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5 Step Guide for Successful Mentorship Programs

How to Start a High-Impact Mentoring Program

What is the purpose of mentoring programs?

Mentoring allows people to learn from one another, providing a path to knowledge transfer. In the workplace, for instance, someone established in their career can share knowledge and insights, as well as offer guidance, to someone with less experience. In academic institutions, students can explore education and career possibilities with a mentor, while a recent graduate can get insight into how to chart a career path and connections for future employment. Mentoring at its core is the opportunity for people to learn from one another. It enables knowledge transfer between two or more people for the benefit of all.

In this Article:

What is a Mentor?

There’s a wide range of things a mentor can offer a mentee. Mentors can listen, share advice, ask thought-provoking questions, and more, including:

  • Provides a sounding board: Mentors can listen to their mentees’ concerns and brainstorm ideas and suggestions about their future career. Mentors can also share feedback and response that might help crystalize a person’s path forward in a particular situation or in regards to a career trajectory.
  • Gives advice: Mentors directly offer recommendations. They can suggest professional development priorities, help mentees establish goals, and identify resources. Mentors can also be helpful in the interview or promotion process, offering feedback on resumes and cover letters, as well as tips for acing an interview.
  • Shares inspiration and encouragement: Peeling back the steps someone took in their career can be illuminating. Mentors share knowledge on both a small scale (the nitty-gritty of workplace successes) and the large scale (how to build a successful, fulfilling career). Mentors can also offer encouragement, acting as a cheerleader for a mentee’s goals and dreams.
  • Offers networking opportunities: A mentor can make introductions to people who can be helpful in a mentee’s career, share opportunities, and recommend events and stretch assignments that will expose a mentee to important information and connections.

What is a Mentee?

The mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street. Mentees can provide feedback and new perspectives to mentors, while helping them work on their leadership skills and growth. As with mentors, a mentee’s role will vary, but some core actions on the part of a mentee include:

  • Taking and giving constructive feedback: Hearing about what you’re doing well is a lovely experience, but getting notes on what needs improvement or should be adjusted can be harder to take. Still, mentees should respond to feedback—both positive and negative—with openness, since this is ultimately useful information intended to help with growth and future success. Similarly, they should be prepared to give their mentors the same candid feedback. This assures that both parties are learning from each other.
  • Being mindful: By being on time, prepared for meetings, and professional, mentees can show they value the time and efforts mentors are providing.
  • Steering the relationship: Mentees should be clear on what they hope to get out of interactions, and drive conversations and interactions. Establish the meeting times and meeting modes, and come with questions, specific requests for advice and proposed topics of conversation.
  • Following through: After getting suggestions, recommendations, introductions, and so on, mentees should follow up with the appropriate actions, and be prepared to give updates at subsequent meetings. This helps validate the work and effort on the part of the mentor, and continues the good rapport within the mentoring relationship.

What is a mentorship 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. This helps build strong, trusting relationships that motivate and guide toward future goals. The benefits of mentoring extend to mentors, mentees and their organizations and include:

  • helping students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce
  • improving employee engagement and retention
  • increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace
  • enabling members of a professional association further their professional development
  • help professionals network with others in their industry


Benefits of Being a Mentor

  • Develop and refine skills: Mentors will learn to be organized, share information clearly, and guide someone else to grow personally and professionally. Mentors also build their acumen in leadership and management.
  • Give back: Lending a hand can feel gratifying and meaningful. Plus, it’s a big compliment to be someone’s source of wisdom.
  • See what’s next: The knowledge-sharing in this relationship goes in both directions. Not only do mentors get access to the concerns and priorities of younger workers, but they might get a hands-on look at new technology or ways of operating.

Benefits of Being a Mentee

  • Gain support and knowledge: impactful mentoring provides mentees with advice, wisdom, and encouragement, as well as new skills and institutional knowledge.
  • Become more productive employees: Feedback and guidance from mentors can improve workplace performance.
  • Improve their career and earnings: Participating in mentoring can lead to a salary increase and promotions, according to one study, while another study pointed to an increase in job satisfaction.


