How to Start a Virtual Mentoring Program for Your Enterprise Organization

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
June 10, 2022

If your remote or hybrid organization has yet to implement a virtual mentoring program or needs to scale an existing one that is being run on spreadsheets, now is the time. Research shows that retention is much higher for mentees than for employees who are not in a mentorship program. In a study from Gartner and Capital Analytics, researchers observed a 23% higher retention rate for people who were mentored compared to those who were not.

Mentorship plays a critical role in any successful company. Organizations that want to attract and retain top talent should put a virtual mentoring program in place to help upskill employees, break down silos, and connect remote workers to the organization and its mission.

Below, we’ve put together a few key points for any HR or people manager looking to start a virtual mentoring program.

Assess what has or hasn’t worked in the past

Maybe your company had an in-person program in the past, or pockets of informal mentoring have popped up in various departments. Or maybe your organization is starting a formal program from scratch. Either way, feedback is an important place to start.

A thriving mentorship program relies on current employees’ input. If your company used to have something in place, inquire with employees about the basics. What was the format and did you like it? How often did you meet? How were mentors and mentees paired? Then, dig in further. What part of the program was most impactful? What needed improvement? What did you learn?

If your organization did not have anything in place before, ask employees to envision what a successful program would look like. Who should participate? Who should the mentors be? What would mentees like to get out of a mentorship? How frequently should there be mentoring sessions?

One example of getting started comes from one of 10KC’s clients, Nike. Crystal Neill, DEI Global Development Sr. Program Manager started a formal program based on feedback from the different pockets of mentorship that had formed in various departments. According to the her, the program started stronger because the team had points of reference from previous mentorship efforts.

Organizations at all stages of building their mentorship programs can look to companies and top employers with strong ones already in place. You can start by learning how Canada’s largest bank, RBC, and media giant Dentsu International used 10KC to build world-class mentorship programs.

Decide what goals you want to achieve with a virtual mentoring program

Once you’ve collected qualitative feedback, it’s time to align the new program’s purpose with your organization’s employee engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Mentorship is a straightforward and easy-to-operationalize way to provide targeted support for underrepresented employees and keep remote ones feeling more connected.

Returning to the Nike example, their program was designed to upskill underrepresented employees whom leaders identified as high potential talent. The decisions the team made when setting up the program all related back to Nike’s 2025 DEI goals, which include objectives like increasing the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in their U.S. corporate workforce to 35%.

Oftentimes, DEI and employee engagements are intertwined. While DEI goals speak to levelling the playing field for underrepresented groups, they also speak to employee satisfaction at work, including how connected they feel to co-workers and the workplace, and if they feel supported by their team and management. Mentorship is a great way to improve the outcomes for both of these company objectives.

According to Nicole Fernandes, head of DEI Practice at Blue Ivy Group, “studies have found that organizations with high levels of belonging also have higher employee net promoter scores (eNPS), which measure employee satisfaction and ambassadorship and are known to correlate with employee engagement." She goes on to add that “these same organizations also see improvement with respect to retention, intention to stay and measures of teamwork effectiveness, which are all important to organizations and impact the bottom line.”

Designate a coordinator or team to facilitate the virtual mentoring program

HR departments are busy. From tackling hiring and onboarding to everyday issues that arise, teams can be spread thin. To create a fulfilling and successful mentorship program, designate a program manager or team to oversee it. Mile High 360, a Denver-based nonprofit, recently hired a mentoring program coordinator. Some of the qualities the organization looked for in a candidate included:

  • Five years of experience in mentoring, youth development, and/or volunteer management.
  • Experience working within nonprofits, community organizations, and/or schools preferred.
  • Extremely strong organizational, writing, verbal and interpersonal skills.
  • Creativity and flexibility are essential in assuming significant responsibility.
  • Have sound judgment and the ability to supervise mentors in the field.
  • Experience working in racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities is preferred.

Some of these requirements were specific to Mile High's work. Your own job description will vary based on your company and program needs and goals. Maybe there’s someone in your organization who already has a solid skill set to fulfill the role. Or maybe you need to look externally for a program administrator. Either way, a dedicated coordinator or team can get a mentorship program up and running smoothly — this demonstrates to employees that this is something the company takes seriously and is willing to invest resources into.

