved in mentoring. You are running several different programs, some will be using mentoring software to allow mass participation and you are also running smaller, targeted programs, but everybody's involved in mentoring. That's top level, that's gold star.

Interested in knowing more?

We would love to help you.