Mentoring Programme Design — the 8 key steps

Mentoring Programme DesignHow to set up a Mentoring Programme

Setting up a successful mentoring programme that delivers the results you are looking to achieve can be complicated. If the organisational culture is at odds with the philosophy of mentoring, or the senior management are paying lip service to the programme’s introduction, you will have your work cut out. Follow these 8 key steps for design success!

I spend a considerable amount of time creating bespoke programmes for my clients, before I start to think about the design, I like to talk to some of the key stakeholders who may become involved as prospective mentors and mentees. Plus some of the senior leaders who may be expected to support and sponsor the programme’s implementation. The questions I ask are quite simple:

  • How supportive and ready is the culture for mentoring?
  • What obstacles or challenges could a mentoring programme face?

This feedback is essential to inform the mentoring programme design, particularly around influencing stakeholders, communication/publicity and briefing content before the programme commences.

Mentoring programme design — What type of mentoring will you use?

Sponsorship Mentoring

Sponsorship Mentoring focuses on career sponsorship by the mentor and is often a relationship where the power dimension between mentor and mentee is fairly strong. At it simplest, sponsorship is about the mentor or sponsor pushing the protégée or mentee up the career ladder! However, it can have its uses in developing underrepresented talent and some clients will ask for a sponsorship programme to be designed.

Developmental Mentoring

Or Developmental Mentoring, which places greater emphasis on learning and development and focuses on the capability and potential of the mentee. Many mentors will gain as much from the relationship as the mentee. The mentee takes responsibility for their own learning and is responsible for their own agenda. Developmental mentoring should be a mentee driven, two-way learning relationship.

These days many Talent Management mentoring programmes, will decide to take some elements of sponsorship into their design also. It is wise to be absolutely clear on the outcomes of mentoring required before defining the roles and behaviours of the mentor for your programme. Also agree where mentoring should sit on the developmental-sponsorship spectrum.

An effective mentoring programme should consider the following steps in its design:

1. The Rationale for a Mentoring Programme

What is the requirement for mentoring and how is it going to add value or contribute strategically to the organisation? It is so important to identify what the objectives are for the mentoring programme and what outputs or success factors you are seeking to obtain from the programme. The number of organisations who begin by identifying a pool of mentors and then hunting around for suitable mentees for them to work with is quite terrifying!

👍 Make it Work

  • Identify a clear purpose, objectives, outputs and success factors for the programme
  • Always start from the ‘mentee need’

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Identifying individuals you think will make good mentors before considering who needs mentoring.
  • Not identifying the programme purpose, outputs and success factors until you come to evaluate it later!

2. Influencing Stakeholders

Setting up and running any mentoring programme begins by influencing and gaining key stakeholder buy-in to the programme. Senior leadership support is vital. By exhibiting their commitment and enthusiasm to the mentoring programme, it will influence other organisational members to engage in the future. Will you be identifying one particular mentoring champion to lead the programme? Who is going to have ownership of the programme within the organisation, will this be with HR or the line?

👍 Make it Work

  • Agree who are the key stakeholders right at the beginning.
  • Get these individuals to both engage with and actively support the programme

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Not identifying who are the stakeholders for the programme at the beginning
  • Assuming that senior leaders are supportive.

3. A Clear Recruitment Strategy/Communication and Publicity

After identifying the purpose of the programme, the mentee target group and needs should be clear. Then consider who the best mentors may be to work with them. Always seek programme participants on a voluntary basis. How the programme is being communicated to the rest of the organisation is important. Keep it too secret and it is viewed as elitist. Too much publicity may lead to oversubscription. Design a process for fair and equitable recruitment, unless this is a specific talent programme linked to other initiatives.

👍 Make it Work

  • Make mentoring voluntary for greatest success!
  • Communicate a clear programme outline to anyone you are interested in recruiting, to include the benefits and responsibilities of their involvement. Also communicate with line managers and other stakeholders so there is complete transparency

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Making participation compulsory or “politically correct”
  • Failing to motivate and engage individuals who would really benefit from the programme.

4. Preparing the Participants

Research has demonstrated that relationships are three times more likely to succeed if formal training of mentors and mentees has taken place. As well as mentoring skills development, training provides the opportunity to raise concerns and questions prior to the relationship commencing. As a minimum, this preparation should encompass the programme purpose, objectives and process, roles and responsibilities of mentor and mentee, contracting, agreeing expectations and boundaries, skills and techniques (with an opportunity to practise in a safe environment) and the understanding of the life cycle of a relationship.

👍 Make it Work

  • Ensure you brief both mentors and mentees
  • Cover core content around agreement setting, roles and responsibilities, how to set direction and process

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Not preparing mentors or mentees in any way and letting them “make it up”

5. The Matching Process

This can involve identifying selection criteria and assigning pairs or allowing self-selection for the mentor and mentee. Some choice should be allowed, as the most successful matching occurs in relationships where both parties felt they had influenced who they work with. It is very important that if either party in a mentoring relationship is uncomfortable with the way it is going, that support is available and a ‘no fault’ separation clause can be invoked. Matching can involve using specialised software or a specially designed database.

👍 Make it Work

  • Allow some choice to both mentors and mentees in their match
  • Ensure relationships are allowed 2/3 sessions to see if the ‘chemistry’ works for them before they commit to a longer relationship

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Matches with no ‘get out’ clause!

6. Supporting the Mentoring Programme

Allowing mentors and mentees to meet in support or supervision groups on a regular basis is one way of providing ongoing support to a mentoring programme and supervision to the mentors. An opportunity to discuss concerns, perhaps gain some further knowledge or skills training and to network generally with other participants of the programme is critical.

👍 Make it Work

  • Ensure all participants know whom to contact if they have problems in their relationship
  • Provide regular support to participants in terms of an ethical and programme quality assurance check-in and educative input

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Just leaving a programme on its own once it has been set-up. Without a regular injection of energy, most programmes will wither and die.

7. Review and Evaluation

Assess the mentoring programmes to provide formative evaluation. Use this to review the design and future implementation of the programme. In addition, complete summative evaluation at the end of each cycle of the programme. Conduct evaluation at the programme and relationship level and focus on both process and outputs.

Some of the aspects to evaluate include: programme and relationship processes, selection criteria, proportion of successes/failures, the training, programme support, meeting frequency/relevancy/value and the learning acquired. Certainly measure how the programme impacts on the retention, promotion, and performance of individuals and some of the less tangible aspects such as self-confidence and self-belief.

👍 Make it Work

  • Plan your evaluation as part of the initial mentoring programme design

👎 Fatal Flaws

  • Not assessing mentoring on an ongoing formative basis
  • Failing to agree success factors right at the beginning
  • Not using the evaluation to build a business case to develop mentoring further within the organisation.

8. The Role of the Mentoring Co-ordinator

Every mentoring programme needs a key individual(s) to take responsibility for the day-to-day running and operation, whether or not they were responsible for its initial design and implementation. The role of the mentoring co-ordinator(s) or manager(s) is to:

  • Support the mentoring relationships once they are established
  • Handle difficulties between pairs should they arise
  • Rematch and refocus relationships when required
  • Ensure participants complete the appropriate evaluation at the appropriate phase of the relationships
  • Communicate and publicise results and feedback.

Take a look at our Virtual Programme Management if you need help running an existing scheme, or look at our Mentoring Starter Package and choose just those items you need to reinvigorate your mentoring.

Mentoring Programme Design free exploratory call

👉 Get in touch to find out how you can benefit from our expertise in setting up or refreshing your mentoring scheme.

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