This blog dives deep into why mentoring and peer-learning programs have become so effective and popular. And most importantly, how you can leverage the best practices to create one for your organization and people.
In short, if your objective is to truly upskill and reskill your talent, in the context of the organization, so that they can readily use those skills on the ground (as opposed to just theoretically learning them) to fuel high performance, then yes, you do need to start a mentorship program at work.
The last 2 years have not only changed how work is done (the rise of remote and hybrid teams), but more significantly, it has changed people’s lenses on what they expect from work and their employers in general. And with the macro operating environment changing at a pace that has never been seen before, businesses now grapple with 2 simultaneous realities.
Now typically, when it comes to learning, the first thing that organizations resort to is to implement a Learning Management System (LMS). We surveyed over 100 People Leaders and the results were unanimous - LMS platforms have a very low adoption rate that ranges from 5% to 15% on average. What does this mean for organizations?
It means that technology is not a silver bullet that can magically upskill and reskill your talent.
When we probed further, we found that there are 3 key reasons why LMS platforms were unable to live up to expectations.
In light of this, organizations have started realizing the benefits of Mentoring, Peer, and Cohort-Based Learning. Let’s dive right in.
Mentorship programs, as it turns out, are a much more involved and effective way of upskilling and reskilling your talent. When we spoke to our customers as well as organizations that have leveraged mentoring, we could identify, 3 pillars of success.
We cannot emphasize this enough. There is a lot of internal and tribal knowledge within organizations that are left untapped. Mentoring enables leaders and subject matter experts to share this knowledge effectively and rapidly. As a result, when people complete their mentoring relationships, not only do they learn new skills, they know how they can readily apply them to their own reality. We found that mentoring relationships went far beyond the prescribed program length and people were able to reach out to their internal mentors in situations where they got stuck.
The reality is that a lot of talent and career decisions in organizations are heavily influenced by visibility. Be it a recommendation from a leader or just good feedback, people realize that it is important to network and connect with others who can have a say in their careers. This is NOT to say that performance doesn’t matter. Performance probably plays the biggest role in such calls. But it definitely isn’t the only deciding factor. As a result, employees are eager to connect with leaders, learn from them, and grow their network. It is a win-win since it enables leaders to also have great visibility on the upcoming talent pool.
Let’s understand this with an example. One of the most popular mentoring initiatives on Klaar is the New Manager Development Mentoring Program where new or first-time managers are either paired with, or get to select, experienced managers, subject matter experts, and L&D professionals as their mentors.
The managers who had not been a part of this program mentioned that typically new managers are asked to learn about managerial styles, time management, and so on, from courses. The limitation to that approach is even after learning all of those things, the new managers are completely lost on how to use this newly assimilated knowledge with the 5 people who are a part of the team. Translating theoretical knowledge into practical behaviors is a tall ask.
The mentees who were a part of the mentoring initiative all mentioned that the discussions with their mentors were all rooted in reality. They learned about the managerial styles, different models of management, and so on. But more importantly, they discussed about their new team. Every session shed more light on how they could inspire their new team better, what were the problems they were facing, and a lot more.
As a result, this program sees greater than 90% completion on Klaar.
And that brings us to the next section. As a Learning & Development or a Talent professional, how can you create and implement a successful Mentorship Program at Work?
We found that targeted mentoring programs have a much higher completion and success rate when compared to general initiatives. Defining the key objectives expected from the mentoring relationship ensures that even before mentors and mentees connect, they know what are the expected outcomes that they need to be working towards.
This begets the question, of how to understand what sort of mentoring programs to run. Having an open mind really helps here. Don’t make too many assumptions and revert to first principles. What exact people problems are you trying to solve? Some of the mentoring initiatives that we have seen a rise in popularity on Klaar are:
When you are starting a Mentoring program at work, you will find all sorts of mentors and mentees - great, good, mediocre, and bad. Our customers mentioned that one of the most common reasons why mentoring programs fizzle out is if either party does not get adequate value from the relationship. To add to that, mentors and mentees often get stuck after a while.
The antidote? Structure your Mentoring program. Enable your mentors and mentees to realize
They always have the option of building on top of this structure. However, this ensures that the most important points are being discussed uniformly. In Klaar, once you create this structure, a mentor and a mentee will have it ready in their mentoring relationship tab for them to use.
