Corporate Mentoring Programs

10 Steps to Launching a Successful Mentoring Program

Discover 10 key steps to launching a successful mentoring program. From recruitment to measuring success, this guide will help you build a strong foundation for growth and development.

Are you thinking about launching a mentoring program, but have no idea where to start? We’ve put together 10 simple steps from our program planning experts to get you on the path to success. Kickstart your program with maximum efficiency using this as a guideline.

One – Define Objectives. Secure Leadership Support.

Numerous mentoring programs fail because there were no clearly defined objectives and company leadership didn’t support the program from the beginning. Well before program launch, consult with senior leadership and define what the goals of the program should be. Gain agreement on what success will look like.

Come up with a SMART plan: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Here’s an example: “The goal of our mentoring program is to engage our junior employees, boost company culture and morale, and increase retention rates by 50%.”

This is a simple goal, and it's easy to get leadership to support it. With defined objectives and leadership support, your mentoring program has a good foundation to launch from.

Two – Pick a Strong Program Director

A mentoring program may develop legs of its own and start growing like wildfire, but that only happens if the groundwork is done well and a strong, passionate program director is at the helm. You can’t wash your hands of the mentoring program and put it on the program director to succeed alone, but you also won’t have a successful mentoring program without someone taking full ownership of the outcome. The program director will oversee day-to-day operations, handle support for participants, guide mentors and mentees through the process, and troubleshoot rough spots.

Depending on the goals and size of the program, this might not be a full-time job, but it very well could snowball into one if the mentoring program catches fire. So make sure the right person is in place from the start. You don’t want to be scrambling around trying to find someone when droves of employees are signing up and you can’t handle the traffic load yourself.

Three – Allow Organic Growth

Mentoring programs need a balance between structure and flexibility. Mentoring software, formal mentoring programs, checklists, scheduled sessions, matching processes, and detailed analytics are all vital to the success of a mentoring program. But it’s important to recognize that these are tools to achieve the goals laid out in Step One.

The tools can’t become more important than the goal. So if mentors and mentees break structure, let it happen. If there are pieces of the program that aren’t working for certain partnerships, adjust them.

Don’t get into a mindset where the parameters of the program are constantly being enforced on participants. A mentoring program is a road your participants have to drive down. Provide a map, but let them take the wheel.

Four – Draw up a Complete Marketing Plan

When new mentoring programs are started, there is natural enthusiasm. This enthusiasm doesn’t always translate into skyrocketing enrollment or participation.

But if you take advantage of the initial buzz and market the program to potential mentors and employees, the program can spike. The key is to convince people that participating in mentoring is worth their time and effort.

This rolls back to Step One, leadership support. If company leaders use their networks and position to communicate the worth of participating in such a program, people will enroll. It can’t be a one-off communication. Your marketing plan needs to be widespread and repeat the benefits of enrolling over and over.

Every promotional avenue you can get your hands on should be exploited to the fullest extent from the start of the program all the way until the end. Towards the end of the program, you can promote participant successes to build excitement for future mentoring programs.

Five – Encourage Your Senior Employees to be Mentors

Building a solid pool of mentors can be a challenge. Mentors are usually extremely busy people. They are the ones moving the dial within your company and getting things done. You don’t want to distract them from their jobs by jamming a mentee into their packed calendars. But these are also the exact people you want to be mentoring your new, young talent.

If you want something done, give it to a busy person. They’ll find a way. But they’ll only find a way if they have a passion to do so.

To recruit ideal mentors, you need to come up with ways to encourage them. You could conduct surveys of potential mentors and find out what would interest them about being mentors, and how they could best be accommodated if they did take on a mentee. Mentors can also get a lot out of mentoring, so make sure the benefits are promoted.

When people step up to be mentors within your ranks, ensure they are recognized for their efforts and turn them into good examples.

Six – Prepare Participants for Success

Don’t expect software, scheduled mentoring sessions, and mentors to all work on their own. A lot of the mentoring will organically happen through the process of the mentoring program, but to set it out on the right foot, provide guidelines from the start. Make sure participants are prepared for success.

Provide them with details on Mentoring Do’s and Don’ts. Provide participants with a checklist and actions at the start to get the most out of their mentoring relationships. You should also ensure the mentees have defined goals for themselves on what they want to get out of the program and do everything you can to help mentors deliver on these goals.

A little bit of organization and planning with participants how the program goals and who as mentees they can achieve them goes a long and guards against aimless mentoring sessions that waste time. 

Seven – Nail the Matching Process

The backbone of a successful mentoring program is well-matched participants. When mentors and mentees are correctly matched, they both grow and goals are met. If this is a repeating pattern throughout the program, it will be a success.

This critical step should ideally be overseen by an experienced mentoring expert. It’s not as cut and dry as having participants fill out surveys and then letting an algorithm do all the work for you. Software and matching algorithms help, but as with anything having to do with HR, there is a human element.

Be as thorough and careful as possible and work with a mentoring expert to ensure that your partnerships are correctly matched. Botching this step can be a headache. If you have mentees and mentors who are clashing throughout the program, there is no way they are going to have success. It's best to get it right from the start.

Eight – Monitor Analytics

What you can measure, you can control. Mentoring software has built-in metrics and feedback systems. These systems can be tailored at the start of the program to mathematically track objectives and tell you if the mentoring program is moving towards its declared objectives.

You can also review feedback and assess how individual mentor and mentee connections are doing.

Not everything can be translated into an analytic. One of the best ways of tracking progress is to do frequent surveys. Make sure to ask how they think the program can improve so you can course-correct as needed.

Nine – Use a Milestone System

Without defined targets, the mentoring progress can meander and seem aimless. Ensure that there are milestones for participants to achieve. Both mentors and mentees should have a tangible system in place to see when they are making progress.

Examples of Milestones:
  • New skill passed over to mentee.
  • Career path mapped out in writing.

Ten – Promote Success

Good works don’t speak for themselves. They have to be promoted.

When the program is over collect up testimony and successes. Make sure these are broadly published on social media, company newsletters, etc. Participants enjoy the recognition and it also lays the groundwork for future mentoring programs.

Provide an opportunity for feedback, sharing successes and reflection on what was learned. Provide guidance on the next steps participants should take to continue their development.

There are likely people who missed out on the mentoring program who will want to enroll next time around so you’ve got to keep the buzz alive. Remember the Marketing Plan that you drew up early that goes from program start to finish? This would be the concluding action.

Mentor Resources can help any company or government agency to leverage technology to create tailored career development programs that are cost-effective. Our mentoring software - Wisdom Share is a cloud-based program that is simple and comes with guided workflows. Included are tools for administrators to attract, enroll, connect, and guide participants. We also provide analytics to ensure you can monitor your employee development program and easily see ROI metrics.

Reach out to us today for a Free Demonstration of our software.

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