Are you contemplating a mentoring program for your organization? If so, you’re probably thinking about software, since it will help you more quickly and effectively match your participants, manage their progress, and measure their results. Here are a few things to think about as you consider your choices.
- Mentoring Expertise: It’s easy to get caught up in all the jazzy online tools. But software that is built without a nuanced grasp of mentoring can look cool without giving you the results you’re after. So make sure the team has not only software expertise but also actual mentoring know-how. That mentoring expertise will guide the design of the entire program, including the matching algorithms, content, best-practice guides, workflows, and administrator and measurement tools.
- Matching: The match is the key component of your mentoring program. No matter how great the website, the pairs won’t get far unless they are compatible. Most software companies will tell you they use algorithms to match the mentoring pairs, but make sure you ask how these algorithms are designed and whether they have been troubleshot and optimized over time. A true algorithm weights the compatibility factors, as opposed to just using filters to narrow down the pool of mentors. Also, make sure the compatibility questions are based on more than just background and goals. They should also get at the more inherent, fundamental compatibility factors such as personality traits.
- Support: Administrators of any new mentoring program will have a lot of questions, especially as they begin to launch the program. Given the options involved in designing mentoring programs, support can become a key differentiator. Ask questions about how the software is supported pre- and post-launch. Is there a client service team that works with you to determine your goals, customize your program, and train your administrators and users on the system and best practices? Does the team continue to support you through the entire process? If possible, request an interview with the person who will be supporting you.
- Focus on Results: This broad but critical component of a mentoring program includes setting goals, charting workflows, and recording milestones and measuring real progress. Mentoring can succeed only if the mentee goes into the relationship having established goals. This will drive the mentee’s choice of mentor, the type of mentoring program he pursues, and the content and discussion between the partners. A good mentoring site will have a centralized tool for the mentee to record, monitor, and fine-tune her goals. These goals should also be able to be monitored by an administrator.
Once goals are in place, the mentee and mentor need to be guided through the process so they can achieve their goals. Look for a system that allows administrators to customize milestones and gives participants a centralized plan to follow.
Finally, make sure the system has a robust reporting system that can filter data to get you the information you need. Reporting systems should include summary reports of key data, as well as a database of all users, which can be filtered according to key variables. An integrated survey tool is another key feature to help you achieve results by obtaining real-time feedback from participants.
- Flexible, Easy-to-Use Platform: Mentoring is not a one-size-fits-all program. Every organization has a different organizational structure, different goals, and different types of mentoring formats (traditional one-on-one, reverse, group, topical) that it will want to incorporate. Look for a platform that is flexible, can accommodate different types of program goals, and will scale with your organization as you grow.
Find a program with these five essentials, and your organization will be well on its way to a productive mentoring journey. Good luck, and good mentoring!