Program Design Considerations and Best Practices

  • Updated

Introduction

To guide you through your program design decisions, this article provides considerations for each component of your program. These components present to you a sort of decision list for determining how best to support your program objectives and configure your program on the Chronus platform.

Why it matters: An intentionally designed program, based on the objectives that you, your organization and your participants wish to meet and measure, will not only ensure a successful program, but one that has a broader impact and can produce specific, measurable outcomes that are supported by leadership.

Program Objectives

Defining program objectives is the starting place for your program design as they will drive how your program is configured on the platform. Objectives should take into account the organizational goals that the mentoring program will contribute to such as retention, upskilling, career pathing, diversity and inclusion, etc.

Objectives can be a mix of participant, program and organizational objectives. For example, if the objective of the program is to develop or increase skill level for very specific skills, then you likely have predetermined skills you want to offer for selection or to assign to your mentees, as well as to use in the matching algorithm. In addition, some clients will use surveys to obtain participant interests on various objectives in order to finalize program objectives, such as mentor preferences, areas for development, type of mentor matching, e.g.,one-to-one, circles, or flash one-time mentoring.

Learn more: Participant Interest Survey Questions

Matching Criteria

Is skill development an objective for matching criteria and are there others such as cross-functional or cross-divisional networking and knowledge transfer?  Or possibly, the opportunity to match a participant with a mentor in an area of specialty that they aspire to? Determine criteria & who will do the matching:

Criteria

Matching criteria and scoring is based on profile field data. Once the objectives are known, profile fields and skills offered for selection can be set up in the platform prior to matching so that participants can log in and complete their profiles to be ready for matching. Participants can be matched via the system based on multiple criteria, e.g., department, position level, location, areas of interest, functional area, and/or skill that are predetermined by Program Admin.

Who does the matching?

 The Admin selects the desired matching option: 

  • Self-match, no admin approval needed: Mentees send requests directly to mentors
  • Admin-match: Admin can review top matches for each mentee and select the final match
  • Preferred matching: Mentees can view mentors and send top mentor choices to the admin for final selection.

Anonymous Matching: This allows you to hide profile fields that may bias your participant’s selection for a match. This approach mitigates implicit bias during the matching process and allows participants to experience the benefits of mentorship with a partner they may not have chosen otherwise. 

It also democratizes the selection process. High profile mentors tend to get more requests, while highly qualified, but lesser known or unknown mentors may not receive any.

What’s hidden? Name, profile photo, and email address are hidden by default until a match is made. Additionally, and based on the objectives of your program, ask yourself what your participants need to know about each other in order to make the best match, e.g., if the objective is for a user to develop skills in marketing, then it will be helpful for them to see the dept field of potential mentors/mentors who are also in marketing.

Following are some typical fields that clients create but hide until participants are matched:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Position Title
  • Department/Area of Focus
  • Location

What not to hide? Information that help participants make an informed mentor request/mentee acceptance without the knowledge of the fields bulleted above might include:

  • Bio
  • Personality assessment results
  • Description of their strengths / how they feel they can assist a mentee (mentors)
  • Description of their development areas / what they hope to achieve (mentees)
  • Hobbies, activities outside work
  • Parental status
  • What I want my mentor or mentee to know about me

Learn more: Matching in Bulk, Personlized Recommendations: End User Experience, Anonymous Matching

Program Length

Optimal lengths and meeting intervals for a program will vary depending on the program type, e.g.:

  • Stand-alone program (e.g., an ongoing, just-in-time mentee opt-in program, or structured 6-month to 1-yr program)
  • Training-adjacent program: Follow-up to formal training
  • Mentoring circles program: E.g., to share best practices across functional areas, depts., divisions, give participants access to subject matter experts, specific skill training, etc.
  • Onboarding program

Program Content

Determine how much structure is needed to guide mentee learning and partnership discussions on development topics:

  • Will the content and resources offered in the platform be general conversation starters, or more specifically aligned to particular skills, potentially offering links to training (Lynda.com) and other resources (videos, pdfs, etc.)?
  • Will content guides be necessary or helpful for mentors or facilitators of circle mentoring discussions?

