Have Great Ideas About Mentorship Programs? Here is How to Create Your Own!
Do you see the need for mentorship programs in your workplace? Are you a teacher who understands the value of youth mentoring programs in the education setting? Or perhaps you know leaders who would be perfect in helping you build a program in your community.
Mentorship programs are not solely intended to be created by supervisors or administrators. Anyone, or group of people, can jumpstart a mentor program within a business, school, or community. To ensure success, you will need volunteers, participants, resources, structure, and high expectations.
Below you will read about how to get started with developing your mentoring program. You will also learn how to structure it, learn about the business side of it, and how to guide and assess the mentors and mentees.
You have an idea…now what?
Taking on the challenge of building a mentorship program is a huge commitment. It is such a wonderful opportunity for all who will be involved.
How exactly do you get started?
First and foremost, know your W’s. Think about the who, what, where, when, and why of your potential mentoring experience. Mentor programs should not be promoted until the basic logistics are worked out to ensure clear communication about the program to your audience.
Think about these things:
- Who will your mentors and mentees be and how will you recruit them? Who will
- What are the goals, objectives, criteria, and guidelines for your program? What is the application process?
- Where do people sign up? Where will program activities take place?
- When will participants meet? When and how will the program and participants be evaluated?
- Why…that’s the BIG question. Why are you wanting to create a mentorship program?
The next step is to ask the appropriate people if you need permission to create a mentoring program. Are you wanting it to be formal and a part of an organization, secondary school, college, or town/city? If so, you will want to meet with the point person, i.e., the dean of a college or the CEO, HR, or employer of a company.
You will want to work out the basic logistics of your program before you meet with them. Be prepared, because you may need to pitch your idea to all stakeholders and/or staff members. Clearly communicate the need of such a program and what you expect the impact and benefits to be.
Next you need to find others who will support your potential plan. It will be difficult to take on such a task all by yourself, so ask around to gauge the interest in such a program. Target fellow leaders, employees, students, or colleagues who can help in the development of your idea.
Once you have obtained permission along with the individuals to help you, begin laying the groundwork. This may take research, training, and possibly guidance from other programs.
There are many steps to take in order to design an experience for mentors and mentees.
You will need to:
- Decide on the roles of leaders within the program.
- Set requirements for participants.
- Create an interview process for applicants.
- Create a matching process for mentors and mentees.
- Create training programs for mentors and mentees.
- Create a way to ensure accountability for all participants.
- Find ways to ensure volunteer and employee satisfaction.
How to structure your mentorship program
How you structure your mentorship programs will really depend on the five W’s we discussed previously. Every program will be slightly or even largely different depending on the needs, goals, people involved, culture, along with other factors. Programs being developed within universities may be wanting academic outcomes, while those on companies may be more focused on career-related goals.
Let’s take a look at advice from a business perspective from an article entitled, 7 Ways to Structure Mentoring Programs to Improve Their Reach.
- Clarify program outline
- Make mentoring topical
- Explore different formats
- Allow self-matching
- Build mentoring support systems
- Recognize mentors
- Encourage paying it forward
Professionals with the Minnesota Programs of Study give tips on how to get started with structuring a mentoring program. The following are important questions to ask yourself while planning and developing the program.
- How many mentors will be matched with students during the first year of the program?
- Will students be recruited from only one or two grades or from all grades in the school?
- When during the school year will the matches begin?
- Will you continue to provide new mentors during the school year as teachers identify new students who could benefit?
- How long will each meeting last?
- How often will mentors meet with students?
- What is the length of commitment you expect mentors to make to the program?
- Will mentors be encouraged to return to the program and meet with their students the following school year?
The structure of a mentoring program is going to depend on several factors. The individual creating the program will need to decide the best and most effective way to develop it. It may be a learning process for some, but there are several resources out there for those interested.
For example, the University at Albany in New York lists their Mentoring Best Practices handbook online for the general public to view. The very first chapter entitled Starting a Mentoring Initiative gives recommendations regarding developing mentoring programs. This is a wonderful resource for mentors and mentees, and for anyone who is interested in leadership and mentoring.
Three other things you need to know
Once you create the basic platform for your mentoring program, there are other things that you need to think about. You want to make sure things go smoothly for your mentors and mentees. In order for the potential mentorship opportunities to be successful, these other things need to be in order.
The business side of things:
- Services offered
- Marketing via multiple routes, i.e., social media, websites, word of mouth
- Conducting background checks
Maintaining the program:
- Communication with mentors and mentees
- Monitoring the mentoring relationship between mentor and mentee
- Coaching mentors through challenges
- Creating a process for member retention
Assessing the program:
- Getting feedback from mentors and mentees via surveys
- Figuring out what is evidence of success
- Assessing the outcomes of mentees’ goals
- Receiving anecdotal reports on the mentoring relationship
- Collecting data throughout the mentoring cycle to gauge success
- Creating a mentor evaluation
A mentor may need career advice. You may want to get advice and information from someone who has had experiences with a mentoring program. Building a program from scratch will take knowledge, investment, connection, and commitment.
Take a look at a few of the top mentoring programs. The following below have been successful in fostering mentoring relationships.
Who are currently the top mentoring programs?
How a mentoring program ranks among others can be both objective and subjective. It just depends on what data you are looking at. It is difficult to compare them as there are thousands upon thousands of mentoring programs with different purposes.
With that being said, take a look at five mentor programs from three categories that have been considered note-worthy.
The organization Gloo has a blog article entitled 5 Corporate Mentorship Programs Worth Imitating. Click on the link to read the article and learn more detail about each of the following:
There are also many community-based mentoring programs out there where an adult will mentor a child or teen. These type of mentoring relationships are often imperative to the success of many low-income, disadvantaged, or hard-to-reach youth. Some of the top programs out there are:
- The Boys and Girls Clubs of America
- Tuesday’s Children
- United Way
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Lastly, there are often mentorship opportunities at primary and secondary schools. Many universities and graduate schools also offer them, called student-to-student mentoring. The following are a few that are currently in place and going strong.
- Purdue University
- University of Oklahoma
- University of San Francisco Alumni Mentoring Program
- Orange County Public Schools in Florida
- Stella Schola Middle School
If you are interested in creating a program at your local college, check with the dean and faculty first. Make sure one is not already in place or see if one was in place and check why it no longer exist. Ask around and email survey staff and students to gain insight on interests and preferences.
The above is the case as well if you are looking into starting a program in the corporate world or within the community. Ask around to multiple interest groups to gauge need and explore your options with other helping adults. Take your time to get all of the basics figured out before you pitch your idea to the appropriate people.
The meaning of ‘mentor’ looks different to most people. Creating a program specifically to fit your target group is very important. You want those involved to see positive growth in their own lives, so design the program in a way that will yield great results.
Developing a mentor program takes motivation. If this is a goal that you truly have, find the right people to join you on your path toward success. The project will not be easy, but it will be worth it to many once the program begins.
There are many elements that go into creating a number one program. The process will be easier if everyone on board has the same vision. It will be important to use tools and resources from those who have experience in creating a mentor program.
Focus on the five W’s and how you will reach your end goal.
Remember that creating successful mentoring relationships is what you are striving for! Don’t forget your ‘why.’