Setting Mentors Up for Success


What does a mentoring program need to be successful—besides, of course, willing mentors and mentees?

There is one important element some mentoring programs are missing: training. As ATD Research found in the report Mentoring Matters: Developing Talent With Formal Mentoring Programs, sponsored by MentorcliQ, training mentors is linked to program success. According to the report, organizations that train mentors before or during a mentoring program are significantly more likely to indicate that mentoring programs are highly effective at meeting their learning goals.

Most organizations with a mentoring program are already on the right track: the report found that more than three quarters of organizations provide mentors with training. This training can take many forms. Seven in 10 organizations that train their mentors do so via in-person training. Other common methods are virtual synchronous training, such as webcasts or virtual classrooms (36 percent); just-in-time support, such as job aids for use during mentoring sessions (33 percent); other self-paced learning resources such as print books or articles (31 percent); and self-paced e-learning (24 percent). Just 8 percent of organizations use social learning or mobile learning to train mentors.

There are several ways to include training in mentoring programs. ATD’s 10-Minute Case Studies, which show how organizations use innovative programs to solve business needs, feature a few different organizations that have developed successful mentoring programs.

Greenheck: Developing High-Potential Graduates With Mentoring and Rotational Training offers a deeper look into what mentor training may include. The case study outlines how Greenheck, a manufacturer of air movement and control equipment, implemented mentoring as part of a program to develop leadership skills in high-potential college graduates. Each graduate was paired with an employee within the organization who would mentor them throughout the program.

Greenheck’s first step was identifying employees to serve as mentors. To do this, Greenheck’s talent management team asked HR managers to recommend employees who were skilled in developing others. This helped ensure that mentors already had some experience relevant to mentoring, even before training took place.

After mentors were identified, Greenheck used several methods to develop their mentors both before and during the program:

In-person training: Before the program began, mentors attended a half-day workshop to learn mentoring strategies and best practices. The workshop was taught by Jenn Labin, owner of T.E.R.P. Associates and author of Mentoring Programs That Work.

Self-paced learning resources: At the workshop, mentors received a workbook, mentoring exercises, and two books about mentoring: Modern Mentoring: Build a Modern Mentoring Culture in Your Organization, by Randy Emelo, and FYI: For Your Improvement, A Guide for Development and Coaching, by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger. To reinforce the training, mentors received a follow-up article after the workshop containing key concepts from the training.

Peer support: Each month during the program, Greenheck’s mentors got together to share how their mentoring was going. This meeting gave them an opportunity to ask questions, give advice, and offer support.
Using multiple learning delivery methods and resources as in Greenheck’s example can help mentors feel more proficient. As Mentoring Matters notes, “The more tools and training participants are equipped with, the more prepared they’ll be for the program.”


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