Mentoring is an age-old practice that has gained new relevance—and organizational support—in today’s workplace. Mentoring helps individuals realize their potential and organizations thrive, with benefits including career and leadership development for a strong talent pipeline, higher engagement and performance and greater retention of skilled employees.
A growing number of companies are creating structured programs to harness the advantages of mentoring. However, programs often fail to realize their full benefits because mentors and mentees aren’t trained. Effective mentorship training can ensure that participants make the most of their mentorships. Mentors who undergo training teach more effectively and have a better grasp of how to deal with a variety of situations, according to a Mentoring.org study.
This article will cover fundamentals, best practices and helpful tools for mentor training and techniques for successful mentoring relationships.
What is a Mentor Training Program?
Mentor training programs are designed by organizations to prepare mentors (and often mentees) to be as effective in their roles as possible. Mentorship training can include learning about goals and benefits, best practices for conducting mentorships and key skills for success.
Why Do Mentors and Mentees Need Training?
Without the right training, mentors and mentees are left to wing it on their own, representing a wasted opportunity for truly impactful mentorship programs. Only 35 percent of organizations say a majority of their mentors are highly effective, according to HR.com’s 2021 The State of Coaching & Mentoring Research Report. At the same time, 53 percent of organizations don’t provide formal training to their mentors.
While some mentors may have good natural instincts or previous experience to help them, some might struggle—or need guidance in fundamental skills such as how to establish milestones or provide constructive feedback to mentees.
Mentees also benefit from training. Learning how to drive the mentoring connection forward, establish agendas and set goals, for example, can make a big difference in their experience.
How to Structure a Mentor Training Program
Creating a clear structure and curriculum for your mentor training program ensures that the training helps you reach your goals and offers a consistent experience for all mentors in your organization.
Mentoring training should start even before mentors are matched with mentees. This training should include overall goals, setting expectations for mentorship, solutions to common issues, avenues of support, how to best engage with each other and more.
Training sessions should include at least two to three hours of content (self-guided or otherwise) in order to be effective. Incorporating quizzes or interactive activities helps to make the learning more experiential, ensuring it will stick with participants longer. Group seminars where mentors can learn from their peers can be very effective.
After mentors and mentees have been matched, mentors should continue with ongoing training and development to help them deepen their skills and get help with challenges.
What to Include in Mentor Training Curriculum
Mentor training should include the following elements:
- Expectations for roles and processes
- Communication skills and strategies
- Setting goals and milestones
- Building good mentoring relationships
- Ethics and appropriate conduct
- Discussion topics and activities
- Available resources for help
Mentor Training Fundamentals
Not all mentorship training is created equal. The most effective learning programs have certain characteristics in common that lay the groundwork for successful mentorships.
Self-paced mentor training allows learners to approach the material how and when works best for them. In fact, 74% of employees want to learn during spare time at work, according to a LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report. Self-pacing allows learners to focus on the task at hand without other distractions, take their time in engaging with the material and return to it when needed so that they can fill in any gaps and deepen their understanding.
Effective mentorship training should reflect the unique needs of an organization. On a macro level, training should be designed to help mentors support the company’s overall mentorship vision. On a more individual level, it needs to mesh with the company’s culture, communications style, and tools. Well-designed training eliminates barriers and makes it easy for employees to engage in learning on an everyday basis.
Good training requires participants to do more than just study the material—learning is more effective when participants have a chance to test their knowledge. Tests, quizzes and certifications throughout the training process help learners remember what they have studied, assess their knowledge level, and motivate them to learn even more.
One major benefit of mentoring is the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to engage in a way they might not otherwise. This fosters connection within the organization and furthers diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Good training programs prepare mentors to approach their mentorships through an inclusive lens so that mentees feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, no matter their unique identity.
Key Qualities of an Effective Mentor
Effective mentors tend to share some common qualities, including:
- Being open and receptive
- Having relevant experience
- Good communication skills
- Honest and candid
- Eager to learn and grow
- Wants to mentor
The desire to mentor may be the most important characteristic of effective mentors. When a mentor genuinely wants to help, other important skills and characteristics will come into play and the mentor and mentee can form the great relationship that is key for a positive mentorship.
The Role of a Mentor: Expectations and Responsibilities
When mentors have a clear understanding of expectations and responsibilities, they are better equipped to create quality mentorship experiences that align with the company’s mission.
While expectations may vary among organizations and individual mentorships, mentors have a number of core responsibilities. These include engaging in the process, fostering an honest and trusting relationship, facilitating learning and providing constructive feedback. In short, mentors have the responsibility to commit to actively helping mentees learn and grow.
Techniques for Meaningful Mentoring Relationships
Meaningful relationships are at the heart of successful mentorships. Using the right techniques can help mentors ensure that they create these key connections.
Active Listening Skills
Active listening helps create quality communication by showing that you hear the other person and that they know you are listening. Steps in active listening include:
- Pay attention
- Show that you are listening
- Defer judgment
- Respond appropriately
Asking Powerful Questions
Asking powerful questions is designed to help your mentee delve into deeper self-discovery. These should be curious and nonjudgmental. They are often open-ended to encourage your mentee to reflect and explore possibilities.
Providing Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback recognizes both what the recipient has done well and where they can improve. It’s delivered in a positive way that offers an actionable path forward.
Setting SMART Goals
SMART goals help ensure that you reach your desired mentorship training outcomes. These goals are:
Learn more about setting mentoring goals in this recent article.
Creating a Safe Space for Mentoring
Trust is foundational for an effective mentorship relationship. Mentees need to know that you offer them a safe space to be themselves, where they can discuss their challenges and explore paths to growth without risk of judgment.
Best Practices for Mentorship Training
Following best practices ensures that mentor training is as effective as possible. Some of these include:
Developing Mentor-Mentee Relationship Guidelines
Both mentors and mentees should have a clear idea of what constitutes a positive, appropriate and effective mentorship relationship. This should be defined and explained by the organization so that expectations are consistent for all participants.
Using Real-Life Scenarios and Case Studies
Presenting real-life examples to both mentors and mentees is a great way to bring mentorship learning to life. Using scenarios that participants are likely to encounter helps prepare them with lessons that they can use in everyday situations. Asking existing mentor-mentee pairs to share their experiences in these situations can help give new participants better understanding of how to interact.
Providing Ongoing Support and Feedback
Support and feedback are not just important within a mentorship; it’s also critical for participants as they learn how to be great mentors and mentees. Organizations should check in with participants regularly to see how they are doing and make sure that they have access to helpful resources.
Encouraging Self-Reflection and Self-Awareness
Self-reflection is crucial for growth, which is the goal of any mentorship. Mentorship training should show participants how to foster the self-awareness that they need to succeed.
Tools to Help Mentors Develop Skills
Mentor training should be an ongoing process, with mentors developing their skills over time. Mentors can turn to many tools to help them on their mentorship journey.
Mentoring Software and Platforms
Mentoring platforms such as Chronus offers self-paced, guided mentorship training that organizations can customize to fit their unique culture. Chronus embeds mentoring how-to resources into each step of mentoring programs to help participants learn in a way that works for them.
Mentor Training Workshops and Webinars
Mentor training workshops and webinars provide participants a convenient way to get extra doses of learning on specific mentorship topics, with a wide range of subjects to choose from.
Mentoring Handbooks and Guides
Handbooks and guides are another easily accessible tool that mentors can use to work on their mentoring knowledge and skills.
Chronus helps streamline mentorship program operation and offers resources to help your mentors maximize their experience. Learn more..