Partnership Types

Determine the best way to match participants based on your program objectives:

  • 1:1 Ongoing: Mentee and mentor match for the duration of the program.
  • 1:Many: Mentee meets with several mentors consecutively.
  • One-time Mentoring: (Flash) Mentees request one meeting with a mentor.
  • Group Mentoring: Mentees select a mentor and joins their group with other mentees.
  • Circles: Mentees join theme-based circles.
  • 1:1 Ongoing and One-time Mentoring Combination: Mentors and mentees chose the format that works best for them or engage in both.

Measuring Success

 Based on your objectives, what is the best way to measure the level to which they were met?

  • Platform data - logins, task completion, topic/discussion completion)
  • Skill assessments
  • Self-rating surveys (comparative baseline & endpoint)
  • Mentor feedback, mentor evaluation surveys
  • Supervisor feedback on observations made on specific mentoring goals

Learn more: Reporting Tools: Health, Outcome and User Reports

Program Ecosystem

Will the program be best supported by being integrated into a training ecosystem and/or employee performance management? Are other platform integrations desired (LMS, HRIS, etc.)? A program that is tied to other incentives and reporting within the employee lifecycle can support performance initiatives and be a strong motivator for the participants.

Stakeholder Buy-In

Design your program to include stakeholders in the organization that can support the participants and program, e.g., within the employee management and development ecosystem. Manager input, debrief and reporting at program's end or at regular intervals supports employee development and career goals during and beyond the mentoring program. Other selling points to your stakeholders to garner support for the program and platform use:

  • Cost Savings
    • Expensive admin time that would be incurred in running a manual program; Chronus offers automated program management tools: participant application process, employee upload & ongoing data sync, matching, notifications, surveys.
    • Decrease training expense and increase employee engagement, bench strengths, productivity and promote-ability all while using your own internal talent for mentoring and knowledge transfer.
    • Maximize training investment by creating a mentoring program as a follow-up to training for application of new skills, sustainment and continued development.
  • Scalability 
    • Add users and programs with minimal admin time incurred. 
    • The matching algorithm will allow you scale matching globally while keeping your matching parameters in place.
    • Your instance of the Chronus platform enables you to add multiple program tracks as needed. New admins benefit from readily available resources and connection plan content already configured for currently running programs.  permissions/restrictions/access across multiple program administrators.
    • Offer a structured skill development program that you build once while continually onboarding new participants.
    • Enables remote connections globally; language localization in multiple languages is available.

IV. IMPLEMENTATION, BEST PRACTICES, TOOLS, TEMPLATES

Your Chronus Implementation Manager or Customer Success representative will help plan and ensure a successful launch and ongoing engagement with any mentoring program. Your partner will provide Admin training, upfront program planning, implementation guidance and the many best practices we’ve garnered hosting years of successful mentoring programs. 

eMC has a wealth of best practices we will share with you throughout your program design, implementation and ongoing program duration as well assist you in monitoring participant engagement.  In addition, we will make available our tools & templates to employ based on program objectives including:

  • Mentor recruitment guides, fact sheets and best practices
  • Mentee & Mentor roles and responsibilities
  • Mentee & Mentor launch/webinar materials: presentation decks, step-by-step system guides based on program type
  • Platform demo video recordings
  • Baseline, midpoint & endpoint survey questions
  • Content templates and best practices for designing mentee-mentor discussion content and prompts for the platform
  • Professional and leadership development content for licensing
  • Notification drafts for automated notifications (e.g., engagement notifications scheduled throughout length of program, low activity notifications, survey notifications, etc.)

 

V. INITIAL PROGRAM COMMUNICATIONS

eMentorConnect can provide a stakeholder communications plan template as well as participant program announcements for any program type that will outline the purpose of the program and how the platform will be utilized to support it. It is essential that both mentees and mentors understand the program objectives, benefits and expectations at the outset:

  • Be sure your initial program announcements, mentor recruitment emails (if needed) and invitations for participants to enroll are clear on the points above. Also be sure to include program duration, high-level roles & responsibilities, and expectations for time investment.
  • Webinars are a great way to invite participants to learn the details of the program and what success looks like. In this forum they can also ask questions, observe a demo of the platform, then log in and get started. 

 

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