Find a mentoring platform that can facilitate matching and capture data

Using spreadsheets to pair employees can take days, and notifying people of matches and meetings over email and Slack is cumbersome. Mentoring software offers an easier way to launch company programs. There are many platforms out there, but we like to think ours is the best because of how easy it is to use and its track record of improving employee engagement outcomes for social impact and enterprise companies.

With Ten Thousand Coffees, mentorship programs of any size can be executed smoothly. Once the mentee and mentor information is added to our platform through our HRIS integrations, our SmartMatch algorithm pairs employees based on their skills, interests, and goals. Once the pairs are set, we offer a complete curriculum to guide the mentorship experience, including weekly discussion topics and mentor-mentee best practices. Meetings are facilitated easily through email and use your organization’s preferred collaboration platform, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

After meetings, Ten Thousand Coffees sends out feedback surveys assessing how the meetings are going. From that, program coordinators can make tweaks, big and small, to better meet the program’s goals and the needs of those in the mentoring relationship.

Implement a trial run to start the virtual mentorship program, then reflect

Allow both participants and organizers to dip their toes into mentoring activities to start off. Virtual programs are likely newer to your organization, so programs that last a few weeks are best to test the waters. Plus, from a business perspective, you’ll want to assess if spending money on staffing and new technology is worth it.  

In your trial run, you can assess what works and what’s fallen short. Armed with these insights, you can then adapt the best parts and lessons learned into a full-scale program, like 10KC’s 12-week mentorship curriculum to drive even better results.

Meet hybrid and remote workers’ needs through a virtual mentoring program

Remote workers are craving human connection, and less experienced employees are in need of professional development to reach their career goals. A formalized mentorship program can help companies keep employees happy and enable those employees to attain the skills needed to succeed. If your organization is ready to implement a scalable mentorship program that is easy to use and saves valuable resources, Ten Thousand Coffees is here to help. Reach out to us for a demo here.

Webinar

How to Start a Virtual Mentoring Program for Your Enterprise Organization

If your remote or hybrid organization has yet to implement a virtual mentoring program or needs to scale an existing one that is being run on spreadsheets, now is the time. Research shows that retention is much higher for mentees than for employees who are not in a mentorship program. In a study from Gartner and Capital Analytics, researchers observed a 23% higher retention rate for people who were mentored compared to those who were not.

Mentorship plays a critical role in any successful company. Organizations that want to attract and retain top talent should put a virtual mentoring program in place to help upskill employees, break down silos, and connect remote workers to the organization and its mission.

Below, we’ve put together a few key points for any HR or people manager looking to start a virtual mentoring program.

Assess what has or hasn’t worked in the past

Maybe your company had an in-person program in the past, or pockets of informal mentoring have popped up in various departments. Or maybe your organization is starting a formal program from scratch. Either way, feedback is an important place to start.

A thriving mentorship program relies on current employees’ input. If your company used to have something in place, inquire with employees about the basics. What was the format and did you like it? How often did you meet? How were mentors and mentees paired? Then, dig in further. What part of the program was most impactful? What needed improvement? What did you learn?

If your organization did not have anything in place before, ask employees to envision what a successful program would look like. Who should participate? Who should the mentors be? What would mentees like to get out of a mentorship? How frequently should there be mentoring sessions?

One example of getting started comes from one of 10KC’s clients, Nike. Crystal Neill, DEI Global Development Sr. Program Manager started a formal program based on feedback from the different pockets of mentorship that had formed in various departments. According to the her, the program started stronger because the team had points of reference from previous mentorship efforts.

Organizations at all stages of building their mentorship programs can look to companies and top employers with strong ones already in place. You can start by learning how Canada’s largest bank, RBC, and media giant Dentsu International used 10KC to build world-class mentorship programs.

Decide what goals you want to achieve with a virtual mentoring program

Once you’ve collected qualitative feedback, it’s time to align the new program’s purpose with your organization’s employee engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Mentorship is a straightforward and easy-to-operationalize way to provide targeted support for underrepresented employees and keep remote ones feeling more connected.

