State of Mentoring Survey

The mentoring space is changing. It's time to take stock of what's new, what's the same, and - most importantly - what works.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is Virtual Mentoring Right for Your Organization?

Consider Virtual Mentoring Earlier Rather Than Later

One of the biggest things our clients ask about when putting together their mentoring program is mentor matching criteria.  We’ve written previously on the 5 mentor matching criteria you should consider, but today I want to focus on location-based mentor matching criteria and virtual mentoring.

Location is a big consideration when you’re putting together your mentor matching criteria, and for good reason. You want to consider a few things:

  • How great a distance your mentoring program spans – e.g. one office? One city? One state/province? One country?
  • How far can you realistically expect your mentors and mentees to commute to meet?
  • How important it is to you that your mentors and mentees meet face to face, as opposed to virtually?

When To Use Virtual Mentoring

Realistically, if your mentoring program is geographically larger than one office, you’ll be looking at having virtual relationships. Why? Your mentoring program is likely (hopefully) targeted. For this example, let’s say it’s targeted to a certain department. In every office, you have an average of 7 people in that department. Of those 7, only 4 are willing and qualified to participate in the mentoring program. Of those 4, you have two possible mentors, and two possible mentees.

That’s a very small selection pool, and there’s a very small chance that there will be two good matches between those four people. When you’re looking at achieving set objectives for your mentoring program, location is not a limitation you can afford to impose – because it’s a huge limitation. And you don’t want to limit your mentoring participants, or your mentoring program, in that way. You can bet that there are people in other offices and locations who can better help each other, and who can better help you meet your objectives.

That doesn’t looking a virtual mentoring exclusively for your organization – but it does mean setting expectations about virtual mentoring from the very beginning of your mentoring program planning.

Virtual Mentoring and Expectation Setting

By virtue of being virtual mentoring, it will require technology. This can mean video conferencing like Skype, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting, or even meeting by phone. But it also means that you need to prepare them for the possibility of being in a virtual mentoring relationship, and painting a picture of what that looks like in your organization.

Set expectations with your mentors, mentees, administrators, mentee’s managers, and leadership. Let them know through mentoring training:

  • How virtual mentoring fits into your mentoring program plan and structure
  • Rules specific to your organization and/or mentoring program
  • Best practices and suggestions

Learn more about Insala’s mentoring software.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mentor Matches Don't Always Work Out

Don't Hesitate When There's a Bad Mentor Match

Your seventh and final step to getting mentors and mentees to make time for mentoring focuses on closing the circle so that, no matter what unexpected issues crop up, you are ready to keep the mentoring program cycling to success. 

mentor match
We all know that even the best mentor matches can go wrong - regardless of how great your mentor matching criteria are. Even if both mentor and mentee go into their mentoring partnership with the very best of intentions, sometimes the unexpected happens, and there ends up being a conflict of personality, work, family, etc. 

If and/or when this happens, they need to know that there is a clear plan laid out for them to follow, and b) that there is someone who will guide them through it. 

That’s you, the program administrator. 

There’s no point in wasting time if it’s clear it’s a bad mentor match. It’s important that the mentor and mentee know that it’s okay to admit that it’s not working, so that they can be reassigned to more productive mentor matches. 

Consequences of Prolonging a Bad Mentor Match

Equally, it’s important that you, the program administrator, are able to admit that it’s okay that a mentor match isn’t working for a few reasons:

  1. Your mentoring program will lose credibility and momentum. Especially if you intend for your mentoring program to cycle over, you can’t afford to have bad PR if you’re going to recruit new mentors and mentees. 
  2. No progress will be made toward your objectives. Frustrated, apathetic, and/or absent mentors and mentees won’t be able to learn and develop in ways that you can tie back to your objectives for your mentoring program.
  3. You won’t be able to demonstrate ROI. If you’re not progressing toward your objectives, there’s no way that you will have mentoring program ROI – which means that when push comes to shove when you’re trying to keep your funding, you likely won’t be able to. 

Mentor Rematching Action Steps

Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Let mentors and mentees know before the program starts that they should come to you if they feel the match isn’t working – and that there will be no negative consequences for them should they do so. 
  2. Have a plan ready to put into action should a mentor and mentee approach you with just this concern – and take into consideration the possibility that you’ll need to put on your mediator hat as part of the job. 
  3. Be prepared to get back on track by marketing your mentoring program
It’s very important that a “no fault” mentoring partnership split rule is established to enable any necessary switches. Everyone needs to abide by it, mentors, mentees, managers, peers, etc. It’s okay to be reassigned. It’s up to you to communicate that to everyone involved.


