Ellen Esher describes the five fundamentals of a formal mentoring program, including pre-program needs assessment and infrastructure and support checkling. Learn how to best use the essenetials to develop or enhance a program.
- I'm gonna walk you through the overall structure of formal mentoring programs using the metaphor of going on a trip. Growing up in Fresno, California, a big trip for me was visiting fig orchards in Visalia. However, when I got to college, I studied abroad and fell in love with traveling. Fast forward to now and I've traveled to 60 countries, and am a big fan of itineraries and packing lists. So, think about your formal mentoring program like taking a journey, and creating the overall structure is like planning your itinerary and packing list.
There are five steps to consider for your mentoring program design itinerary. The first step is conduct a pre-program needs assessment. Returning to our metaphor, when you go on a trip, you often start with the general notion of where you want to go, but then you do some research, and think about what you are trying to accomplish. The same idea applies to mentoring program development. The big idea here is to gather data from your various stakeholders. Figure out what are the major goals you're trying to accomplish.
Before you go any further, ask yourself, is mentoring really the solution to the problems that exist? The second step is to create a checklist of essentials before you start your design. Just like going on a trip, there are some essentials you will always need, like say your smartphone charger. Others like maybe your bathing suit are optional. Ask yourself, what essentials do you need in place before you design your mentoring program? For example, I had an HR director contact me recently about designing a formal mentoring program.
She was very busy and creating a mentoring program was one more thing for her very long to-do list. I asked her if she had a few essentials for program design, like does she have top management support? Does she have money, time, and people to support the administrative aspects of the program? A link to existing programs or business goals? She didn't have these essentials, so I advised her to get them in place before starting the program.
Just as you wouldn't get on an airplane without your ticket, money, and ID, don't start a mentoring program without adequate support in place. The third step is decide on your program participants. We all know our traveling companions can make or break a trip. So, it is also true with mentoring programs. Start small and get bigger. Set yourself up for success by choosing your program participants carefully.
Make sure you choose mentors and proteges who are truly committed, well respected, and that you feel can benefit from each other. The fourth step is provide training and ongoing support, which is like taking the trip itself. After all the planning, it is exciting to be finally launched, but you can't just leave your participants adrift. You need to train them before the program, and then provide ongoing support and possibly more training throughout your program.
The final step is post-program evaluation. Whether I'm wrapping up an overseas trip with students, or teaching a final session on mentoring, I love to ask these same evaluative questions. What was most memorable, or the best part about this experience? What could have been improved? What did you learn? Of course, there are very sophisticated ways to evaluate your mentoring, which we will take a deeper dive into, but for a quick evaluation, I find these questions work nicely.
The thing I love about traveling and designing mentoring programs is that I always learn something new, and it is a different experience every time. I'm happy to be your guide on your mentoring journey.
- The benefits of formal mentoring programs
- The types and purpose of mentoring programs
- Designing a framework and a needs assessment
- Creating a mentoring culture
- Ensuring organizational support
- Choosing participants
- Training essentials for mentors
- Concluding and celebrating your program
- Evaluating your program
- Making your mentoring program last