How to Start a Virtual Mentorship Program

Since the pandemic, mentorship programs have really gathered momentum in organizations. The benefits of mentoring are numerous and affect several key aspects of an organization’s operations, such as a reduced turnover rate, increased promotion rates, increased employee satisfaction, knowledge transfer, etc. It is therefore not without reason that virtual mentoring programs are popular with leaders who wish to invest in strategies that will have a positive impact on their entire organization. This article, created by Elo’s co-founder and mentoring expert, Catherine Légaré, Ph.D., presents the essential elements for the successful implementation of your mentorship program.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is defined by Mentorat Québec as a means of development and learning, based on a voluntary, free, and confidential interpersonal relationship, in which an experienced person (the mentor) invests their acquired wisdom and expertise to foster the development of another person’s (the mentee’s) skills and abilities. The mentee then develops their confidence, aptitudes and chances of success in achieving personal and professional goals.

The benefits of a mentoring program in times of pandemic :

  • Allows your employees to adapt to their new roles and responsibilities
  • Supports your employees in the digital transformation of your organization
  • Supports the professional integration of new employees who will be hired in a remote context
  • Facilitates knowledge transfer among your remote employees
  • Supports the commitment and mobilization of your staff

Why launch a virtual mentoring program during COVID-19?

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, virtual mentoring programs offer the opportunity for your employees to benefit from customized and continuous support when they feel the need. Thus, a virtual mentoring program allows your team to create and maintain meaningful human connections with other professionals who understand their daily reality and issues.

Steps for implementing a mentoring program

01. Define clear and measurable objectives

When you start your virtual mentorship program, having clear goals will help you define your expectations, and therefore easily measure its performance. This will make it easier for you to recruit your participants and manage their expectations.

Examples of Mentoring Program Objectives:

  • Facilitate the transition of employees moving from a professional to a managerial role.
  • Encourage the sharing of knowledge and expertise among employees of all backgrounds in the company.
  • Breaking isolation and fostering collaborative learning for employees who work from home.
  • Supporting the socio-professional integration of people from diverse backgrounds within your company.
  • Supporting women in their accession and success in senior management positions.

02. Involve senior management

To maximize the benefits of mentoring for your organization and colleagues, the willingness to offer a mentoring program must be part of your corporate culture. With the involvement of senior management, it will be easier to deploy and promote mentoring within your organization. This involvement goes beyond allocating resources to operate a program. Management must promote and value mentoring as a development practice that is encouraged in the company.

How to involve management:

  • Be part of the launch event
  • Share a testimonial of an impactful mentoring relationship for one or more members of senior management.
  • Participate as a mentor or mentee
  • Participate in a participant recruitment activity (booth, webinar, etc.)

03. Promote your virtual mentoring program and recruit participants

To ensure the success of your mentoring program, you must, of course, promote it to future participants using a variety of tools adapted to your target audience. As far as the recruitment of mentors is concerned, do not hesitate to individually solicit people who will become ambassadors of the mentoring program.

People you consider good role models and who naturally inspire others to action. These ambassadors, through their involvement, would set the tone for your mentoring program.

Examples of means of promotion:

  • Organize a networking event that includes an “express mentoring” game to break the ice and generate registrations and matches.
  • Create emails, posters, webinars, video clips, etc.
  • Organize a mentoring “lunch and learn”, including a recruitment period for mentors and mentees.
  • Sharing success stories of mentoring
  • Organize “speed mentoring” activities

04. Support and train participants

Research suggests that without training, only 30% of mentoring relationships are successful. Therefore, it is recommended that participants be given all the tools they need to fully and comfortably live the mentoring experience. With training, this success rate increases to 66%. That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? Ideally, training is done before the match and continues throughout the mentoring experience.

Some examples of themes for training your mentors and mentees:

  • Knowing the skills and attitudes to be a good mentor
  • Understand what to expect from the mentee
  • Learn how to structure, lead, and maintain an impactful mentoring relationship
  • Understand what mentoring is and what it is not
  • Understand the roles and functions of a mentor

05. Make the pairings

Once you have a list of interested mentors and mentees, one of the most critical steps is pairing mentors and mentees. Pairing is based on the development needs of mentees and your program goals. For example, to develop innovation in your organization, reverse mentoring (where the mentor is younger than the mentee) can be an interesting solution to create dyads with different backgrounds. Other situations may call for a match between people with similar backgrounds. Some mentorship programs and platforms, however, give freedom to mentees by allowing them to choose their mentor themselves.