Returning to the Nike example, their program was designed to upskill underrepresented employees whom leaders identified as high potential talent. The decisions the team made when setting up the program all related back to Nike’s 2025 DEI goals, which include objectives like increasing the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in their U.S. corporate workforce to 35%.

Oftentimes, DEI and employee engagements are intertwined. While DEI goals speak to levelling the playing field for underrepresented groups, they also speak to employee satisfaction at work, including how connected they feel to co-workers and the workplace, and if they feel supported by their team and management. Mentorship is a great way to improve the outcomes for both of these company objectives.

According to Nicole Fernandes, head of DEI Practice at Blue Ivy Group, “studies have found that organizations with high levels of belonging also have higher employee net promoter scores (eNPS), which measure employee satisfaction and ambassadorship and are known to correlate with employee engagement." She goes on to add that “these same organizations also see improvement with respect to retention, intention to stay and measures of teamwork effectiveness, which are all important to organizations and impact the bottom line.”

Designate a coordinator or team to facilitate the virtual mentoring program

HR departments are busy. From tackling hiring and onboarding to everyday issues that arise, teams can be spread thin. To create a fulfilling and successful mentorship program, designate a program manager or team to oversee it. Mile High 360, a Denver-based nonprofit, recently hired a mentoring program coordinator. Some of the qualities the organization looked for in a candidate included:

  • Five years of experience in mentoring, youth development, and/or volunteer management.
  • Experience working within nonprofits, community organizations, and/or schools preferred.
  • Extremely strong organizational, writing, verbal and interpersonal skills.
  • Creativity and flexibility are essential in assuming significant responsibility.
  • Have sound judgment and the ability to supervise mentors in the field.
  • Experience working in racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities is preferred.

Some of these requirements were specific to Mile High's work. Your own job description will vary based on your company and program needs and goals. Maybe there’s someone in your organization who already has a solid skill set to fulfill the role. Or maybe you need to look externally for a program administrator. Either way, a dedicated coordinator or team can get a mentorship program up and running smoothly — this demonstrates to employees that this is something the company takes seriously and is willing to invest resources into.

Find a mentoring platform that can facilitate matching and capture data

Using spreadsheets to pair employees can take days, and notifying people of matches and meetings over email and Slack is cumbersome. Mentoring software offers an easier way to launch company programs. There are many platforms out there, but we like to think ours is the best because of how easy it is to use and its track record of improving employee engagement outcomes for social impact and enterprise companies.

With Ten Thousand Coffees, mentorship programs of any size can be executed smoothly. Once the mentee and mentor information is added to our platform through our HRIS integrations, our SmartMatch algorithm pairs employees based on their skills, interests, and goals. Once the pairs are set, we offer a complete curriculum to guide the mentorship experience, including weekly discussion topics and mentor-mentee best practices. Meetings are facilitated easily through email and use your organization’s preferred collaboration platform, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

After meetings, Ten Thousand Coffees sends out feedback surveys assessing how the meetings are going. From that, program coordinators can make tweaks, big and small, to better meet the program’s goals and the needs of those in the mentoring relationship.

Implement a trial run to start the virtual mentorship program, then reflect

Allow both participants and organizers to dip their toes into mentoring activities to start off. Virtual programs are likely newer to your organization, so programs that last a few weeks are best to test the waters. Plus, from a business perspective, you’ll want to assess if spending money on staffing and new technology is worth it.  

In your trial run, you can assess what works and what’s fallen short. Armed with these insights, you can then adapt the best parts and lessons learned into a full-scale program, like 10KC’s 12-week mentorship curriculum to drive even better results.

Meet hybrid and remote workers’ needs through a virtual mentoring program

Remote workers are craving human connection, and less experienced employees are in need of professional development to reach their career goals. A formalized mentorship program can help companies keep employees happy and enable those employees to attain the skills needed to succeed. If your organization is ready to implement a scalable mentorship program that is easy to use and saves valuable resources, Ten Thousand Coffees is here to help. Reach out to us for a demo here.

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