Getting started with designing a Mentoring Programme

Coach Mentoring ApprovedIn my practice, I use an eight-step approach to designing a mentoring programme with my clients:

  1. Developing the rationale for the programme
  2. Influencing stakeholders
  3. Clear recruitment strategy/communication and publicity
  4. Preparing the participants
  5. Matching process
  6. Supporting the programme
  7. Review and evaluation
  8. Develop a co-ordinator for the programme

Step 1 is all about designing the rationale for the programme.

When thinking about what the requirement is for mentoring and how is it going to add value or contribute strategically to your organisation, it is so important to identify what the business and organisational objectives are to be satisfied by the mentoring programme and what outputs or success factors you are seeking to obtain?  Thankfully the number of organization’s, who used to begin by identifying a pool of mentors and then hunting around for suitable mentees for them to work with, has reduced dramatically in these days of global economic recession.

Mentoring today is required to be much smarter with regard to evaluation and its value as a cost effective way of development needs to be evident and justified from the beginning of the programme’s design inception. As mentoring programmes require resourcing in terms of people, finance and time it is very important to have a clear understanding of what it is actually setting out to do and what the measurable success factors are at the initial design stage.  Mentoring can be used for so many purposes: Talent Management, new entrants and on-boarding, graduates, leadership development, diversity, mentoring women, maternity programmes, knowledge management, support through professional qualifications, small businesses, setting up a business, developing entrepreneurship, change and culture management, preparing for retirement and just finding out what is going on in different parts of an organisation by reducing silos!

Step 2 is all about influencing stakeholders

Once the programme’s purpose and success factors are established, the next step begins by influencing and gaining key stakeholder buy-in to it. Senior management support is vital. By exhibiting their commitment and enthusiasm to the scheme, it will influence other organizational members to accept and support the programme in the future. Without this top-level commitment, potential mentors may just see the role of mentor as onerous, as it will require more time and energy on top of their already busy day jobs.

In addition, who is going to have ownership of the programme within the organisation, will this be with Human Resources or the line?  This is a common sticky issue as Human Resources tend to drive the programme design as part of their Learning and Development strategy and do not always have the requisite commitment from the line and then the credibility and commitment to the programme can fall at the first hurdle.

Using mentoring champions to support different types of mentoring has also increased significantly and plays a valuable role in ensuring the success of a programme.   They can also be instrumental in gaining acceptance of the mentoring scheme by the line.  The mentoring champion role is perhaps most important in the design and implementation stage.  Your champion should be at a fairly high level in the organisation, to possess enough clout and experience to get things done and remove some of the organisational barriers, which may get in the way of introducing mentoring.  They need enthusiasm for mentoring and a sound reputation for developing people, maintaining confidentiality and understand the culture; otherwise their reputation can damage a fledgling scheme.  They can be responsible for a range of activities from being the guardian of the scheme, to sitting on a programme steering committee, helping with training, and matching and recruiting participants.

Step 3 is about having a clear recruitment strategy

The next step in designing a programme is to identify the mentee or client target group and potential mentor population and invite them to participate on a voluntary basis. Voluntarism is a key factor in making your mentoring more successful. Programmes vary in terms of the formally of the recruitment process, but making participation compulsory or “politically correct” for individuals or key talent, can turn your mentoring programme into a competition to obtain the most senior sponsor in the organization.

How the programme is being communicated to the rest of the organization is important. Communicate a clear programme outline to anyone you are interested in recruiting, to include the benefits of their involvement, but also communicate with line managers and other stakeholders so there is complete transparency.  Ensure individuals understand what is expected of them within a formal programme. Are there events they need to commit to?  Do they realise how much time approximately that participation in a relationship will take? Without this transparency, potential participants can make erroneous assumptions about who mentoring is for and the agendas of the various stakeholders involved. This can lead to accusations of favouritism or an assumption that mentoring is remedial, thus managing impressions of the scheme is vital.

More about the other stages in programme design in a later blog. Contact us now for more programme design consultancy.

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