How to Start a Mentoring Program

How to Start a High-Impact Mentoring Program

Five Steps to Building a Successful Mentoring Program

Want to learn how to develop a mentoring program? That’s great. Mentoring is a proven approach to drive rich learning and development for both mentees and mentors. Mentoring also benefits the organization.

For employers, mentoring increases talent retention, promotion rates, and employee satisfaction for mentors and mentees.

University mentoring is proven to improve student retention, boost job placement rates, and increase alumni engagement when tapping alumni as mentors.

5 Steps: How to Start a Mentoring Program

Starting a mentoring program is within your reach. But great mentoring programs don’t just happen. They are built through thoughtful planning and sustained commitment to guiding participants through the mentoring process while continually improving the program.

Deciding to implement a mentoring program is a great strategy for improving employee metrics like retention.’s 2021 State of Coaching and Mentoring Report found 67 percent of HR professionals feel mentoring leads to improved organizational performance. In addition, more than 50 percent also agreed their organization will place greater importance on coaching and mentoring over the next two years to combat feelings of isolation, burnout and stagnation. Meanwhile, a CNBC/SurveyMonkey found 9 out of 10 workers with a mentor said they were satisfied with their jobs; more than half rated themselves “very satisfied.”

As with any major project, proper planning is crucial to achieving your strategic mentorship goals. Mentoring programs can be highly impactful, but there are many factors that are critical to the success of your program. We’ve distilled our guidance into a video outlining the five key strategies for building a mentorship program template.


What is a Mentoring Program?

A formal mentoring program is a structured, often one-to-one relationship in a work, organization or academic setting. Mentoring allows people to learn from one another, providing a path to skill and knowledge transfer. Impactful mentoring programs train mentors and mentees to have productive conversations and meetings, providing them with career development tools and resources to accomplish set mentorship goals.

Starting a mentoring program requires:

  • Identifying the purpose of mentoring and the vision for the program in your organization
  • Understanding your mentor and mentee candidates
  • Consistent communication and promotion to encourage mentoring longevity

When done right, a mentoring program in a professional setting is an enjoyable, rewarding experience for organizations and their people.


What are the Benefits of a Mentorship Program?

women collaborating at table

A well-planned, thoughtful mentoring program will encourage people to connect with others on a personal level and build strong, trusting relationships that motivate and guide toward future goals. The benefits of mentoring extend to mentors, mentees and their organizations. A mentoring program can also help students acclimate to college life, as well as prepare to graduate and enter the workforce. A mentoring program can help members of a professional association further their development and network with others in their industry.

What is the purpose of mentoring?

A mentoring program benefits the mentee/mentor relationship and helps the organization by building an inclusive workplace culture, centered on learning, sharing new ideas and creating a shared vision. A mentorship program can:

  • Diminish isolation and exclusivity
  • Increase engagement
  • Improve retention rates
  • Amplify skill development

Read on to learn the five steps to start a mentoring program.


Step 1. Design Your Mentoring Program Template

The starting point for any mentoring program template begins with two important questions:

  • Why are you starting a mentoring program?
  • What does success look like for participants and the organization?

To answer these questions you will need to dive deep to understand your target audience. Make sure you understand who they are, where they are, their development needs, and their key motivations to participate. Translate your vision into SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Mentoring objectives provide direction to program participants, establish program key performance indicators (KPIs), and help organizational leaders understand why they should offer their support.

Successful mentorship programs offer both structure and flexibility. Structure provides participants a mentoring workflow to follow and is critical to help participants achieve productive learning that reaches defined mentorship goals. Similarly, flexibility is essential to support varying individual mentoring needs across specific learning goals, preferences, and learning style.

Key mentoring program design decisions include:

  • Enrollment – is it open, application, or invite only?
  • Mentoring style – can be traditional, flash, reverse
  • Connection type – possibly 1:1, group, or project
  • Connection duration – can be weeks or months — or perhaps even just a single session
  • Measurement – tracking and reporting needs.

A good idea is to create a program workflow diagram to explain each step of your mentoring program. You can provide details such as key actions, timeframes, support resources, and criteria for moving to the next phase. Mark areas that will require some flexibility to support user needs.

Mentoring software allows you to deliver a wide-variety of mentoring programs. Regardless if a small or large program, easy-to-use mentoring software can save you time and cost in getting your program started and running smoothly.

Learn how software walks you through mentoring program design

Step 2. Attract Participants for Your Mentoring Program

The best designed mentoring programs won’t get far without effective program promotion, mentor recruitment, and mentoring training.

When formal mentorship programs are introduced in organizations, there is generally natural enthusiasm. Yet this enthusiasm doesn’t always translate into high participation rates. A common reason is poor promotion of the mentoring program. Don’t assume potential mentors and mentees understand the benefits. For many, this will be their first opportunity to participate in mentoring. You will need to convince them that participating is worth their time and effort. Beyond participants, key leaders and stakeholders will need to be educated on the benefits of the program and strategic value to the organization.

Consider the needs of mentors. Building a solid base of mentors can be a challenge. It is important to understand the positive and negative factors that impact mentor participation. Once you have identified them, look for creative ways to reinforce positive drivers and lower the hurdles of negative ones throughout the mentoring process. For example, mentors are often busy people with limited time to spend. How can you help mentors be more efficient with the time they have to dedicate to mentoring? Also consider recognition and reward strategies. Formally recognizing mentor involvement can be very motivating and help attract additional mentors to the program.

