Considering mentoring software? Well, pull up a seat—you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to walk you through the top points to consider as you perform your mentoring software comparison.
Mentoring Software Comparison Points
1. Flexible configuration
Furthermore, mentoring is dynamic and the right model you have now may not be the best model down the road. Be sure your software can handle what your needs currently are, but also what you’ll need in the future as your program expands and grows.
The software you choose should support a wide variety of mentoring program formats, be able to change formats midstream, and run multiple formats at the same time for a blended mentoring format that can accomplish multiple goals.
Here are different mentoring formats to consider:
- Traditional mentoring: a mentee and mentor form a 1:1 relationship that typically lasts several months.
- Flash mentoring: a mentee schedules individual sessions with a mentor, advisor, or coach, which is perfect for topical mentoring. Flash mentoring is also known as session-based mentoring.
- Mentoring circles: this format focuses on specific topics or areas of learning. Mentoring circles have members that may come and go over time, but the circle lives on. It’s often used for knowledge sharing or providing a supportive environment for specific subsets of people.
- Group mentoring: a mentor can provide expert information to a group of mentees, and the mentees can also provide knowledge and learning to each other.
2. Intelligent matching
Making it easy to connect mentees to mentors is a common reason organizations purchase mentoring software. Most mentoring software solutions will provide some level of participant matching using algorithms to determine great matches. But you’ll want to look below the surface and ask for more details.
The quality of the algorithm determines the quality of matches as well as the ability to control matches via rules. In this respect, software offerings vary widely and many offer a “one-size-fits-all” algorithm with little to no configurability.
You’ll also want to think about the kinds of matching you’ll require if you’re planning to use mentoring in multiple ways. The most common are self-matching and admin-matching. A leadership development program will require hand matching. But bulk matching (where the software helps the admin match hundreds of participants simultaneously) or mentor/mentee self-matching is best for programs with a large influx of participants.
3. Guided workflows
Once mentees and mentors are connected, now what? Left completely unguided, mentoring relationships can start out strong but then falter. Providing some guidance throughout the mentorship is often needed. The level of structure and resources will vary program to program. Some programs thrive best with little structure. Others do best with structure that’s detailed enough to include weekly tasks and progress tracking. Don’t be afraid to experiment to determine the right level.
Regardless, the goal is to provide enough guidance to keep participants on track and actively engaged. A few questions to ask when evaluating software solutions are:
- Do the plans provide goal-setting?
- Can admins view progress along the way?
- Can mentoring plans be changed at any time?
4. Robust Reporting
Reporting needs vary and evolve over time. Most organizations track overall program activity and outcomes. Assessing participation of particular demographics (such as a business unit or location) and connection progress is also common.
A good way to evaluate vendor reporting capability is to develop a list of program, connection, and participant questions you would like to have answers for. Undoubtedly, you’ll need to collect and assess different cuts of data over time. Make sure you assess the flexibility of your software’s underlying reporting engine, what data is collected, and how. An embedded survey tool will make your life much easier if you want participant feedback.
Look beyond your immediate needs and consider the future. There are two aspects of scalability to consider. The first is within a program. Many programs grow over time and you’ll need to adjust your program’s structure and format. Ensure the software solutions you’re considering have the built-in flexibility you need to make changes as you go.
The second aspect of scalability is the growth of mentoring across the organization. Many organizations run multiple tracks of mentoring for various groups or business objectives, such as general career development and reverse mentoring. Think about how many more participants or program tracks you may want in the future, and how easy and cost effective it’ll be to scale as you make your decision about your mentoring software provider.
6. Best Practices & Support
Because mentoring programs vary so much, you’ll likely need help to effectively implement software, configure it to your needs, and tune your program over time. Ask what implementation services are offered and what each vendor’s support model is during and post implementation. Look for a software company that can provide excellent ongoing support such as trainings, advice, and best practices. You’ll also want a company that can serve as your partner and ongoing coach as you make your program the best it can be.
7. Mobile Accessibility
The way people use technology evolves over time. For many people, especially millennials, it’s simply more convenient to complete online tasks on a mobile device or tablet than to sit down at a desktop computer. There are two layers of mobile accessibility: making sure your software is mobile optimized and making sure your software is available via an app.
Mobile optimized content is designed to be consumed on a mobile device or tablet. The pages are easily navigable and digestible. The one downside is participants will still need to log in to your program anytime they access it via a browser.
That’s where mobile apps come in—participants only have to log in once, which increases convenience. Even better is the ability to enable push notifications. With an app, participants can be notified as soon as they receive a message, an invite, or when it’s time to complete a survey. The push notifications nudge participants into action, which increases productivity.
This list of mentoring software comparison features should give you a strong starting point when it comes to choosing your new partner. But most importantly, take careful account of what your own program requires and what will suit your organization as you’re deciding what you need. Best of luck with your search, and we hope you’ll consider contacting us to see whether Chronus is a good fit for you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.