The vast majority of companies understand the value of mentoring. It boosts employee engagement, encourages loyalty, and increases retention. That’s why nearly three out of four Fortune 500 companies have enacted a mentoring program. So why aren’t more companies seeing the benefits? Why are engagement and retention rates still so low? Why are so many mentoring programs failing or dropping off with no real results to show for the effort?
Companies simply aren’t getting their mentorship programs right.
“One of the key components of a successful mentoring program is determining the specific objectives of that program and for the participants,” says Diane Simone, Sr. Director of Implementation for eMentorConnect®. “The objectives and the outcomes you will measure for success must be determined so that you can build a successful program in the first place. For example, is it a voluntary, just-in-time structure? Or is it a structure that produces specific, measurable leadership development skills at the end of the program? Those are very different programs, with very different designs. If you can’t identify your objectives, you don’t know how to structure your program to get results.”
To define the objectives, companies should consider why they’re implementing the mentoring program in the first place — outside of a general desire to improve engagement or retention. Onboarding, leadership development, skills gap training to facilitate succession planning, or increased networking options are all potential goals. Companies who struggle with this first crucial step can and should consider a needs-assessment process to clearly define the outcomes they are hoping for, and how they will measure them.
“Some companies may say they don’t really have defined objectives,” adds Simone. “They just want a program because they know they need one. Objectives may be very broad or very specific, and that’s okay. Either way, they will inform how participants are matched, what tools and resources are available to support the mentorship goals, and how success will be measured. If the proper structure is not in place, the mentorship relationship can, and often does, fall off over time.”
eMentorConnect, for example, not only helps their clients uncover, define, and clarify their objectives, they also help them by guiding them through the “four M’s” to implement a successful program: match, manage, motivate, and measure.
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Create Structure Using the Four M’s
“The right match is essential to the mentor-mentee relationship,” explains Simone. “The program objectives provide the most important two to three criteria for the match. While manual programs require admins to personally match candidates, newer modern platforms enable digitalization, which makes the implementation process much smoother and removes the administrative headache of older, traditionally run mentoring programs.”
“Manually matching is a heavy burden,” she adds. “Program admins may isolate themselves in a room for days or a week to manually match participants based on applications or survey responses. With a mentoring platform that allows admins or participants to specify and weight their matching criteria, this process is automated.”
Modern mentoring programs that enable participants to find a match based on what they consider to be the most important criteria are more likely to last and be beneficial to each of the parties involved. These programs minimize admin subjectivity and maximize participant preference, creating stronger matches. Robust, participant-driven matches meet program and employee objectives quickly and with more consistency.
“Once you have your objectives, you can set up a program structure that just about manages itself,” says Simone, “whether that means mentoring circles, a one-to-one partnership, a one-to-many model, or a just-in-time mentoring program.”
“We’re looking to set as little or as much structure as necessary to meet your objectives,” she explains. “If leadership development is the objective, for example, then the structure should support the mentees in meeting their development goals. A modern mentoring platform like eMentorConnect’s KNOX platform lets you utilize content, assessments, and evaluations to monitor, measure, and award success. It’s training through mentorship, so mentors and mentees can work through the skills or knowledge areas together.
“If your objectives are broad or allow mentees to specify their own goals, you still want to provide tools and resources around conversation starters, goal setting, and expectation management to ensure a solid foundation for the mentorship is built and ultimately meets their individual goals. Such resources might prompt mentees to prepare for their first meeting or train them on how to discuss their expectations with their mentors if those expectations aren’t being met.”
“People have day jobs, and so do program admins!” says Simone. “Program reminders, status updates, and relevant resources are great ways to keep participants engaged in their mentoring program and focused on what really matters to them. Platforms such as ours allow admins to create and schedule notifications, motivational engagement reminders, and resources at whatever intervals align with their program structure. They also allow participants to track their progress and to receive status updates, as well as notifications when their partners have shared notes or resources.”
The right structure facilitates the alignment of the program’s objectives with the key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling admins to measure the impact of the program, which helps maintain funding and keeps the program running.
“Platform reports should measure outcomes directly related to the objectives of the program and the participants,” says Simone. “If leadership development is the objective, task completion reports, as well as self and mentor assessments and surveys, will show progress toward goals. If it’s a networking or more open-ended objective, time can provide a good metric. Reports can provide time spent in mentorship meetings, time spent preparing and completing tasks, and time spent utilizing online resources.
“As long as you can define those objectives and you bring the four M’s into alignment, your program is off to a great start and has a higher probability of providing the success metrics and participant outcomes the program set out to reach at the outset!”
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