How To Start A Mentoring Program: A Step By Step Guide

#Mentoring#AdviceforHR
11/21/2019
Nicola Cronin

So you now know why everyone needs mentoring in the workspace (if you need reminding, check that link) and want to find out how you can start a mentoring program in your organisation.

Luckily, you’re in the right place. In this guide we’ll walk you through a step by step guide for starting a mentoring program – from inception through to execution – highlighting challenges and tips along the way.

Let’s get to it…

Step 1: Define the Purpose & Goals

Firstly, what are the main reasons for wanting to establish a mentoring program?

  • Is employee engagement low?

  • Are talented graduates leaving?

  • Is your gender balance in leadership highly uneven?

Whatever they are, clearly define them with your team and make sure you keep them at the forefront when designing and running your mentoring program.

Then identify key reasons and motivations for people to sign up to the mentoring program – because they will naturally be different from the business reasons but still necessary to define.

I.e a mentee might sign up because they’re looking to get a promotion, or build their confidence.

Secondly, what are you looking to achieve from the mentoring program? And how can you measure success?

In order to tackle a challenge such as low employee engagement, you must define the metrics and KPIs you will be tracking. You can use these KPIs to set goals in order to have a definition of success for your program. 

This being said, you must also outline what success could be for the mentees and mentors and how you can track and measure their goals as well.

💡 TIP: Don’t make assumptions when it comes to the mentees and mentors involved in the program. At this planning stage, conduct some research to find out the key reasons for interest in mentoring amongst your company, and what they would be hoping to achieve. This way you can design your program to fit both your needs as a business and the needs of your people. It will also help when it comes to attracting participation!

From this step, you might decide to design a whole mentoring program around a specific goal, as LVMH have done with increasing gender diversity.

Step 2: Design the Mentoring Program

Time for the details. Some things to outline at this stage: 

  • How many spaces are available?

  • Is it exclusive or inclusive? (i.e are you choosing participants)

  • If it’s inclusive, how can people sign up?

  • What is the sign up process?

  • How will you encourage sign ups?

  • How will you launch the program?

  • How long with the mentoring relationship last?

  • What is the commitment expected from participants?

  • How will you monitor progress?

  • How will you report?

There are a whole host of other questions to help design the specifics of your mentoring program, with a lot depending on the type of organisation and the objectives of the program. 

Try and be as detailed as possible here, and map out your whole program from start to finish.

Step 3: Onboarding Mentors & Mentees

A key challenge for mentor program organisers is doing all of the work above, and then getting low participation rates. Mentoring programs can only scale if the promotion and onboarding is working effectively.

How to attract people to your mentoring program: 

  • Communicate the benefits for mentors and mentees 

Don’t assume people will already know why they should care about mentoring. To drive interest you need to really highlight what’s in it for them. If you need a reminder, we have some killer statistics.

  • Remove as many barriers to entry as possible

People may not sign up to a mentoring program because of a lack of time, or a fear that it will double their workload, or that they won’t be able to commit

These are all valid concerns, so anticipate them in your promotion by highlighting the flexible nature of your program. Be transparent about expected commitment because ambiguity will dissuade people from signing up. 

  • Offer training and preparation materials

For many, this could be their first experience of mentoring. To encourage as many people as possible to sign up to your mentoring program, try offering training and preparation materials so people feel informed, and therefore more comfortable to commit.

  • Get key stakeholders and leaders on board

Find the people in your organisation with the most influential weight and sell them the dream first. If you can get them signed up to the program and talking about it with others in the business, they will act as ambassadors for the program and encourage sign ups.

Step 4: Matching Mentors & Mentees 

This step also raises a lot of issues for HR and L&D teams. You’ve done the hard work of designing the programme and onboarding lots of eager participants – now how to match them?

The details the participants were required to enter upon sign up – such as skills, experience, interests and so on – can be used to match mentees with mentors who can best help them reach their goals.

Most of the time, this is done manually by the program organisers, as they have the best knowledge of the objectives and participants. However, this manual matching is naturally subject to bias, as they are choosing who gets to be mentored by who (or ‘playing God’ in a slightly dramatic HR analogy).

To avoid this, businesses can use mentoring software to match their employees. Guider is powered by AI and makes smart and effective matches based on data from existing mentoring relationships. This removes bias and democratises mentoring in organisations. Get in touch to find out more.

Step 5: Maintaining Mentoring Momentum

If you thought this is where you can sit back and let the mentoring relationships blossom, you thought wrong.

Mentoring can easily lose momentum, typically because it’s new for both parties and not part of their routines yet. Without structure, guidance, and inspiration (such as reminding them why they signed up) you can expect a number of your participants to drop off.

With mentoring often happening offline, it’s also hard for program managers to have visibility over the success of the relationship, or even know if its happening at all. That’s why using a mentoring software can help eradicate these issues, as all communication and goal setting takes place on the platform. Making it easy for the participants and the program manager to keep track.

It’s therefore important to check in with mentors and mentees, as well as ask for reports and feedback.

💡 TIP: At the beginning of a mentoring relationship, make sure the mentee outlines clear goals to their mentor for what they want to achieve. This will give the relationship direction and objective, as well as hold both parties accountable for reaching the goals.

Creating a community around the mentoring program will also help maintain momentum. Send a regular newsletter to all participants of the mentoring program, featuring content about getting the most out of the relationship, as well as personal development tips. 

This is also a great place to celebrate any successes and make everyone feel a part of something. If you have an end date for your program, why not host an event to get everyone in the program together to thank them for their participation. Rewards and community benefits will reduce drop off.

Step 6: Measure Success & ROI

The final stage of running a mentoring program is measuring its success against its objectives. Running these programs (as this guide demonstrates) takes a huge amount of work, and so program managers will often have to report back and prove ROI.

It’s important to measure success across all areas of the mentoring program, as even if you haven’t quite hit your targets as a business (employee engagement for example), the positive outcomes for the mentees in terms of their personal development could still be overwhelming, and so you can’t rule it out as a failure.

Things to measure: 

  • The business objectives outlined

Have you hit your KPIs as a result of the mentoring program? 

  • Mentee personal development

Did the mentee achieve their goals? What impact did the mentoring program have on them?

It’s also crucial to ask for feedback from all participants at this stage. Were the mentors satisfied with the outcome of their relationship? Would they mentor again? What could be improved about the program? What were the biggest challenges? And so on.

If it’s the first time you’re running a mentoring program, you will learn endless amounts on how to improve and iterate for future cohorts.

Good luck!


Guider is AI powered mentoring software helping businesses and individuals reach their goals. Get in touch to find out how we can help establish effective mentoring in your organisation 👋