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Mentoring Platform: Should You Build One or Buy One?

You’ve decided mentoring is an ideal strategy for developing, growing and retaining top talent within your organization. Congrats, you’ve completed an important first step. Maybe you’ve even tested your mentoring theory in the form of an informal mentoring program. But now you’ve hit the next hurdle — do you need a mentoring platform?

Five Questions to Answer When It Comes to Mentoring Platforms

You need more structure but you don’t have unlimited people, resources and hours to spend solely on this project. If you’re looking to formalize and scale an impactful mentoring program, mentoring software is the quickest and most effective way to get there. 

So, should you buy a mentoring platform or build one internally?


1. Which one will mature your matching process?

Whether you’re just getting started with mentor matching, or you’ve been running a manual matching process, it doesn’t take long to realize that matching can be time consuming and pressure-filled. Matching people with the right mentoring partner, increases the likelihood of a successful and productive mentoring experience. In addition, you don’t have all day, week, month or quarter to get this done. So your first consideration is which mentoring software will speed up this process? Secondly, it’s important to consider the matching style and algorithm your program will need. You’ll need a platform that can support your program as it is today, and build a bridge to the program in the future. 

Will the mentoring platform be able to:

  • Switch between matching styles (admin match, self match, or bulk match) with ease?
  • Provide a matching algorithm that can take mentees’ personal preferences into consideration and weight recommended mentors accordingly?
  • Account for underrepresented employee populations and match more diversified mentoring partnerships?

Next, determine whether you have the time and skillset internally to build a system that will produce the results you seek for your mentoring program without risking a poor matching experience.


2. Which one will deepen your tracking and reporting?

It’s worth the reminder—what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done. Without properly measuring your mentoring program results, you won’t be able to show or tell the impact you’re creating. The right mentoring software needs to be able to dig into the participation and engagement of a program, while also tying back to the metrics that matter most to your organization (retention, advancement, skill development, etc). 

Whether this is an integration with your human resource information system (HRIS) or student information system (SIS), the mentoring platform in question needs to be able to connect the dots between what’s going on in the program and what’s going on in the lives and careers of your participants. This includes showcasing the appropriate reports, dashboards and metrics at your fingertips, so you can highlight the value of mentoring to your stakeholders, as well as participants. 


3. Which one will expand your mentoring formats and expertise?

Next, consider what types of mentoring formats are most conducive to your organization, culture and end goals. Will the mentoring platform need to accommodate multiple types of matching within one system? Will it be able to? If you’re planning to run a career mentoring program for new hires, a flash mentoring program for high-potential employees and mentoring circles for your ERGs, your software will need to house and facilitate these varying formats, without sacrificing functionality. 

In addition, are you relying on your internal knowledge to propel and grow your mentoring culture? Is this something you have experience with or institutional knowledge about? If not, what are the gaps in your mentoring knowledge, and how will you fill these? 

Modern mentoring is growing everyday with new trends, modes and best practices that guide productive mentorship, especially when it comes to programs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. If these things aren’t built into the mentoring software, you’ll need to compensate for it elsewhere. 

4. Which one will scale with your culture?

A robust mentoring software provides workflows, guided connection plans and matching criteria built around your culture and inclusive to all of your participants. Without a personalized experience that fits your organization, participation and engagement can lag. On top of this, mentoring is meant to be scaled and shared. Providing a consistent experience across your organization is key to a successful mentoring program. Whether this is through pre-built templates, automated notifications or customized campaigns, it’s beneficial to reach more people while minimizing administrative time and effort.


5. Which one will cost you more?

Finally, which solution will cost you more? And not just monetarily. More time. More development. More admin support. While the cost of buying a mentoring platform can be intimidating, what could you be sacrificing to build a solution internally? This is not about the competency you house internally. It’s about whether or not the talent you have should be spent on building a system from scratch. What other goals will you have to pause or give up on in order to accomplish this? 

In the end, will the resulting system be able to do all the things you want in order to run a high-impact mentoring program?

As you plan your mentoring strategy, consider these factors and answer them honestly. The answers might be straightforward. The answers might point you inwards, or they might point you outwards. But after thinking through these questions, you’ll feel confident in your decision and your mentoring strategy moving forward.

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