Snap, Crackle – Ensuring Your Mentoring Program Doesn’t Lose Its Pop!

All too often I hear of internal mentoring programs launching to much fanfare and anticipation, only to hear later that the program had flopped, that the participation had been weak, and the much anticipated ROI had become a distant dream.

So why does this happen and what can you do about it?

From my own experience and that of my colleagues we’ve discovered the key challenges facing any mentoring program (informal or formal), include the:

  • process for selecting mentors;
  • matching of mentors to mentees;
  • initial training for mentors and mentees;
  • setting + management of expectations between mentors and mentees; and
  • on-going support for the mentors and mentees

It’s the attention to the basic fundamentals that drives the success of a quality mentoring program.  The pathway to implementing and running a success program incorporates:

  • having a leader / leaders championing the program – legitimises and positions the program;
  • being strategically planned – year on year, not once off;
  • having clearly defined ‘measures that matter’ – both empirical + anecdotal ;
  • training the participants – ensures consistency, quality, enhanced capability, and expectation management; and
  • leveraging existing internal systems and processes

I’m always asked what are the ‘measures that matter’ the most, and whilst there is no one measure that matters most, and measures naturally vary from organisation to organisation, the body of evidence and research into the value derived from mentoring programs is now substantial.  The 2006 investigation into the impact of mentoring at Sun Microsystems identified the following outcomes (see table below).
tableTriple Creek Associates: Benefits of Mentoring, 2007
Other studies have found the impacts of running a successful mentoring program include:

  • 77% increase in staff retention;
  • 20% decrease in staff turnover;
  • 75% of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their career; and
  • managerial productivity increased 88% when training was combined with mentoring, versus only a 24% increase with training alone.

So what are the key elements of a successful mentoring program?


1. Concept and Vision

The Business Case where the overall purpose of the program, the concept and the commercial and cultural ROI (expectations) are defined, plus how they will be measured and monitored.

2. Strategy and Plan

Once the business case is agreed too, the program can be planned out in detail and customised to fit the enterprise. An initial baseline measure is taken of the ROI indicators.

3. Program Delivery

This is commonly broken down into the:

Pre-delivery period: where internal marketing of the program is designed to build the momentum and interest to develop a pipeline of mentor and mentee interest.

Intake: where mentor and mentee registrations occur, and training is delivered.

Program delivery: where the mentoring begins and mentees and mentors meet regularly. Within this delivery phase, mentors and mentees attend quarterly (or more regularly if desired) ‘Meets’ where ongoing training and development occurs, as well as informal networking can be undertaken. The power of these ‘Meets’ cannot be underestimated as this is where mentors are mentored, and any ‘trending issues’ within the organisation can be identified. It also provides the L&D team with a vital Quality Assurance process.

In addition to these regular mentor / mentee ‘meets’ a program administrator is also encouraged to provide phone call follow-up to both mentors and mentees to capture the confidential / one on one feedback on the program and relationship experiences.

4. Post Engagement

At the completion of the first intake program, the ROI is re-measured to gauge the program effectiveness. Re-uptake of existing and new mentors and mentees commences for the next round of the program.

5. Feedback & Review

Feedback from the ROI measures and other processes are fed into the program for evaluation and refinement. The program is changed accordingly prior to the next intake.

With the fundamentals in place and a clear program structure, the only choice left is to decide whether to manage the program internal or engage an external provider.  If you’re in the process of developing your own mentoring program and thinking about getting external assistance here are some tips to contemplate:

they have proven ROI data on mentoring program in similar organisations to your own;
they have a range of tools, frameworks and program materials available to fast track your program;
there is a cultural fit between both parties;
they challenge your assumptions and get you to think bigger;
they can quantify the time + energy investment to ensure success; and
they have a clear understanding of the program, processes and organisational success factors

Still have some questions?  Feel free to contact me directly and I’ll send you an electronic copy of AltusQ’s recent discussion paper on Enterprise Mentoring.
So what’s your next step?

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