Mentoring Guide

This guide provides a roadmap for any company to build a mentoring pathway, no matter the size of the business or the industry. Whether you're just getting started or already have a mentoring program that you want to expand for opportunity youth.
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If this is a new effort, it's okay to start small. Regardless of scope, every mentoring opportunities can be a win for both your business and the young adults.
Partner organizations can significantly help you develop successful initiatives in many key areas, such as setting goals and recruiting young adults.

Mentoring Definitions and Benefits

Mentoring is a development strategy for a young person’s successful path to adulthood. It’s all about developing a structured, trusting relationship between a professional (mentor) and an aspiring professional (mentee).
Mentoring Definitions and Benefits
Mentoring focuses on providing support and guidance around workplace skills and career exploration, as well as general encouragement on life challenges through meetings, activities and information communications.

Although this guide focuses on building a stand-alone mentoring initiative, best practices from other employment pathways on this website (school-to-work, internships, hiring) all include a mentoring component.

Ways to take small and big steps
One-on-one mentoring
Group mentoring
Team mentoring
E-mentoring (conduct as an add-on to any of those listed)
The Business Benefits of Mentoring
Mentoring can be a good step towards an internship or hiring initiative, since it can develop similar workforce and professional skills. Key benefits include:
Cost-effective Talent Development
Cultivate a talent pipeline through meaningful employee volunteerism
Enhanced Employee Engagement
Strengthen employee satisfaction and morale
Stronger Community Impact
Boost visibility with your community, your consumers, future leaders and potential talent
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“We see more and more employers linking workforce development to mentoring, based on the opportunity to better realize human and economic potential.”

- David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR

Step 1: Prepare From Within

Creating a great mentoring model is not unlike developing a business. You’ve got to identify the right participants, define your ROI criteria and assess your resources to reach your goals. Here are the key ways to set you up for success.
Identify a partner organization.
Whether you are starting an initiative from scratch or modifying an existing mentoring program, you don’t have to do it alone. A partner organization in your community can help in many ways, including finding mentees, providing mentee screening, helping you train your mentors and offering insight about the potential issues that may arise with opportunity youth.

Assess needs and set goals.
These should be both realistic and measurable so you’ll be able to evaluate and optimize your efforts. Together with your partner organization, think about performance measures and what to include in initiative reports.
Good Questions

Good questions to help you reach your goals include:

  • What do you hope to achieve with mentoring (e.g., build employee morale and engagement, develop future talent, strengthen your community outreach)?
  • How will you measure success (e.g., number of mentors recruited, retention rate of mentors, fulltime conversation of mentees)?
  • What tangible experiences/learnings will the mentees walk away with (e.g., expanded perspective, increased workplace skills)?

Answering questions like these will help define how you can make the biggest impact with your available resources. With partner support, define an initiative within your capacity. (Note: these questions are geared towards larger employers.)

  • Do you have access to an executive leader who can help champion your efforts?
  • Do you have a dedicated staff to oversee planning, development and implementation?
  • Do you currently have systems to capture and track data to measure initiative outcomes?
  • How much support to you have from key decision makers to bring this initiative to life?
  • Do you have resources and training support from HR and supervisors who have the time to devote to mentees?

Designate a mentoring manager.
A mentoring manager within your company will oversee the initiative. This person will be responsible for day-to-day oversight and will usually liaison with your partner organization.
Best Practice
Best Practice

An executive champion or “sponsor” who is invested in promoting your initiative internally and externally can enhance your efforts. This person may even be a mentor themselves.

Determine mentors to recruit.
Will you extend your initiative to all interested employees (subject to a screening process)? To managers only? To employees with specific skills? You HR or hiring point person might be a good resource.
Potential Mentor Coaching Opportunities
Potential Mentor Coaching Opportunities
  • Job shadowing (A career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a person’s career field of interest. Job shadowing offers a chance to see what it’s actually like working in a specific job. Not only do job shadowers get to observe the day-to-day activities of someone in the current workforce, they also get a chance to have their questions answered.)
  • Networking events
  • Resume and interview prep
  • Time management techniques
  • Conflict resolution strategies
  • Recommended reading

Determine a budget.
Develop a financial plan for the initiative and a system for managing your budget. If you have monetary needs, identify funding sources to fill them.
Best Practice
Best Practice

If you’re starting a new initiative, don’t hesitate to start small and scale up. If you already have an existing mentoring program, consider using it to leverage a mentoring, internship or hiring pathway.