Learn more about making the best possible mentor matches.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Secret to Growing a Successful Mentoring Program

Lay the Foundations of a Successful Mentoring Program

Just to recap Tips #1-5 about how to get your mentors and mentees to make time for mentoring - and make your mentoring program successful at the same time - if you’ve been following along, you have:

  1. Positioned your mentoring program as a business strategy to decision makers. (Read more)
  2. Made the mentoring commitment clear to all possible mentoring program participants. (Read more)
  3. Communicated the benefits of mentoring to all stakeholders – and helped them discover benefits they may not have been aware of. (Read more)
  4. Gotten the buy in from your mentees’ managers. (Read more)
  5. Had your mentees and mentors book the time for mentoring into their calendars from the get go. (Read more)

(Of course, these are steps that are best taken before you launch your mentoring program, but if it’s too late and your mentoring program is already launched and you’re having problems, these tips can serve as remedial inspiration too! Or for additional help from a mentoring consultant, please feel free to contact us.)

If you’ve done any or (hopefully) all of this work laid out in Steps #1-5, you can’t stop here. Never assume that the good foundation you’ve built will sustain itself; it can’t. Never assume that the momentum you’ve created around your mentoring program will continue on its own; it won’t. That’s your job. You already know all the things that are challenging your mentors and mentees to make mentoring a priority. Those things aren’t going to suddenly stop when the mentoring program launches.

Think of it this way: you’ve planted a good seed. Now it’s time to nurture it and really let it bloom.


grow successful mentoring program

Nurture a Successful Mentoring Program

In my experience, the #1 reason that mentoring programs fail is because mentors and mentees don’t have someone to go to with questions or problems. That means they’re lacking structure – and to create structure, they’re going to make up the rules for themselves.

Consider your mentoring program and everyone involved – mentors, mentees, managers, administrators, decision makers, etc. – as a team. Together, you’ve agreed upon objectives for that team to reach. But if individuals in that team are pulling in different directions, there’s no way you’re going to reach your collective objectives, because your team is not only working in different ways, but working toward different things.

To keep everyone on track, be a resource to your team. Have continual check-ins with the mentor-mentee pairs to reinforce Steps #1-5 and also to determine if there are any issues that have come up that are being used as “excuses” for not meeting. This will:

  • Keep mentoring program momentum going. This is where organizations tend to fail in terms of longevity and sustainability, because they have a kickoff, and then just fades away.
  • Keep mentors and mentees accountable for their time. 
  • Keep mentors and mentees accountable for what they’re meeting about. 

For more information about how to grow your successful mentoring program, learn about mentoring training

Monday, March 2, 2015

Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations

There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from all individuals, ages, and levels within the organization. Having multiple generations not only working together but listening, communicating, and working to develop each other is a boon in many areas, including creativity in problem solving.

Many times the younger staff member is not invited to be a part of a brainstorming process – the thought is that they just doesn’t have enough experience, knowledge, or organizational savvy to be of value. The same thing happens when the mentoring initiative within the organization only focuses on the “top down” style of mentoring relationships.

But more than that, taking mentoring out of the context of “top down” mentoring relationships provides an opportunity for different levels – and/or generations – to learn how to overcome communication barriers in organizations, and ultimately work better together.  (Learn more in our article "Bridging the Generation Gap with Mentoring".)

Take two examples we’ve given out below.


Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations: Example #1 

Kevin was the Director of Operations for a large distribution company, and a mentor to Frank, who was a Manager in Finance.  As a mentee, Frank’s major goal was to obtain more exposure to senior management.

Early in the mentoring relationship, Kevin indicated that one of the ways Frank could obtain the exposure he desired was to become more involved in major, strategic presentations that would spotlight the accomplishments of the IT Division.  Kevin was a seasoned communicator, had given presentations throughout his long career with the organization and felt this was an area of expertise -- he felt he could be of benefit to Frank.  Frank felt that he was doing just fine in this area of communication, but didn’t want to upset Kevin since Kevin was in a much higher position within the organization and could influence his career.

As Kevin tried to impart the pointers he had learned through years of experience, Frank kept interrupting and questioning his approach and advice – it was different than what he had learned a couple of years earlier in a presentation course.  Kevin felt Frank was ignoring time-tested strategies for delivering an impressive presentation.  Equally frustrated, Frank wondered why Kevin was so dismissive of the new ideas he had learned that he felt made presentations much more interesting.

In the beginning, not much progress was made.  Kevin felt that in the role of “mentor”, he was more qualified to give advice, and Frank should listen to him because of this.  Frank felt that the newer techniques that he had learned were better than what Kevin was trying to impart to him.  The initial result of the mentoring partnership was that Frank listened to what Kevin had to say, but didn’t incorporate any changes in his presentations.

But as their mentoring partnership went on, Kevin changed how he worked with Frank.

As Kevin began listening to Frank’s ideas and making him feel that what he had to say had value, Frank became more open to the tried and true advice that Kevin had to offer.  They began learning from each other.

