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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Mentoring success: It’s all in the planning

How to structure your internal mentoring programme for maximum success.

Informal mentoring has been taking place within organisations for centuries - essentially it’s where those with more experience support those who have yet to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are required for performance and progression. The CIPD factsheet defines it as “a relationship in which a more experienced colleague shares their greater knowledge to support the development of an inexperienced member of staff”.

To really get the most from mentoring, and to ensure that the knowledge shared filters through the organisation, some prefer a more structured approach. In this article, I’ll outline the seven key steps to creating a successful mentoring programme. 

1. Set your objectives and purpose

Identify what the organisation is setting out to achieve through mentoring. In some cases, mentoring will have a very specific purpose that is unique to the organisation, for example to support individuals to achieve a qualification or to embed a specific initiative. In other instances mentoring has a much wider purpose relating to career development and succession planning. 

As a minimum, the recommendation would be to:

  • Set out the purpose of mentoring and link it through to organisational objectives.
  • Define where mentoring fits in with other learning and development activities and how it supports the achievement of strategic plans. 
  • Describe what mentoring will look like within the organisation including roles and responsibilities of the mentor, mentee and organisation.
  • Communicate these points across the organisation so that employees have an understanding of where mentoring fits in with overall learning and development strategies. 

2. Define the roles

Create a role profile for the mentors and use this as part of an application process. There are many reasons why individuals will volunteer to be a mentor and there are significant benefits in taking on the role. 

If mentoring is to achieve maximum benefits for all those involved there should be defined measures of success.

Sometimes individuals will put themselves forward because they see mentoring as an opportunity to shape individuals in their own image. In order to maximise the benefits of mentoring for both the mentee and the organisation, it is suggested that the role of mentor should be to support their mentee to achieve their full potential and not create a ‘mini-me’.

With this in mind, creating a role profile for mentors which is used as the basis for an internal selection process will weed out those who are looking to be a mentor for their own ends rather than for the good of the mentee/organisation. 

3. Train your mentors 

The core skills of mentoring include:

  • Listening
  • Asking questions that support objective setting and learning
  • Providing advice in a non-directive fashion
  • Giving and receiving feedback 
  • Supporting decision making and action planning

Once mentors have been selected, providing training for them will ensure that they have the core competencies required for the role. During training, some individuals may realise that mentoring is not for them and this can prevent future difficulties from arising. 

4. Pair mentors and mentees carefully

Not all mentoring relationships will be successful. Creating a matching process will increase the likelihood that mentees will be paired with compatible mentors.

During the matching process there should be an opportunity for both mentors and mentees to:

  • Clarify their understanding of the process
  • Identify roles and responsibilities
  • Declare their hopes and concerns for the process
  • Discuss measures of success for the period of mentoring
  • Understand what to do if problems should arise during the course of the mentoring relationship

5. Measure performance

If mentoring is to achieve maximum benefits for all those involved there should be defined measures of success at individual and organisational level.

There will be numerous opportunities for organisational learning which should be captured.

It is highly recommended that a neutral party (potentially the learning and development team or HR team within an organisation) be involved in supporting the process. Part of this support is to build in regular monitoring and review of individual mentoring relationships, individual impact and the wider organisational impact. 

Measuring progress and success will be much easier if aims, objectives and measures are identified at the start of the process. 

6. Praise and celebrate achievements

Where mentees achieve their development goals, it is important to celebrate this. It is also important to acknowledge the role that the mentor has played in this success.

Examples of celebrations might be:

  • Inclusion of mentor-mentee stories in newsletters or on intranet posts
  • Financial or other rewards for both mentor and mentee when development goals are achieved
  • Ensuring that successes are logged within formal performance review processes
  • Giving mentees opportunities to use their newly developed skills and knowledge by inviting them to contribute to projects or other initiatives
  • Giving mentors the opportunity to benefit from mentoring themselves by setting up peer mentoring within the organisational mentor population

7. Capture your learnings

During the course of any mentoring relationship, learning will take place at many levels. There will be numerous opportunities for organisational learning which should be captured and disseminated wherever possible. 

When setting up an internal mentoring scheme it will be advantageous to consider how ‘lessons learned’ will be captured and shared. Lessons learned can be captured in a variety of ways including:

  • Via an internal file sharing system
  • Creation of a wiki or blog which is accessible across the organisation
  • Via project management software
  • Having agenda items for standing meetings which specifically relate to lessons learned during the mentoring process

These seven tips provide an overarching framework that could be used to set up an internal mentoring programme. For more information two recently published books provide detail on both coaching and mentoring:

  • Coaching and Mentoring - Practical Techniques for Developing Learning and Performance by Eric Parsloe, Melville Leedham (Kogan Page)
  • Coaching and Mentoring - A Journey Through the Models, Theories, Frameworks and Narratives of David Clutterbuck by David Clutterbuck (Routledge)

If you enjoyed this, read: Personal development: Who’s mentoring your mentors?

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Jackie Clifford


Read more from Jackie Clifford

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