Yoda and Luke Skywalker. Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Leslie Knope and April Ludgate.


source: starwars.com

Associations are in the business of relationships, but while the idea of mentors and the less-experienced friends who look to them for guidance is a theme often explored in pop culture many organizations have yet to introduce formal mentorship offers within their own programming.

In a recent study published by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “Mentoring Matters,” only 29 percent of respondents report their organization has a mentoring program with a formal structure, clear guidelines and objectives. Why? Organizations report a cite lack of resources, organizational culture and a lack of interest or availability from potential mentors.

But mentoring programs provide real value for organizations who make the time to introduce them. For mentees, the ATD study reports greater professional development (36 percent) and an enhanced understanding of organizational culture (30 percent). For mentors, top benefits include developing new perspectives (59 percent) and improving leadership skills (49 percent).

Benefits can extend beyond individuals to entire segments. For organizations looking to crack the code on engaging younger members, mentoring programs provide a huge opportunity. According to Deloitte, Millennials look for mentoring programs within their employer. Over three quarters (79 percent) of Millennials believe mentorship programs are critical to their personal career success.  Data published in the Harvard Business Review confirms this, showing young high achievers are considering leaving organizations – with a lack of mentoring as one of the key reasons.

Are mentoring programs right for your organization? Ready to at least start thinking about introducing a mentoring program? Here are 4 things to consider.

1. Be clear in your objectives

Why are you starting a mentoring program? What do you hope that your mentoring program will achieve?

Many organizations start by digging deep to understand their target audience including who they are, where they are, their development needs and the key reasons they’d want to participate. Many mentoring programs find success targeting new members early in their career than those more tenured in their time with the organization.

2. Design your program with mentors and mentees in mind

Mentoring programs aren’t one-size-fits-all. According to ATD, in-person, one-on-one mentoring are most common (78 percent) yet a significant number (47 percent) report the most effective mentoring program uses a hybrid approach including virtual meetings, peer mentoring and group mentoring in addition to in-person conversations.

To ensure success, mentoring programs should offer structure and flexibility. The structure should ensure a repeatable framework to protect the experience for all participants and provide a clear path to achieving productive learning that reaches defined goals. Flexibility is essential to support varying individual mentoring needs across specific learning needs, preferences and learning styles.

3. Attract program participants

New programs often launch with a natural enthusiasm and excitement but don’t always translate into high engagement. Ensure both potential mentors and mentees understand the benefits. Convince them participating is worth the investment of their time and effort and ensure key leaders and stakeholders are on the same page.

Mentors, in particular, may prove challenging to recruit. Mentors, for example, are often busy with limited time – how can you help them be more efficient with the time they’re able to spend mentoring? Also, consider recognition and reward strategies. Formally recognizing mentor involvement can be very motivating and help attract additional mentors to the program.

4. Matchmaker, matchmaker…make me a match!

Connecting a mentee with the right mentor is often one of the most challenging aspects of a program. Participants will bring various competencies, backgrounds, learning styles and needs.  Matching best practices begin with a rich profile for all participants (mentors and mentees) including development goals, specific interests, location, experiences and matching preferences. The more you know about your participants, the more likely your participants will be a great fit and have a happy, productive mentoring outcome. Software can make this process significantly easier.

Consider allowing mentees to nominate a prospective mentor they’d like to work with or submit their top three choices. Self-matching offers a scalable option for large programs.

Like all investments, mentoring programs should be tracked, measured and continually reviewed to ensure they’re providing the right level of value – to program participants and the larger organization. Track “funnel” conversion metrics, monitoring the progress participants make through the program (starting at enrollment) and through subsequent interactions.

Surveying participants for qualitative feedback on mentoring programs is also important for understanding success.  Take the time to understand the impact of mentoring in terms of outcomes while acquiring program feedback via frequent surveys throughout the program. Ask both mentors and mentees how well the program met their goals and the goals of the organization and look to participants for their ideas for improving the program.

Mentoring is a high-impact opportunity to acquire, engage and retain members. But making the right match is just the beginning. Whether you want to start small with a pilot program, have a specific target audience in mind or are at the early stages of considering what a mentoring program can mean for your organization, there’s no better time to get started.