Benefits of Mentoring for Organizations

By setting up checkpoints and structure, a formal mentorship program allows mentors and mentees to have a relationship that’s productive and beneficial to all involved. The structure and accountability provided in formal programs—such as defined goals, mentor/mentee training, and an established platform of communication—elevate the connection beyond the confines of informal mentoring. Plus, with a formal program in place, more mentorship relationships can flourish, particularly with people (employees and students) who are traditionally underserved by mentoring of an informal nature.

  • Increase loyalty and decrease turnover: Mentoring can help increase retention. Deloitte notes that 68 percent of millennials with a mentor plan to stay with the organization for five years (compared to 32 percent of millennials who do not have a mentor).
  • Builds skills: Mentoring matters in building much-needed skills and knowledge. Employees are eager to grow on the job, so not only do companies gain the benefit of a more skilled workforce, but they provide workers with something they want.
  • Increases employee engagement: A Moving Ahead study found 82 percent believe that mentoring relationships help foster meaningful connections between mentors and mentees, across departments and the organization.
  • Builds company culture and loyalty: Mentoring can integrate employees with company culture and make employees feel invested in by the organization.

How Does Mentoring Benefit Recruiting?

The direct business benefits of mentoring are compelling, but let’s take a moment to pivot to how mentoring programs affect the way job candidates perceive a company that offers mentoring programs. This point is often underemphasized, but is worth mentioning, especially if your company employs or recruits millennials.

When job searching, candidates are putting themselves first – and rightly so. They want what’s in their best interest and they want to find the right fit. They want to learn and they want to grow. They want to be happy at their jobs.

Professional growth and career development
is the number one driver of successful engagement and retention among millennial employees

23% of employees leave a company
because of a lack of career development and training

Offering mentoring programs helps to set your company apart from those who don’t. Some companies can talk the talk when it comes to having a growth mindset, but that point is lost if you don’t back it up. Formal company mentoring programs reinforce your company’s learning culture. What’s a job candidate’s thought process like when evaluating a company?

  • Down the line, will I be proud to list this company on my resume?
  • Will I be gaining skills and competencies at this job?
  • Will I be a better candidate in the future for having worked at this company?

By offering employees mentoring programs, you’re showing tangible proof that your company invests the time, money and effort into something that directly benefits employees long-term.

How Does Mentoring
Benefit Mental Health?

The Mental Health Foundation recommends mentoring as an effective way to support mental health at work. Mentorship can be an important tool for employee wellbeing in the following ways:

  • Fostering human connection
  • Providing employee support
  • Building trust
  • Establishing accountability

The need for connection doesn’t stop when people walk through the door at work or sit down in their home office. With mentoring, organizations can focus on mental health and build support for employees, personally and professionally.

What are the Mentoring
Benefits for Diversity & Inclusion?

When it comes to inclusion and career advancement, underrepresented employees can face challenges in the workplace. Mentoring can enable the following:

  • Skill development
  • Network expansion
  • Empathetic engagement
  • Allyship
  • Belonging and psychological safety

Mentoring can help cultivate an inclusive workplace that allows employees to bring their complete selves to work, whether this be physically or remotely.


Three Types of Mentoring

Employee Career Mentoring

Offering formal career development is a tangible way to show employees that their career trajectory matters. Career mentoring is by far the most common mentoring program we see in the workplace. This traditional one-to-one mentoring relationship can last nine to 12 months. Employees get the opportunity to learn and build skills, which can help grow their careers, keeping them from feeling stagnant in their roles.

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Reverse Mentoring

This format pairs a more senior employee with a more junior employee. Companies can implement reverse mentoring in a one-to-one or group setting. The younger employee serves as the mentor, providing senior members of the organization with up-to-date information on the latest frontline experiences, technical skills, and workplace culture.