Lastly, productive mentoring doesn’t just happen. Provide mentorship training to mentors and mentees regarding the goals of the program, participant roles, mentoring best practices, and your mentoring process. Help mentors and mentees clarify their own mentoring objectives. The need for mentoring training and guidance doesn’t end after the initial orientation. Provide tips and best practices throughout the mentoring program to help participants stay on track and get the most out of the program.

Checklist for Attracting Participants to Mentoring Programs

  • Promote the benefits to participants and stakeholders
  • Consider recognition and rewards for mentoring participation
  • Provide mentoring training and reinforcement throughout the program

Chronus mentoring software provides best practices, content, templates and workflows to recruit, enroll and train program participants.

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How to Start a High-Impact Mentoring Program

Step 3. Match Mentors and Mentees

A productive mentoring relationship depends on a good match.

Properly matching mentors and mentees is often one of the most challenging aspects of a program. Participants will bring various competencies, backgrounds, learning styles and needs. A great match for one person may be a bad match for another.

Matching starts by deciding which type of matching you’ll offer in your program: self-matching or admin-matching. Consider giving mentees a say in the matching process by allowing them to select a particular mentor or submit their top three choices. Self-matching is administrative light, which in larger programs can be a huge plus.

For more structured programs, such as large groups of new students at universities, or groups of new corporate employees, you may want to get the program started by bulk, or admin matching. Evaluate various match combinations before finalizing as ensuring quality mentors for hard-to-match mentees can be challenging.

Mentor Matching - 3 Steps for a Successful Mentorship Match

Three steps to successful mentor matching:

  1. Create user profiles with rich data like gender, college, interests, and job function
  2. Decide on your method: self-matching or admin-matching
  3. Intelligently match based on profiles, improving match quality while saving time through mentoring software

Matching best practices start with a solid profile for all participants (mentors and mentees). Critical profile elements include:

  • development goals
  • specific topical interests
  • location
  • experiences
  • matching preferences


Think about how you’ll want to match people, or if you’ll want them to save time by having them match themselves. For example, you may want to match female leaders with younger female employees, or experienced sales personnel with new recruits. For self-matching, perhaps participants might like to connect with someone from the same previous employer, or the same college. The more you know about your participants, the better chance your participants will have for a great fit and a happy, productive mentoring outcome.

Regardless if self or admin matching, see how the Chronus platform makes matching faster and easier with strong, intelligent matching capabilities.

Learn how Chronus’ AI-powered mentor matching works

Step 4. Guide Your Mentoring Relationships

Now that your participants are enrolled, trained, and matched, the real action begins.

It is also where mentoring can get stuck. Left to themselves, many mentorships will take off and thrive. But some may not. Why? Because mentoring is not typically part of one’s daily routine. Without direction and a plan, the mentoring relationship is vulnerable to losing focus and momentum. That is why providing some structure and guidance throughout the mentorship is vital to a successful mentoring program.

One best practice in successful mentoring programs is to ensure all mentorships have goals and action plans. This serves two purposes:

  1. It brings focus at the onset, which helps a mentoring relationship get off to a good start.
  2. It adds accountability to accomplish something.

Provide all mentoring relationships with timely and relevant “help resources” (topical content, mentoring best practices, etc.) throughout the mentorship. Bite-sized content delivered at key points is ideal.

As a mentoring connection progresses, establish checkpoints where mentorships report on their progress. Lastly, have a formal process that brings closure to the mentoring experience. Within this process, provide an opportunity for both the mentor and mentee to reflect upon what was learned, discuss next steps for the mentee, and provide feedback on the benefits of the program and process.

Chronus mentoring software makes guiding or facilitating your program’s connections easy, enabling your participants to be highly productive.

Learn how software can provide guidelines for mentors and mentees

Step 5. Measure Your Mentorship Program Impact

Understanding how your program measures up to expectations may well be the most important phase of all.

Starting a mentoring program is a significant investment when you consider program management, infrastructure, and the valuable time of participants. Articulating the impact is essential to secure ongoing funding and support. In addition, the measure phase is also focused on assessing program health to identify trouble spots and opportunities.

Successful mentoring programs should be tracked, measured, and assessed at three altitudes:

  • the program
  • the mentoring connection
  • the individual

To be effective you need the ability to capture metrics and feedback throughout the program lifecycle.

Measure mentoring at three levels- individual learning, program health and mentoring connection activity

At the program level, build metrics around defined business objectives. For example, in a DEI mentoring program you may want to compare promotion rates of program participants to non-participants. Also track “funnel” conversion metrics, which show the progress participants make at each step of the mentoring program starting at enrollment. Conversion metrics provide essential insight into program health.

For mentoring connections, you want to understand mentorship behavior to identify roadblocks and opportunities. Common questions you will want to ask are:

  • Is the mentoring timeframe too long, too short, or just right?
  • Are mentorships getting off to productive starts or lagging behind?
  • Are participants leveraging content resources you have provided?

For participants, you want to understand the impact of mentoring in terms of outcomes while acquiring program feedback. One of the easiest ways to capture outcome and feedback is through surveys. Ask participants and stakeholders how well the mentoring program met its goals and the goals of the organization. Also ask them for their ideas for improving the program.

View examples of program reporting and mentoring success

In Conclusion

Formal mentorship is an impactful strategy to develop, engage and retain your people. But running an impactful mentoring program goes way beyond just matching people up. For true impact on your organization, it takes effort, resources, and know-how. While it is no easy task to build a successful mentoring program from scratch, following the five step process will put you on the right path to achieve your organization’s learning and mentorship goals.

Mentoring Software Can Help

Watch the video to see how the Chronus mentoring platform makes it easy to start, manage, and measure a modern mentoring program.

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