Kevin as the older, more seasoned veteran learned that there were new and creative ways in which to make his presentations more innovative and interesting.  Frank, a younger, newer staff member learned the importance of understanding the audience and culture of the organization and how he needed to focus his presentations so that they were well received.

They mentored and learned from each other. Age, seniority and title were not the determining criteria for who was able to impart knowledge, but they were communication barriers that mentoring was able to breach.


Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations: Example #2: 

Karen and George are mentor and mentee respectively.  George’s development need is in the area of project management.  This is Karen’s area of expertise.  Although they work in different divisions within the organization – Karen in manufacturing and George in IT - and have different job titles, both Karen and George are at the same job grade level.

Karen is about to plan and implement a major project.  This is a great mentoring opportunity for George to learn and obtain practical experience.   They design a Mentoring Learning Plan and include activities that match George’s learning style.  As the relationship continues, George obtains great knowledge and development working with Karen – the mentoring experience is very beneficial.

Throughout the experience, George feels that there is a better way to handle the manpower planning portion of the process than what is now being used by Karen and her team.  George, based on his area of expertise, provides suggestions for an enhancement to the present technology that will make this part of the project planning process easier and more efficient.  George not only designs this enhancement, but teaches Karen how to use it and how to incorporate with her expertise of project management to obtain the best results.

Learn more about the benefits of mentoring programs


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Formal vs. Informal Mentoring: Poll Results

As promised, here are the results from the poll we posted last Thursday:


Have you found that informal or formal mentoring is more effective?
  • Informal – 14%
  • Formal – 14%
  • A combination of both is most effective – 71%
  • I don’t know; it’s difficult to measure the difference – 0%

It’s not surprising to us at Insala that a combination is what most people are finding to be the most effective form of mentoring; you won’t have to look hard on the internet, in trade magazines, etc. to see that there’s an ongoing debate about the use and effectiveness formal vs. informal mentoring. There are big pros and big cons to using solely both.

However, how heavily you weigh each pro and con comes down to your specific organization, and how you fit mentoring inside your organizational structure and strategy.

If you combine formal and informal mentoring, how do you do it at your organization? Let us know, and keep an eye out for our next poll!

Interested in participating in more benchmarking? Take the 2015 State of Mentoring Benchmarking Survey. A full report of the findings will be released after its close in Spring 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bridging the Generation Gap in the Workplace

bridging the generation gap
The term “mentoring” has always conjured up pictures of wise, older sages acting in the role of mentor as they impart wisdom and knowledge to the younger, less experienced mentee.

This model doesn’t translate to today’s workplace. You have at least three – and maybe four – generations working together. If we’re going to bridge the generation gap, we have to consider how well those generations are working together and communicating with each other in our workplaces.

The biggest questions we need to ask are:

  1. How can you ensure that leadership skills, competencies, and behaviors that are vital to your organization’s growth are instilled in new learners?
  2. How well do Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z communicate and work together on the same team, or in the same working environment?
  3. How can you leverage each generation’s strengths and experiences to maximize employee engagement and development?

Bridging the Generation Gap with Mentoring

Today’s mentors and mentees have less rigid roles, and are not constrained by age or generation – only experience. Looking at mentoring this way means throwing off our old and outdated perceptions and misconceptions regarding the concepts of mentoring.

Mentoring is the use of an experienced individual (mentor) to teach and train someone with less knowledge or experience (mentee) in a given area. Mentoring is a dynamic association between an individual who needs to learn and another who is willing to help and guide the learner.

A mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge, and/or skills of a specific content area who is able, willing, and available to share this information with another individual.

A mentee is an individual who seeks experience, knowledge and/or skills in a specific area and who looks to another individual(s) to gain that which is lacking.

There’s absolutely nothing saying that the mentor must:

  • be older than the mentee
  • be at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee
  • have been with the organization longer than the mentee
  • have a higher academic degree or certification title than the mentee

The mentor simply must have a certain knowledge and/or experience to share with the mentee who needs this knowledge or experience.

Traditionally, mentor-mentee pairs were matched on the “top down” theory. The mentor was always at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee.  The mentee felt secure that they were gaining exposure to individuals that could have a positive influence in their career and upward vertical movement within the organization.

This focus, although still valuable, is now a small segment of how the concept of mentoring can and should be used.

What possibilities do you see for your workplace today – or even for the workforce at large?


Learn more in our article Mentoring for Knowledge Transfer.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

POLL: Formal vs. Informal Mentoring



In our 2015 State of Mentoring Benchmarking Survey (which is open until March 27 - take it here!) we're currently polling that our respondents who have a formal mentoring program in their organization use:

  • Formal mentoring only (19%)
  • Informal mentoring only (23%)
  • Both (58%)
That 58% using both is great - and we wanted to open the floor for more discussion:


And if you want to say more, we encourage you to leave a comment below. We'll post the results next Thursday!

(Don't be shy - share this around if you think it's valuable!)