This is the second post in a three-part series. To see the first post in the series please go here.
In this three part-series we are reviewing the best practices for designing a best-in-class mentorship program. To better understand a mentorship program, we’ve broken it down into three parts – the pairing, the process, and the conversation.
The pairing is the match between the mentors and mentees (read the full post)
The process is the coordination and follow-up of the meetings between the mentor and the mentee (see below)
The conversation is the content of the discussion between the mentor and mentee (full post coming soon)
Despite the fact that the majority of mentorship programs put so much focus on the pairing, the process that supports the mentorship program after the pairings are made is likely far more important.
In terms of the process there are a number of things that the program coordinator needs to consider. In particular:
- Guiding mentors and mentees to meet at the right frequency
- Guiding mentors and mentees to have the right conversations
- Following-up with mentors and mentees to collect feedback
- Adjusting pairings (both to find mentors and mentees a good initial pairing, but also to adapt the pairings as the mentee’s needs change)
Guiding mentors and mentees to meet at the right frequency
In a perfect world, HR could assign the pairings and the mentors and mentees would take the relationship from there. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and it’s possible neither the mentor nor the mentee takes initiative to make the introduction. As such it is important that HR help facilitate the initial introduction.
But even once the initial introduction is done, mentees often struggle to meet their mentor on an ongoing basis, often because they don’t want to bother the mentor or because they don’t know how frequently is appropriate. Given this, best practice is that HR continue to remind mentors and mentees to meet at an appropriate frequency.
What is the right frequency? The answer is that it depends on a number of factors including the mentee’s tenure, seniority, and contextual needs. If you want more specifics, check-out our report on mentorship.
Guiding mentors and mentees to have the right conversations
This is such an important topic that we will be dedicating a separate post to it. In sum though, it is critical that HR provide guidance on what mentors and mentees should be discussing in each meeting. Otherwise you risk your employees using this time just to “shoot the shit”.
Following-up with mentors and mentees
If you do nothing else after you set the pairings, at least follow-up. Without this critical step it is very hard for HR to identify issues and collect feedback. And there are many possible issues – the pairings never met, the mentee doesn’t get along with their mentor, the pairing isn’t meeting frequently enough, the mentor isn’t providing useful advice etc. However, you need to make the follow-up “light” enough that employees will provide feedback.
No matter how much information you know about your mentors and mentees, it is very wishful thinking to believe that you will make all the right pairings on the first go around. That’s why it is a great idea to have a process to take-in the feedback from your follow-up and to adjust pairings accordingly.
However, un-satisfied mentees is not the only reason that you should be thinking about adjusting pairings. For one, a mentee’s needs change over time. In particular, the frequency of mentorship that a mentee needs when they first join is much different than when they are approaching a promotion for example. The other thing to think about is that your program shouldn’t have a static entry point. You need to be able to accommodate new hires as they join your company, and this too will drive the need to adjust pairings over time.
If this sounds like a lot of work you’re not wrong, it is. Good news though, Together offers a mentorship platform that supports the mentorship process from start to finish. In particular, not only does it support the pairing process, but it supports managing the relationship once the pairing is made. The platform helps facilitate the scheduling of mentors and mentees meeting and ensuring that it’s happening at the right frequency. It also automates the follow-up and collection of feedback from each and every session.