How to Improve Your Corporate Mentorship Program

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
March 11, 2022

Corporate mentoring programs come with many benefits. They can strengthen company culture, nurture careers, develop high potential talent, and improve employee engagement.

And in the face of the Great Resignation, it’s even more critical. In a recent survey we conducted, 60% of respondents said they would consider leaving their current company to join one that offered more mentorship opportunities.

So what does it take to build a successful mentoring program, and how can Human Resources (HR) teams enhance a program that’s already launched? Here are six ways teams can improve their corporate mentorship programs.

Plan for the Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Purpose, goals, and metrics give a mentorship program direction and provide a barometer for how well the program is performing. Without them, most programs will flounder or it will be difficult to prove their business value.

HR teams should define the overall purpose of the mentorship program upfront. A program’s purpose can be multifaceted, encompassing several goals like improving company culture, accelerating promotions, increasing employee retention, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Once the purpose is clarified, HR can craft goals designed to meet it. Goals should be clearly defined and trackable. For instance, if the purpose of the mentorship program is to support DEI initiatives, having a goal like “improve VP diversity” is less precise and less measurable than something like “aim for 15% of VP roles in the company to be promoted internally from underrepresented groups.”

To support mentorship program goals, HR teams should build guidelines and structures into the program. This could include setting standards around how mentees track goals (e.g., SMART or HARD goals) or how frequently mentors and mentees must meet (e.g., at least once a month).

Finally, it’s important to remember what gets measured gets done. Particular metrics and methods of measurement will change depending on the goals. Regardless of how things get measured, HR teams should collect program data at regular intervals, so that they can have a pulse on the program’s continued progression.

Select Mentors Based on Skills

HR teams must deliberately select mentors based on goals, interests, skills, and experiences to create an impactful program.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, three professors identified two types of competencies that make for good mentorship. First, they called out “foundational virtues and abilities,” natural qualities like personal integrity, caring, good judgment, empathy, and approachability. The authors suggest that mentorship programs should start by hand-selecting prospective mentors based on the possession of these foundational virtues and abilities.

After selecting the mentors, HR teams should provide training to advise on “functional skills,” the second kind of competency that makes for good mentorship and can be taught. Functional skills include deep listening, feedback, affirmation, visibility, networking, and collegiality.

Be Thoughtful About Matchmaking

Not every mentor will be the right fit for every mentee and vice versa. HR teams should take a thoughtful approach to ensure mentors and mentees are well-matched based on their individual goals and interests.

To do this, HR should first gather information about mentors and mentees and form a well-rounded picture of who they are, what they are looking for and what they can offer in the relationship. They should ask:

  • What are their career aspirations?
  • What skills do they want to build?
  • What skills do they already have?
  • What are their personal and professional interests?
  • How much time can they can devote to the program?
  • How would they like to meet (in-person or virtually?)

Traditionally, HR teams or program volunteers have created mentor-mentee matches using spreadsheets which is tedious and time consuming. One of the key features Ten Thousand Coffees offers is automated matchmaking via our Smart-Match algorithm which facilitates connections between mentors and mentees based career goals and shared interests. This allows HR teams to create great matches without the tedium of laborious spreadsheets.

Gather Feedback to Fine-tune Your Program

Mentors and mentees are most equipped to offer guidance on how to improve a mentorship program since they know it from the inside. Soliciting feedback from them allows HR teams to collect this insider knowledge and use it to continuously improve their mentorship programs.

One way to collect feedback is through regular surveys that get sent to program participants at a regular cadence (after each meeting, monthly or quarterly). In order to get a well-rounded picture of how things are going in the program. It’s helpful to ask questions that elicit both quantitative feedback (e.g., ‘On a scale of 1 - 10, how helpful is this program in supporting your development?’) and qualitative feedback (e.g., ‘Do you feel that your mentor is a good match for you? Why or why not?’). That’s because quantitative data offers numerical statistics on what works and what doesn’t; and qualitative data deepens these numerical findings with personal insights and nuance.

After collecting program feedback, program teams can review it to determine the successes and shortfalls of the program. Teams can look at:

  • Are mentees repeatedly missing their goals?
  • Do mentees feel more supported in their career development?
  • Are mentees getting promoted within the company?
  • Do the mentors and mentees have topics to talk about? Are they getting value out of their conversations?

From here, HR can easily see which areas to focus on to improve the program which could include changing their matching criteria or the program entry requirements, in addition to the time required to participate. They can also provide conversation guides for participants to make the best use of each other’s time.

Back the Program with Mentoring Software

Running a mentorship program is a lot of work, and the benefits of an improved corporate culture, better talent retention and development, and a more engaged workforce make it worth it. While the tips above will improve just about any program, the long-term gains are hard to sustain if the team running it doesn’t have access to the right solutions.

Ten Thousand Coffees makes running a mentorship program at scale simple. With automated introductions and a Smart-Match algorithm that seamlessly matches participants based on their career goals and interests, our platform allows HR departments and program managers to ditch complex manual processes to ensure mentees and mentors find the right fit.

For more information about how Ten Thousand Coffees can support your team in building a mentorship program that delivers results and is aligned with corporate objectives, request a free demo.