Tips for successful matches:

  • Some people benefit more from mentoring if there is a match in gender, cultural background, sexual identity, or other characteristics between the mentor and mentee.
  • Avoid pairings where there is a reporting relationship or other potential for conflicts of interest.
  • Pairing is more likely to be successful when mentors and, especially mentees, are involved in the selection process.

06. Emphasize the participation of your employees

Mentoring is voluntary, for both the mentor and the mentee. Highlighting their participation within your program gives visibility to their involvement in this unifying project. In addition to being rewarding for the participants, this recognition of these individuals could even encourage other employees to sign up for the mentoring program.

Examples of ways to recognize your employees’ participation:

  • Recognition Event
  • Dissemination of testimonials
  • Recognition of mentoring time as training hours for both mentor and mentee
  • Mention of involvement in the mentoring program in your organization’s newsletter

07. Evaluate the performance of your mentoring program

Evaluating your program ensures that you offer a mentoring program that meets the needs of your employees and your organization. To effectively measure the performance of a mentoring program, it is recommended that you establish performance indicators (PIs) that will be used to measure the success of your initiative.

Most programs conduct this evaluation with a survey to measure learning, participant satisfaction, or career impact, depending on the program objective. If your mentoring program is virtual, you can track data in real-time and adjust the program accordingly quickly and effectively if needed.

Examples of performance indicators:

  • Acquisition of mentors and mentees
  • Number of matches
  • Number of meetings (virtual or face-to-face) between mentors and mentees
  • Number of messages exchanged between mentors and mentees

Conditions for the success of a mentoring program

Mentoring expert Catherine Légaré shares with you the conditions for a successful mentorship program.

01. Use technology to manage your virtual mentoring program

During the current environment of the pandemic, technology allows you to maintain your mentoring activities in a remote setting, all while lightening the workload associated with managing a mentoring program. Indeed, the use of technology allows you to automate certain follow-up tasks. Whether you want to make intelligent matches using algorithms, or easily work with your program’s participation data, there are mentoring platforms and software to simplify the deployment and management of your mentoring program.

In addition, technology also facilitates the networking of mentors and mentees (think LinkedIn!), promotes more equal relationships, autonomy, personalized and immediate (or almost immediate) response to needs. In addition, technology helps to expand the opportunities for mentor-mentee matching by allowing participants to interact with individuals who are not in close proximity. Say hello to modern mentoring and make your life easier!

02. Appoint a coordinator for the mentorship program

The coordinator is the person in charge of the mentoring program in an organization. This person may have several responsibilities.

The most common responsibilities of the Program Coordinator:

  • Participant recruitment
  • Matching mentors and mentees
  • Coaching and training of participants
  • Evaluation of the mentorship program

The role of this person and the level of his or her involvement depend greatly on the structure of the mentoring program. An informal program will require less management, while a structured, formal program will require more involvement. To give you an idea, according to a survey of Elo Mentoring Platform program coordinators, there is a strong correlation between the amount of time spent managing the program and the number of participants enrolled. This varies from less than one hour per week for a mentoring program with 25 participants to up to 2 days per week for a program with 500 participants. Once again, technology helps to greatly simplify the management of the mentoring program, saving valuable time.

03. Test your virtual mentoring program

Before promoting mentoring within your organization, piloting your mentoring program gives you an opportunity to measure its performance. Lasting from 6 months to 1 year, the pilot must reach a sufficient number of people in order to gain a variety of perspectives on the benefits experienced, the course of the relationship, the pitfalls encountered, etc.

Questions to ask yourself before choosing a mentoring software

There are now several types of digital solutions available for mentoring. The first challenge is to identify the mentoring platforms on the market. It is important to ask the right questions about new mentoring technologies in order to make the right choice.

Questions to ask yourself before looking for a digital solution:

  • Will the mentoring platform allow you to evolve your program without having to change platforms?
  • Is training offered to new program coordinators?
  • What resources are built into the application?
  • How secure is the platform?
  • Who was involved in the design of the software?

Start a Virtual Mentoring Program with the Elo Mentoring Platform

Interested in starting a virtual mentoring program? Discover Elo, the turnkey mentoring platform that allows organizations to easily launch and manage a mentoring program. With more than 20 years of experience in the world of mentoring, our experts are there to help you every step of the way in setting up your program. In addition, program coordinators, mentors and mentees benefit from personalized coaching.

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