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mentorship program

How to Build a Mentorship Program: A Comprehensive Guide

Building a mentorship program can be a game-changer for your organisation. It not only enhances employee engagement and wellbeing but also boosts retention and overall productivity. In this guide, we will walk you through how to build a mentorship program that truly makes a difference both to your people and to your business.

What is a mentorship program?

A mentorship program is a structured system through which mentors provide guidance and support to mentees, often in a professional setting. For our purposes, it’s a way of connecting people within your organisation to the best forms of peer support for their specific needs. A good mentorship program is designed to foster growth, learning, and development amongst all members of the program: mentors and mentees. At Indigo, our research has shown that mentorship programs work best when you encourage your people to get involved, but never force them – mentoring always works best when they actually want to reach out for help from or lend support to their peers.

By guiding team members to the correct forms of support, and helping them feel comfortable to reach out, we build mentorship programs that are effective, and sustainable. How do we do this? By matching your people to their perfect mentor based on the issues they tell us they’re struggling with – whether that’s a specific aspect of their job, a technical question, or something as simple as ‘I want to learn from female managers in my organisation.’

How can I build a mentorship program?

Building a strong and sustainable mentorship program involves identifying the goals you want the program to achieve, selecting suitable mentors, matching them with mentees, providing necessary training, and regularly reviewing the program for improvements. Mentor matching based on characteristics such as shared interests, roles or aspirations can prove effective, or else matching mentors and mentees based on a problem-solution format: a mentee has a problem, and you’re matching them with a mentor who knows the solution.

At Indigo, we automated this process using AI to facilitate real human connection. We show mentees their best potential mentor matches based on what they tell us about the areas they’re struggling with – but crucially, we let them decide who they want to talk to, and when.

What is a peer mentor?

A peer mentor is someone who provides guidance and support to a peer in a similar position or with similar experiences. They can share insights, advice, and personal experiences. On a personal level, its important that your organisation nominates mentors who are trustworthy, keen to help, and committed. It can be easy to commit to being a mentor when you’re not very busy, but when you have deadlines to meet this can be harder to make time for, so its important that mentors take this into account before signing up.

At Indigo, we believe that everyone is an expert in their own specific field – it’s just about asking them the right questions. In a workplace setting, mentoring can be used to unlock the intelligence of your entire team, upskilling individual members and creating a more cohesive, communicative and productive workforce.

How to create a mentoring plan?

Creating a mentoring plan involves setting clear objectives, defining the roles of the mentor and mentee, establishing a timeline, and deciding on the methods of communication and feedback. It’s crucial to make a plan that includes understanding what exactly you want your mentoring program to achieve – do you want your mentors to act as sign-posters to forms of support within your organisation? Do you want to facilitate Peer Assisted Learning? Do you want mentoring hours to contribute towards your teams’ corporate social responsibility? All these things go in to creating your mentoring plan, and its really important to set them out before you get started.

What is the difference between a mentorship program and peer mentoring?

A mentorship program typically involves a more experienced individual guiding a less experienced one, while peer mentoring involves individuals of similar experience or position mentoring each other.

At Indigo, we believe that both peer-to-peer support and more formal mentorship are vital to building a more engaged team. Through the process of having a a more experienced individual guiding a less experienced one, you’re able to reap a large number of benefits. These include developing leadership qualities in your mentors; upskilling and developing the experience of your mentees; sharing valuable industry knowledge and passing down unique, company-specific expertise.

But support and mentoring amongst peers is also key. The benefits of this include: supporting the wellbeing and psychological safety of your team by providing them with a safe space to share ideas and concerns with their colleagues; encouraging more communication amongst your team; increasing productivity by promoting effective teamwork.

At Indigo, we use both 1:1 mentoring conversations and group forum discussions to facilitate both types of mentoring communication within your mentorship program. Request a demo.

What should be included in a mentorship program?

A mentorship program should include:

  • Setting clear goals. It’s important to understand what you want a mentorship program to achieve for your organisation, as well as how you want your people to benefit from it. This will shape the way your mentorship program is run.
  • A process for matching mentors and mentees. Matching is key to ensure that your people are receiving support from the best people for them. Learn how Indigo makes matching easier and more efficient.
  • Training for participants. At Indigo, we believe that when building a mentorship program its important to set boundaries. At the very least, making it clear to mentors what they are there to help with (as well as what they’re not there to help with) is an important step in achieving this. It’s also important to have a robust system in place for reporting potential issues.
  • Feedback and reviews. At its core, your mentorship program should be all about your people – which means you need to ask them what they think! Using the data around levels of engagement with your mentoring program is a great way to determine whether or not its working, but its also important to ask for regular feedback directly from your team.
Check out our video exploring the four key things to include in a mentorship program!

How to measure the success of a mentorship program?

The success of a mentorship program can be measured through various metrics such as participant satisfaction, achievement of personal goals, improvement in job performance, and retention rates. At Indigo, we start by measuring engagement with your mentorship program, taking into account how many people are actively participating, how often they’re starting conversations and how engaged they are overall. It’s also really important to engage your team at every step of the process, learning what they want from a mentorship program and regularly checking in with them to see what they like, and what you could improve on.

The Indigo reviews process also allows you to understand more about the best performing and most highly engaged members of your workforce – the people who are most committed to carrying out their mentoring responsibilities might just be your next hire for a leadership role. Similarly, using our group forums we’re able to understand more about which issues matter most to your team. Do they all struggle to understand the same company policy? Are they all discussing the same new industry trend? By facilitating community engagement through a mentorship program, you can learn a lot about your team and unlock intelligence around the latest industry trending topics.

Bonus: using mentoring to engage a remote workforce.

Following the COVID 19 pandemic, the way we work is never going to totally go back to the way it did. For many people, hybrid or remote working is the norm, and it prevents many benefits. However, it also comes with challenges, from trying to develop a sense of company culture and community to improving cohesion within your team. How do you get a workforce to truly work together (not just share files on Teams or chat on WhatsApp) when they’re not in the same office building?

A well-structured mentorship program can help to achieve this, strengthening ties amongst individuals within your team, and increasing their sense of community – no matter where they are.

We’ve developed a 7 Step Guide to Elevating Remote Employee Engagement with some top tips and practical advice on how to do just that. Get in touch to download or sign up to our People Management Monthly newsletter, delving into the latest trends and insights in people management, on the second Thursday of every month.