Lis Merrick shares her expertise on the key aspects of a successful talent development mentoring program. Lis is a recognized mentoring and coaching expert and president and founder of Coach Mentoring Ltd., headquartered in England. She has helped companies from all over the globe start and grow successful talent management mentoring and coaching programs. After helping to design and start more than 60 mentoring programs, Lis has gained a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to setting up your company’s mentoring initiatives for success.
Why it's important: Whether you are starting from the beginning or looking for rejuvenation, evaluating your program against each of these building blocks, is crucial in creating a successful program that benefits your organization as a whole.
This article outlines eight key aspects of a program that works, elaborating on each of these steps with helpful insight from Lis.
The 8 building blocks include:
- Define a statement of purpose
- Secure stakeholder support
- Develop a recruitment strategy
- Promote your program
- Prepare the participants
- Match mentors and mentees
- Facilitate the program and participants
- Review and Evaluate
You can continue reading the details of the 8 building blocks below, or click to download this article and share with your stakeholders.
Whether you are thinking about starting a talent development program at your organization, or are looking for ways to improve an existing program, Lis suggests there are 8 important steps one should follow:
1. Define a statement of purpose. Lis says, “Mentoring is a conversation with a purpose”.
- A strong purpose will serve as a great foundation for your program.
- Start with the end in mind. Without proper rationale, the value of a new mentoring program could be overlooked.
- Take time to sit down with key stakeholders and define what you want from the program.
- Involve potential mentees and mentors in this step; find out what they would want from a talent development program.
- Throughout the entire process, if you ever feel like you or the participants have lost sight of the importance of the program, revisit your statement of purpose for inspiration.
2. Secure stakeholder support.
- This is the make it or break it step. As you know, the key to implementing any new system in an organization is having the backing of upper management. Without the support of the right people, your program will never get its feet off the ground. You are going to need a time and money to start up a new program, so you must present a strong case for the mentoring program. Leveraging your statement of purpose will be key in gaining support of upper management.
- Keep in mind that your prospective participants are also stakeholders. In the end, if participants are not willing or able to utilize the program to its fullest, it will fail.
- Take a step back and evaluate the current corporate culture. Will the culture support a program like this? Is this a good match for your company?
3. Develop a recruitment strategy.
The key decision to make within your recruitment plan is whether your program will be voluntary or determined by management. Lis has found in her experience, that programs in which participants volunteer themselves to be part of the program are more successful. The intrinsic motivation needed to volunteer to be either a mentor or mentee will translate into more engagement results.
4. Promote your program.
Use existing communication channels within your organization to communicate with prospective participants. Refer back to your statement of purpose to give employees a clear understanding of what they can hope to get out of participating in the program.
5. Prepare the participants
You must first decide whether you are going to match employees before or after you orient them to the new program. Lis suggests holding orientations in which the mentor and mentee are already matched. That way they can both get to know the program and get acquainted with each other at the same time.
6. Match mentors and mentees.
There are many ways that you could choose to match participants depending on how much you, as an administrator of the program, want to be in control.
- At one end of the spectrum is a laissez faire approach where you take a step back and let the matching happen naturally; mentees and mentors find each other and initiate a mentoring relationship. Giving all of the matching power to the participants might encourage more initial comfort in a matching relationship, but employees might either find it hard to connect with a partner or might miss out on connecting with someone that would make a great match.
- At the other end of the spectrum is an interventionist approach where you create a matching algorithm based on preselected criteria and you match people based on the computations of the algorithm. An algorithm like this could streamline the matching process, but taking the human aspect out of a pairing exercise might generate partnerships that match on paper, but might be unsuccessful in real life.
- The moderate control option is a facilitative approach. This approach combines the accuracy of an algorithm with the humanness of personal preferences. With a set of matching criteria as a backbone, participants are able to see who they are well paired with and can choose who they want to be matched with from that list.
When developing matching criteria, seek feedback from participants. What would they value most in a mentor or mentee? Does gender play a role in who they want to connect with? Filter through different aspects to come up with a key handful of criteria that will serve as your guide to match the right people together.
7. Facilitate the program and participants.
Once the program has launched, your focus, as an administrator, must shift from “start-°©‐ up” to “maintain and support”. It can be very easy for a well-°©‐crafted mentoring program to lose steam and for employee’s enthusiasm for the program to diminish. To mitigate the risk of this happening, make sure to monitor the progress of the mentoring relationships.
8. Review and Evaluate.
- It is important to monitor success throughout the program, not just at the very end. Look for weak spots and fix them as the program goes instead of waiting until the end to do so.
- Obtain feedback from participants. Listen to what they think about their experience in the program. Do they feel their goals are being reached? The easiest way to do this is with a survey, or questionnaire. To gain richer feedback, think about facilitating a few focus groups or one-°©‐on-°©‐one interviews with employees.
- Go back to your statement of purpose from the very beginning of the process. Looking at it retrospectively, is the program accomplishing what you set out to accomplish in the first place? If the answer is yes, than you can trust that you have built a viable program that will launch the organization into a successful future.