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Mentoring Circles

A mentoring circle is a peer-to-peer format that enables employees to find peers who share common interests or learning objectives, and develop together as a group. People from across departments and generations can learn from one another, expanding institutional knowledge. Employees can also build cross-functional relationships with people of similar or diverse backgrounds. Organizations can utilize mentoring circles for employee resource groups (ERGs) as a way to foster belonging. Employees of similar backgrounds can find a psychologically safe space for discussion, solidarity and support, where people can feel free to self-identify and be their authentic selves.

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How to Start a Mentoring Program

Want to learn how to develop a mentoring program? That’s great. Mentoring is a proven approach to drive rich learning and career 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.

Watch a quick overview video

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. HR.com’s 2021 State of Coaching and Mentoring Report found:

  • 67 percent of HR professionals feel mentoring leads to improved organizational performance
  • 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 mentorship program outline video highlighting the five key strategies for building a mentorship program template.

5 Steps: How 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. Some of the perks of creating mentoring objectives include:

  • providing direction to program participants
  • establish program key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • 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. This is critical to helping 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, mentor groups, or one to many
  • 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 of program size, easy-to-use mentoring software can help get your mentorship program started and running smoothly.

Learn how software walks you through mentoring program design


Step 2. Attract Participants for Your Mentoring Programs

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 mentoring programs. 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:

  • demonstrate the benefits of mentorship programs to show that participating is worth the time and effort
  • educate key leaders and stakeholders on the benefits of the program and strategic value to the organization

Building a solid base of mentors can be a challenge, so consider the needs of the mentors:

  • How can you help mentors be more efficient with the time they have to dedicate to mentoring?
  • Formally recognize mentor involvement to motivate and attract additional mentors to the program

Lastly, productive mentoring doesn’t just happen. Provide mentorship training to mentors and mentees regarding:

Checklist for Attracting Participants to Mentoring Programs

  • Promote the benefits to participants and stakeholders
  • Consider recognition and rewards for mentoring participation
  • Provide mentorship training and reinforcement throughout the program
  • the goals mentorship programs
  • mentoring participant roles
  • mentoring best practices
  • your organizational mentoring process
  • clarifying mentor and mentee 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.

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

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Start your mentoring program with this easy-to-follow guide


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 allowing mentees 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 or new corporate employees, you may want to get the program started by bulk, or admin matching. Utilizing software that pairs mentors and mentees can also be valuable. Evaluating 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
  • mentoring goals
  • specific topical interests
  • location
  • experiences
  • matching preferences

Think about how you’ll want to match people, or if you’ll want them to 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 program will have a positive outcome.

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

How Chronus 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 successful mentoring programs.

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. This process should account for:

  • an opportunity for both the mentor and mentee to reflect upon what was learned
  • discussion of next steps for the mentee
  • 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.

Guidelines for mentors and mentees


Step 5. Measure the Impact of Mentorship Programs

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

Starting a mentorship 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 mentorship programs should be tracked, measured, and assessed at three altitudes:

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

  • the program
  • the mentoring connection
  • the individual

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

At the program level, build metrics around defined business objectives. For example, in a DEI mentorship programs 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.

You’ll also want to be sure you’re benchmarking your mentoring program in the areas of enrollment, matching and engagement — so you’ll understand if the performance you’re seeing is good, bad or average in comparison to other mentorship programs. Not sure how to establish benchmarks? Check out our Mentoring Benchmarks Report: Quit Navigating in the Dark.

Examples of program reporting and mentoring success

In Conclusion

Formal mentorship is an impactful strategy to develop, engage and retain your people. But running impactful mentoring program goes way beyond just matching people up. For true impact on your organization, it takes effort, resources, and know-how. Following our mentor program guidelines laid out in this 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 modern mentorship programs.

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Software can drive 50% Increased Engagement. Learn how Chronus can impact your mentorship program.

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