Three Steps to Launching a Peer Mentorship Program
It’s no secret: growing organizations grow their people. The surprise is ‘how’ and ‘where’ you find and build the ‘personal growth culture’ for your organization.
Your organization’s ‘personal growth culture’ is in the people you currently employ. Enabling your people to learn one-on-one creates a culture of learning. This happens today, often informally. All you need to do is identify who, train them, and deploy them. Developing the person(s) who are doing the work scales the company.
Welcome to ‘re-seeing’ your organization’s greatest assets: the development of your people.
Step 1: Set Up a Mentorship Program
The initial step is about setting up the program. That entails having clear ownership, a way to manage the program, and a plan to get it off the ground.
As with any initiative, for the Mentorship Program to be successful, it needs to be properly funded. Someone needs to own it and see it through.
Mentorship is typically a part of the Learning & Development (L&D) team. At some organizations, it may also be a part of a larger department, such as Engineering. Within that team, there’s typically a person that sponsors the program, and the person who operates it on a daily basis. This Program Manager needs to be empowered to run with it and make it a success.
At its core, the Mentorship Program is about matching mentors and mentees. Mentees need an easy way to discover available mentors and book sessions with them. Mentors want to be able to open up sessions that suit them and have visibility who signed up to meet with them and on what topic. Also, to keep the program going, you may need a way to track its effectiveness.
Initially, you might be able to stitch together this program via the tools you already have, such as Google Calendar, Sites, Forms, and Sheets. This may be sufficient for the proof of concept but it will quickly fall apart at scale. At that point, you may need a proper platform for managing the program.
Keep in mind that the Peer Mentorship program relies on volunteers – your employees whose primary job is not mentoring. While they enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, they may have a low tolerance for dealing with logistics of setting up sessions and tracking results. That’s where Program Manager needs to provide the first-class experience to both mentors and mentees.
Now that you have the program basics, you need both mentors and mentees. You’re building a double-sided marketplace: to attract mentees, you need enough mentors and vice versa.
To get started, you need a substantial and sufficient number of initial mentors with open sessions. What does that mean? It depends on the size of your population. You could start small, for example, by focusing on a single department. Within this department, it may be sufficient to have a dozen mentors. Each mentor may open a dozen sessions for the quarter ahead. That’s a reasonable ask – about an hour a week of their time.
Once you have the mentors and sessions, you can announce the program to that initial department. As you get the initial success within this department, you can roll to other departments and make it an organization-wide initiative.
Step 2: Grow Mentors
Now that you have the gist of the program sorted out, you need mentors. This step is about enabling your internal experts to effectively mentor others and a way for them to keep getting better at it.
Becoming a Mentor Course
Being a mentor, at its essence, is passing one’s experience to another person. There are some best practices on how to do this experience-sharing so that it is effective.
An effective way to equip your experts to become mentors is to run an internal class on Becoming a Mentor. It could be a 4-hour workshop where mentors learn how to:
- Build rapport
- Listen intentionally to understand
- Ask insightful questions to help team members solve challenges
- Help team members commit to taking action
Upon completion of this workshop, attendees would be capable of mentoring others. Congratulations! You now have mentors.
While Becoming a Mentor course gives mentors the basic toolbox, they still need additional support as they start mentoring others. One type of such support is to have a coach for your mentors, a Super Mentor.
Super Mentor could be an internal or external person that offers one-on-one coaching for your mentors. This person could set up office hours or otherwise be easily available to your mentors as they get real issues in the real world of mentoring others.
Having a Super Mentor will provide a level of support for the mentors, making it easier for them to sign up for the program. It also provides a way for mentors to grow themselves, making it more enticing.
Another way to support your mentors is to create an internal community. Mentor Meetup is where your mentors can get together and learn from one another.
It is best if Mentor Meetup runs on a regular cadence, say once a month. Mentorship Program Manager would keep track of topics that mentors want to discuss. At each meetup, a mentor would give a presentation on a specific topic and open it up for a group discussion.
By creating this community, mentors would feel that they are not alone. Furthermore, it gives them a platform to become better mentors. This is something that many leaders aspire to be.
Step 3: Grow Your People
Now that you have the program setup and enough initial mentors to get started, it’s time to announce the program to your organization. Or, at least the initial part of it.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Mentors open up mentoring sessions and mentees sign up. As magic happens in these one-on-ones, the word spreads. You now have a demand problem and need more mentors.
Make sure you track everything. A few metrics to keep in mind:
- Number of mentors and mentees
- Number of sessions opened and what percentage was booked
- Online vs in-person sessions – what is the preference
- How well each session was rated
Keep confidentiality in mind. The mentor/mentee relationship may be something you’d like to keep private.
Create Super Mentors
Super Mentors are how you onboard more of your people to become mentors. You’ve started with a single Super Mentor and that person might have been an external professional. You now have an opportunity to institutionalize the Super Mentor program. Through that, you’ll heighten awareness for what it is that mentors do and how to grow them into that role.
Becoming a Super Mentor may be based on experience and track record. There’s an opportunity to gamify this. Some companies use badges to automatically promote mentors to that Super status once they deliver X sessions at a Y rating. You can determine where that bar is for your organization.
Your original Super Mentor can now become the coach for other super mentors. This is how you effectively scale the program to 100s of mentors.
As you scale your program, what worked before may not cut it anymore. This is a good problem. Your program became successful.
You will need better tracking and analytics for what works and where to provide guidance. Your Mentorship operations need to scale up to support the bigger program.
As these mentor values become more rooted in your company’s culture, the leadership may want to know what is the impact on productivity, retention, or other key metrics they care about. Be ready to answer these questions with the data.
Curious what a platform for peer mentorship looks like? Check out the PlusPlus Mentoring app.