Webinar

How to Improve Your Corporate Mentorship Program

Corporate mentoring programs come with many benefits. They can strengthen company culture, nurture careers, develop high potential talent, and improve employee engagement.

And in the face of the Great Resignation, it’s even more critical. In a recent survey we conducted, 60% of respondents said they would consider leaving their current company to join one that offered more mentorship opportunities.

So what does it take to build a successful mentoring program, and how can Human Resources (HR) teams enhance a program that’s already launched? Here are six ways teams can improve their corporate mentorship programs.

Plan for the Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Purpose, goals, and metrics give a mentorship program direction and provide a barometer for how well the program is performing. Without them, most programs will flounder or it will be difficult to prove their business value.

HR teams should define the overall purpose of the mentorship program upfront. A program’s purpose can be multifaceted, encompassing several goals like improving company culture, accelerating promotions, increasing employee retention, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Once the purpose is clarified, HR can craft goals designed to meet it. Goals should be clearly defined and trackable. For instance, if the purpose of the mentorship program is to support DEI initiatives, having a goal like “improve VP diversity” is less precise and less measurable than something like “aim for 15% of VP roles in the company to be promoted internally from underrepresented groups.”

To support mentorship program goals, HR teams should build guidelines and structures into the program. This could include setting standards around how mentees track goals (e.g., SMART or HARD goals) or how frequently mentors and mentees must meet (e.g., at least once a month).

Finally, it’s important to remember what gets measured gets done. Particular metrics and methods of measurement will change depending on the goals. Regardless of how things get measured, HR teams should collect program data at regular intervals, so that they can have a pulse on the program’s continued progression.

Select Mentors Based on Skills

HR teams must deliberately select mentors based on goals, interests, skills, and experiences to create an impactful program.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, three professors identified two types of competencies that make for good mentorship. First, they called out “foundational virtues and abilities,” natural qualities like personal integrity, caring, good judgment, empathy, and approachability. The authors suggest that mentorship programs should start by hand-selecting prospective mentors based on the possession of these foundational virtues and abilities.

After selecting the mentors, HR teams should provide training to advise on “functional skills,” the second kind of competency that makes for good mentorship and can be taught. Functional skills include deep listening, feedback, affirmation, visibility, networking, and collegiality.

Be Thoughtful About Matchmaking

Not every mentor will be the right fit for every mentee and vice versa. HR teams should take a thoughtful approach to ensure mentors and mentees are well-matched based on their individual goals and interests.

To do this, HR should first gather information about mentors and mentees and form a well-rounded picture of who they are, what they are looking for and what they can offer in the relationship. They should ask:

  • What are their career aspirations?
  • What skills do they want to build?
  • What skills do they already have?
  • What are their personal and professional interests?
  • How much time can they can devote to the program?
  • How would they like to meet (in-person or virtually?)

Traditionally, HR teams or program volunteers have created mentor-mentee matches using spreadsheets which is tedious and time consuming. One of the key features Ten Thousand Coffees offers is automated matchmaking via our Smart-Match algorithm which facilitates connections between mentors and mentees based career goals and shared interests. This allows HR teams to create great matches without the tedium of laborious spreadsheets.

Gather Feedback to Fine-tune Your Program

Mentors and mentees are most equipped to offer guidance on how to improve a mentorship program since they know it from the inside. Soliciting feedback from them allows HR teams to collect this insider knowledge and use it to continuously improve their mentorship programs.

One way to collect feedback is through regular surveys that get sent to program participants at a regular cadence (after each meeting, monthly or quarterly). In order to get a well-rounded picture of how things are going in the program. It’s helpful to ask questions that elicit both quantitative feedback (e.g., ‘On a scale of 1 - 10, how helpful is this program in supporting your development?’) and qualitative feedback (e.g., ‘Do you feel that your mentor is a good match for you? Why or why not?’). That’s because quantitative data offers numerical statistics on what works and what doesn’t; and qualitative data deepens these numerical findings with personal insights and nuance.

After collecting program feedback, program teams can review it to determine the successes and shortfalls of the program. Teams can look at:

  • Are mentees repeatedly missing their goals?
  • Do mentees feel more supported in their career development?
  • Are mentees getting promoted within the company?
  • Do the mentors and mentees have topics to talk about? Are they getting value out of their conversations?

From here, HR can easily see which areas to focus on to improve the program which could include changing their matching criteria or the program entry requirements, in addition to the time required to participate. They can also provide conversation guides for participants to make the best use of each other’s time.

Back the Program with Mentoring Software

Running a mentorship program is a lot of work, and the benefits of an improved corporate culture, better talent retention and development, and a more engaged workforce make it worth it. While the tips above will improve just about any program, the long-term gains are hard to sustain if the team running it doesn’t have access to the right solutions.

Ten Thousand Coffees makes running a mentorship program at scale simple. With automated introductions and a Smart-Match algorithm that seamlessly matches participants based on their career goals and interests, our platform allows HR departments and program managers to ditch complex manual processes to ensure mentees and mentors find the right fit.

For more information about how Ten Thousand Coffees can support your team in building a mentorship program that delivers results and is aligned with corporate objectives, request a free demo.

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