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Key Mentoring Program Decisions, Part 3: What to Talk About

Key Mentoring Program Decisions, Part 3: What to Talk About

A 3-part series on making informed decisions about your company’s mentoring program.

By now, you’re probably feeling solid about your mentoring program. You’ve decided if you’re ready to automate your program, and you’ve determined the best approach on how to match your mentees to your mentors. The next question strikes fear into the hearts of each of your participants: “What will I talk about with my mentor/mentee?” The answer depends entirely on the goals of your program. And if you’re not crystal clear on your program goals, your participants are very likely to talk about the mentoring program – and not in the way you’d like! 

Whether you’re onboarding new hires, fostering creativity in the R&D department, or developing leadership to support succession planning, it’s imperative to state your intended outcomes and make sure your company leadership is in agreement. Once done, it’s time to develop the program content to guide your participants to the finish line. 

Program content is to mentoring as a recipe is to food. Imagine a state-of-the-art kitchen with high-tech appliances and a vast array of fresh, delicious ingredients. Unless someone has a recipe to follow, or already knows how to cook, most visitors might end up making a sandwich or scrambled eggs at best. They certainly won’t starve – but you’re not going to see pictures of their creation on social media.

Your participants bring all the ingredients to your mentoring program. Mentees bring a desire to improve; the mentors bring a desire to help others succeed. Presumably, both share an interest in making something great happen. The program content provided by the employer informs the outcome, and the more specific the content, the more specific the outcome will be. 

Let’s look at a few examples.

Mentoring is a highly effective tool for accelerating the onboarding of new hires

Acculturation is an important part of onboarding, so program designers typically include content that encourages participants to discuss the company’s values and how they manifest themselves in daily operations. If security is a crucial part of business success (a financial institution, for example), their onboarding will likely include meticulous operational procedures. There’s simply no room for omission, so the employer would likely provide a detailed checklist of topics to be covered in the mentoring process (and an automated platform can actually keep track of ‘completed’ content, for auditing purposes).

Mentoring is also an effective tool for leadership development

Instead of a detailed checklist, an LD program will likely include guiding questions to encourage program participants to discuss key aspects of effective leadership, and how those aspects manifest themselves in the day for both mentor and mentee. Role play scenarios are also common program content for leadership development, allowing mentees to talk through ‘what if’ situations in the workplace. Program content is typically less regimented for leadership development – but the topics are readily available for participants in the event that they find themselves grasping for conversation starters. 

Is your program content helping your participants whip up something delicious?  A lack of cooks in the kitchen might mean you don’t have the right content – or it could mean you have an insufficient amount of content. Having an expert mentoring partner like eMentorConnect in your corner comes in handy when trying to strike the right balance, and ensuring you have the right content. Once you do, your participants will have plenty to talk about – including the awesomeness of your mentoring program.

Mark Brodbeck, MSW

Director of Marketing at eMentorConnect. Passionate about people intent on elevating others, and other examples of enlightened self-interest. Frank Sinatra said it best: 'It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors.'