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How the Right Admin Could Make or Break Your Mentoring Program

When launching a new mentoring program, having an administrator that’s ready and able to manage the program, stakeholders, and tools can be a huge factor in the success of the program. In fact, it can mean the difference between a program that thrives and grows into a best practice, or one that fizzles out after a pilot. According to a Bersin study, well executed mentoring programs can create an edge over your competition in a variety of ways. So, it’s important to consider what makes a powerful admin in order to create a powerful program.

Working with dozens of programs over the past couple of years, I’ve found several key traits and important skills in program administrators that correlate to fast program implementation, efficient launches, and sustainable program management with fewer surprises along the way:

Attributes of a Successful Program Admin

  • A Skilled Champion: Since employee development programs tend to be harder to measure direct impact, these are usually the first defunded or deprioritized. But they’re incredibly effective when properly supported and run. As such, the program admin needs to be able to articulate the value of the program not only to program participants, but also to the sponsors, participants’ managers, and other stakeholders.In order to do this, they need to adjust their language based on their audience. The executive sponsor will not care about the same things as the participants will. The admin needs to fearlessly, loudly, and proudly ensure understanding and buy in from the right stakeholders, painting a vivid picture throughout the organization. This is not a one-time activity. It’s constant and inherent to being involved in a prosperous employee development program of any kind.
  • Biased Toward Action: Brainstorming and planning will only have an impact if the program launches, which doesn’t always happen if the program admin or team is focused on getting things perfect the first time around. I’ve seen teams hem and haw on communication plans or recruiting strategies for six months before finally scrapping a program that employees were asking for! Building a mentoring program is a fairly new exercise in the modern workplace. Most organizations have to figure out what works as they go along. Because of this, a decisive, action-oriented admin can help keep the program initiation and development going at a good pace. It helps to be a fan of iterative improvement rather than letting perfection stand in the way of momentum. Be sure to put in the right feedback loops within the program so that you get actionable feedback from participants of the first cohort of the program. This will make your improvements a lot easier to implement as your program grows.
  • Curious and Continuous Learner: There is so much to learn about running a successful mentoring program! The admin needs to be open to and curious about feedback from participants and other stakeholders, and be ready to figure out how to improve the program design going forward. They must also be self-driven and interested in learning about mentoring, as well as how to apply the concept successfully in the workplace.

Skills for a Program Admin to Hone

In additional to the attributes discussed above, there are also a handful of skills that a successful program administrator either already has, or commits to improving in this role:

  • Software savvy and tool expertise: This doesn’t mean having an IT background, or a computer engineering degree. Instead, this means having a level of computer literacy that allows an admin to quickly acclimate to new tools or software. Not only will this help them learn the devices that are currently in use, but will allow them to make informed recommendations about tool improvements, or even evaluate if the current tool is serving all of the program’s needs. Also, it’s not enough to be comfortable with the basics of your tools – the admin must be interested in proactively learning all the features of the tool and figuring out how these tools might be useful for iterating and improving the program.
  • Networking and collaboration: A successful, effective mentoring program is a joint effort between a program admin, a sponsor, various organizational champions, leadership of program participants, and the participants themselves. The program admin, then, is the lynchpin that coordinates buy-in, communications, and collaboration across and between all these stakeholders. Learning to reach out to, develop relationships with, and speak to the interests of all these players will go a long way towards building a program that is aligned with company culture and goals, and fits into the workday of participants.
  • Business acumen: Since mentoring programs require a budget, and budget must be approved by business leaders, it’s critical for program administrators to become more comfortable with financial terminology and language around making business decisions. This includes ideas like strategic organizational objectives, ROI, value add, and cost-benefit analysis. Being able to discuss the mentoring program from a business perspective–not just a participant satisfaction ­­­­on perspective–will help build critical buy in, and can lead to a bigger budget or program expansion.

As your organization prepares to launch a new or improved program, consider the person that will be running the show. If you are hiring for the position, look for these traits. If someone has been selected, evaluate their strengths in these areas and discuss development opportunities, if needed. If you are looking to become, or have been selected to be a mentoring program admin, flex these skills in order to build and deliver a mentoring program that has great engagement and real impact.

Still need a little extra preparation in order to feel comfortable taking on this role?

5 Things to Know Before Becoming a Mentoring Program Administrator

A mentoring program is only as strong as its greatest ally. Without a powerful admin, programs tend to be launched poorly and paid for without achieving the desired impact on company culture or organizational goals. You don’t have to experience that peril. With these tips and guides to utilizing a power admin, you can be sure your program is in safe and capable hands from start to finish.

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