Guide and Improve Your Mentoring Programs

By Susan J. Wells May 1, 2009
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Measuring a mentoring program requires evaluating the overall program and individual mentoring relationships, advise experts, researchers and HR professionals. Here’s a sampling of their guidance:

Clarify and specify goals. Is the purpose clearly understood? Is the focus, for example, on learning and skills development, or succession planning and retention, or knowledge transfer?

HR professionals need to define these upfront as a basis for designing, structuring and carrying out a program, says Terri A. Scandura, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school and professor of management at the University of Miami.

Train, teach, encourage and promote. Employees have varied ideas about mentoring—and how it’s done. So, it’s important for everyone to have a common understanding of expectations and results—with an extra dose of insight for mentors. Be "certain that the mentors fully understand their roles," says Barbara Wright-Avlitis, global head of leadership development, training and diversity for corporate and commercial banking giant ING Wholesale Banking in Amsterdam. "This, to me, is even more important than the mentees fully understanding the purpose of the relationship. When mentors realize that they are actually allowed to get personally involved and feel responsibility for their mentees, the dynamics seem to change." Mentors must know "it’s OK to be an advocate for your mentee," she says.

Check resources. Are you providing adequate support and resources to feed your participants’ ongoing interest? As part of its revitalized initiative, for example, IBM Corp. created streamlined and easy-to-access mentoring resources, such as mentoring podcasts, success stories, mentoring guides and mentoring best practices that focus on the mentor-mentee relationship and how to make it work. The company built an online "Dear Mentor" chat area, where employees can electronically ask questions of a team of mentoring experts, according to Audrey J. Murrell, Ph.D., associate professor of business administration, psychology and public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Business.

Leave the boss-subordinate definition behind. "The days of one mentor for all reasons have passed," says Scandura. "Mentoring isn’t really about cloning—it’s about developing your own personal brand of leadership. That’s why multiple mentors for various goals and guidance—a network of people—is clearly the growing trend."

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