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Mentoring Software

Key Steps To Follow Before And During Mentorship Programs: A Mentoring Program Outline

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • February 18 2022

The biggest asset a company has is its workforce. The employees of a company are more critical than the infrastructure or funds. Paraphrasing Richard Branson (Founder of The Virgin Groups) who had this to say about the employees, "When you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your business."

So It is pretty apparent why organizations today invest in the development and welfare of their employees. One of the ways that organizations very early realized and achieved development and welfare for their employees is through a formal mentoring program. 


There is more than one thing to gain for an organization by setting up a mentoring program. It, for starters, creates professional networks and relationships within their workforce, which will then help in motivating and guiding each other. A well fleshed out formal mentorship program can support the newly recruited employees and provide a development opportunity for the existing workforce. Further, a diversity mentoring program helps employees make themselves comfortable in the environment and the employer/organization. Additionally, it helps build an inclusive work culture. A mentoring platform can eliminate exclusivity and segregation while increasing participation rates/engagement, skill development, and employee satisfaction.


That being said, some organizations are struggling to implement a successful mentoring program in their landscapes. If you are one of these organizations or an organization that is just cautiously trying to set up one such program to scale up its employees' skill level, continue reading. 


Four Key Steps to Follow Before Starting Mentorship Programs

These are the essential checklists an organization needs to accomplish before the session/day one of their corporate mentorship programs. 


Step 1: Establishing Purpose

For starters, an organization should establish its purpose or goals for a high-impact mentoring program. Maybe your company's retention rate is low; perhaps you are losing talented graduates or an unbalanced gender hierarchy. Either way, you need to define your goals or what you are trying to fix before anything else as an organization. It would help if you didn't make assumptions at this stage. Come to understand the purpose of a high-impact mentoring program after a deep brainstorming session with your leadership team. Additionally, please complete the decision based on a series of multi-dimensional research. 


Step 2: Dictating The Structure

After you set your purpose, it is time to structure your mentoring process. In this step, you will need to explain the method to madness (so to speak). It will provide transparency of the program to your entire workforce. The first question you need to answer is whether or not the process is a one-to-one mentoring process. If that is not the case, you need to answer the inclusivity or exclusivity of the group program. Understand how many spaces are available for the program, the signing up process, etc. Keep in mind that once you answer these questions, there will be a whole host of other questions that will pop up needing answers. The answers to these questions will always rely on the nature of the organization in concern and the purpose of the program.


Therefore, while structuring your program, be as explicit as possible and consider every aspect forward, leaving no stones unturned. Aside from the responsibility the organization will have in the program, the accountability to each participant should also be made clear. This direction to program participants will help them understand what is expected without any ambiguity. 


Step 3: Ensuring High Participation Rate 

The biggest disappointment any organization or program organizer faces in their mentorship programs is low employee engagement. The low participation rate will sink the ship, no matter how well-intended the program is. However, it can be prevented if you perform specific proactive measures. Measures like making the program transparent (as mentioned in the last entry) and removing barriers for employees to sign up for the program. Most employees might have apprehensions about the extra workload or the lack of time. Both of these situations can be removed on the condition that suitable measures to tackle each of them are taken. One strategy is to fit the program timing in the participant's regular work timing to add extra time. And also, make sure to reduce the workload accordingly during the process. 


As the program can be the first for many participants, providing them with preparation and training material will induce encouragement. Employees who are well informed of the corporate mentorship program are more likely to sign up than those who aren't. Bringing in leaders and people of your organization with high influential weight into the process is another effective program promotion strategy. 


Step 4: Connecting Mentors and Mentees

This is the second place for the program organizers where things can go wrong (the first being the engagement). Without accurate mentor matches, mentees are frequently disinterested in the program. One reasonable way of finding out the best mentors for mentees is using the sign-up details that the program participants filled. Details like job descriptions, mentoring experience, career ambition will help you narrow down the matching process of mentors and the mentees. 


However, even with the participant details, the matching program can still offer challenges. This is because of human bias and liability to errors created by a manual process. Sometimes a person in charge of choosing potential mentors for mentees can make subconscious biased decisions. Fortunately, this too can be avoided. Organizations can now use mentoring software  to bring together mentors and mentees. An ideal mentoring software will connect both parties by taking the data inputted into the account. Due to the automatic nature of this selection process, all the bias and liability that weighed down the manual process are not present here. Until now, all of the steps will put forth a concrete program outline for the mentoring program that is about to ensue. 