One of the most common feedback that we have found from users is that they had no clue how the People team had paired them with mentors. This is a major friction point. Unless mentors and mentees are comfortable with each other (and that includes knowing each other’s backgrounds, skills, experiences, present roles, etc.), this sense of apprehension even before they actually start the relationship, is detrimental to the Mentoring program.
So while in Klaar you can pair mentors and mentees together, there is also a small context box where you can write what led to this pairing. This is extremely important. But what we strongly suggest is democratizing access to internal mentors.
When you democratize access to mentors (check the photo below of how Mentees can browse for Mentors in Klaar), your employees truly own their learning and career development. They feel empowered to take their decisions. And because they have relevant knowledge of a mentor’s skills, experience, role, and more, they are able to decide for themselves if this indeed is the right mentor for them. By empowering your people, you are actually making them more invested in the program.
There is very little doubt that your best mentors will get bombarded with mentorship requests. This is of course not ideal. Not only are you looking to develop your mentees, but creating a successful Mentoring program at work enables you to develop better mentors and people managers as well.
It is important that your mentors are able to set this personal cap so that they don’t have to reject requests every day and at the same time, other mentors get an opportunity to create value for the mentees.
This is one of the biggest friction points that you will encounter. A lot of mentoring relationships fizzle out because of the endless back and forth between mentors and mentees on the session timings. It is imperative that you make this process completely seamless.
As an example, in Klaar, mentors can sync their company calendars with the platform and create mentoring session slots. Just like Calendly, mentees are able to book these slots provided there is no conflicting appointment on the calendar. By ensuring that mentors and mentees don’t have to leave the platform, you effectively increase the chances of more 1:1 sessions actually getting completed.
A Mentoring program at work is not successful unless the mentees (and the mentors) are able to internalize the learning. And to enable that, you need to provide a safe and trusted space where the goals, agenda, and action items can be effectively seen and tracked by both the parties involved. Don’t forget to create a space where they can jot down their learning. Having access to this learning is imperative. We have found that mentees often come back to this space when they are actually applying the learning on the ground.
This is one of the main reasons why offline mentoring programs don’t scale. Unless the People Team or the team that is driving the programs has visibility on key identified metrics, you would not be able to nudge the participants and increase success rates. To add to that, when you have to justify the ROI of the Mentoring program, these are the metrics that will form a major part of your presentation. Some of the most critical information that you need to have complete visibility on are:
Recognition is one of the best ways to answer the question that a lot of mentors will have, “What’s in it for me?” One of the best ways to recognize mentors is basis the number of successful sessions that they have completed or to ensure that the leadership is giving them a special mention in the monthly or quarterly town halls. This will also increase program adoption.
In Klaar, not only can you recognize mentors, but mentees are able to rate mentors and write testimonials for them as well. A lot of the companies that use Klaar, in turn, use these testimonials as inputs to the year-end talent conversations. It’s a great way to identify potential leaders from the crop of mentors and to effectively differentiate between the best and the rest.
It is imperative that you get timely feedback from both the mentors and the mentees. Without such feedback, it becomes difficult to improve the program. In Klaar, a lot of our customers use our pre-populated templates to automate feedback. These regular inputs enable you to understand the qualitative aspects of the program and where you might need to focus.
Similar to how we benchmark against best practices, enabling people to have access to mentoring best practices will radically improve the quality of conversations. Instead of great mentoring practices existing in a silo and impacting just a few, you would effectively be enabling everybody to access such time-tested techniques.
Internal success stories are a great way to increase further adoption. Ultimately, your employees have to realize that the time that they are taking out from their days to invest in mentoring is all worth it. Internal success stories effectively reinforce this fact. When people get to see possible outcomes, they are further motivated to put in more effort and see their careers soar.
So there you have it! A step-by-step guide on how you can create a super successful mentoring program at work. It’s not necessary that you start off with all of the points mentioned above, you can gradually keep on adding them. Mentoring and peer learning programs, if done correctly, are one of the best ways to rapidly upskill, engage, and retain your talent.
Klaar might just be the platform for you.
Investing in a platform like Klaar could be the difference between a successful Mentoring program and just another initiative that fizzles out. An easy way to start is to book a demo and run a pilot on the platform to effectively see the value for yourself.