Five Key Steps to Set up During The Mentorship Process


Step 1: Understanding The Mentees' Goals

As employee development is one of the prime purposes of organizational mentoring programs, knowing mentees' career goals to build the path toward it seems logical. This is the first of many responsibilities for the mentor. A mentor should establish the mentoring relationship on a clear understanding of the mentees' goals. On the first session of the program, the designated mentor should create a good rapport with the mentee or mentees. It is the time dedicated to more about the mentees than what was written on the sign-up form. One way for mentors to make the mentees comfortable and influence rapport is by sharing their background and mentoring experience. 


If the mentor is part of the senior management, it opens up more room for another professional association for the mentees. The entirety of this first meeting is to be spent discussing the goals of the mentees, such as career advancement, professional networking building, upskilling of certain areas, or fixing specific challenges. At the end of the session, the mentor ideally would know the objectives and expectations of the mentees for joining the program.


Step 2: Designing An Action Plan

During the first session, the mentor is an active listener with almost no interference between the mentees' spiel. And even in the following session, the mentor does not take up a more active speaking role. Here they provide the mentees with a better perspective of the goals that the mentees themselves mentioned in the introductory session. However, this second meeting is a bit more conversational than the first. At this stage, the mentors will provide mentees with essential questions to reach a cognitive understanding of their own goals. These questions will intend to find the most important goal, and the focus will be only on two to three goals. Following are some of the questions that the mentors can ask mentees during this session:


  • Why do I want this particular goal to be achieved? 
  • What is the end goal of this endeavor?
  • What resources do I have for the success of this objective?
  • What happens after the goal is achieved?


After making the mentees answer the questions, an action plan is developed through the involvement of both parties. 


Step 3: Instituting The Action Plan

Now that the action plan is developed, thanks to the combined effort of both mentors and mentees, it is time for its implementation. Here a significant degree of responsibility is solely on the shoulders of the mentees, even so than the previous two stages. The action plan or the exercise developed through the deliberation of the earlier stages is tested by the mentees. And a best practice to be followed here is approaching the action plan with absolute urgency and importance. Mentees should first deal with the action plan for their most important goal, then the next most important, and then the next, and go in that order. The action plan would generally involve a customized solution based on the problem statement raised by the mentees. This personalized solution will describe all the specifics of the exercise, including the exact procedure, tools to use, and the time limit. The action plan will be made of attainable démarches and avoid far-reaching ambitious tactics. 


Step 4: Debriefing The Action Plan

This session will hold the inquiry of the success or the failure of the action plan. The mentees will have to address how the action plan went. On the chance of the success of the action plan, the mentees will express what went well and how this change will influence the future. On the possibility of failure of the action plan, the mentee will express what caused the upset. When failure is the result, the mentor and mentees will go back to the drawing board and develop a different solution with the previously unseen upset in mind. And if the action plan was not performed, an explanation will be expected from the mentees' side. Regardless of any of the three action plan outcomes mentioned above, the secret is to focus on incremental action learning. This means that the mentees implement an action through the customized solution, learn from that action and then take another step.


Step 5: Sustaining The Action Plan

The success of action on a mentoring program is not measured by the intensity but by the consistency. Thus the program will recommend the mentors and mentees sustain the same learning outline in future sessions. According to the outline, the mentees will put a problem statement; then, an action plan will be designed, followed by the implementation and debriefing. Either the problem will be building on the same problem or for a completely new one depending on the outcomes of the actions and the mentees' priority. This mentoring program can continue as long as the mentees can find value in it. 


Mentoring Program Outline In A Nutshell

A mentoring program is a rewarding experience that provides a platform for upskilling and building professional networks for employees. Therefore employees have been enabled career exploration. Their interaction with experienced mentors helps them acquire the necessary career development tools. And for organizations, this is good news. This is because the success of the employees will have a snowball effect and will eventually result in the success of their business itself. But setting up an ideal mentoring program is no cakewalk either. There is more than one place where things can go south, too, very quickly. However, with the cautious step-by-step implementation of the process, organizations can increase employee engagement and have in their hand a highly-skilled workforce.

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