Step 2: Develop an Initiative

The day-to-day operations that you establish for your mentoring initiative will set the pace for a successful, sustainable model. Focus on consistency, compatibility, support and accountability as you shape the following guidelines for your initiative.
Set mentoring parameters.
You’ll want to determine the type of mentoring initiative that best suits your needs (see below) and addresses the following key factors:
  • Duration of the initiative
  • Time commitment expected from mentors (suggested: four hours per month for 9 months if you’re working with a school-based program; otherwise 12 months is ideal)
  • When and where mentoring will take place (factor in job shadowing and networking opportunities)
  • System for recruiting, screening and selecting mentors
Types of Mentoring Initiatives
Types of Mentoring Initiatives
  • One-on-one mentoring: one employee is matched with one young adult
  • Group mentoring: one employee is matched with a group of up to four young adults
  • Team mentoring: several employees work with small groups of young people, with an employee-to-young-adult ratio no greater than one-to-four
  • E-mentoring: one employee communicates with one young adult online at least once a week, with face-to-face meetings occurring at kickoff, at the middle, and at the end of the relationship (Note: this should be done as an add-on to any of the above)

Set supervision parameters
Develop a written document that outlines the duties and expectations of your mentoring manager.

Set mentor and mentee parameters.
Determine baseline criteria for mentors, such as years employed with your company, managerial experience and/or relevant skills. For mentees, think about age, education and geographic area.
Best Practice
Best Practice

A one-year mentoring relationship is recommended. This is based on evidence that the longer the relationship lasts, the more positive outcomes are produced. Setting the commitment expectation is important to prevent relationships from ending prematurely.

The Mentor’s Pledge:
  • Fulfill a monthly time commitment (recommended: four hours)
  • Act as a confidante and role model
  • Expose mentee to relevant information and experiences (Note: if you have a partner, they will be able to help you understand your mentees’ goals)
  • Fill out forms required by mentoring manager to effectively evaluate the initiative

Set training parameters.
Determine how mentors will be trained and generate a list of helpful skills that will be involved in developing your mentees. A partner organization can offer valuable information for training both parties.
Great Mentor Traits
Great Mentor Traits:
  • Maintains a consistent presence in mentee’s life
  • Focuses on mentee’s needs
  • Possesses strong management skills
  • Recognizes need for fun
  • Allows time to develop trust

Set evaluation parameters.
You’ll want to learn from your challenges and successes, so it’s important to regularly evaluate your mentors, mentees and the initiative, from beginning to end.
Best Practice
Best Practice

Be realistic in tracking modest successes. A well-edited resume and mastering one relevant skill is a win for everyone.

Potential Evaluation Parameters

Consider measuring the following:

With your Initiative:
  • Defined goals met
  • Number of mentors recruited/ retained
  • Fulltime conversation rates of mentees
With Mentors:
  • Commitment level
  • Satisfaction level
  • Success with inspiring positive results in mentees
With Mentees:
  • Satisfaction level
  • Skills, knowledge and developmental experience acquired
  • Great mentor traits
  • Maintains a consistent presence in mentee’s life
  • Focuses on mentee’s needs
  • Possesses strong management skills
  • Recognizes need for fun
  • Allows time to develop trust

Develop partner guidelines.
Your partner organization will be a huge asset during initiative development. Make sure to agree on a common mission from the outset. You should also establish roles and responsibilities, preferred communication channels and clearly defined procedures. There’s a wealth of useful information and tips about building a partnership in the Partner Guide.


Create an effective communication plan.
How will you promote your initiative internally and externally? Your communication plan should be part of your mentoring manager’s overall budget and schedule so that key dates for deliverables are met.
Communication plan do’s
Communication plan do’s:
  • Set a positive tone
  • Include facts on the population you’re serving
  • Link initiative to company mission
  • Describe activities and benefits
  • Include a success story

Identify key milestones.
This is an important part of phase planning. Milestones include but are not limited to a pilot launch date (if you’re going to do one), a scaled up launch initiative and end date, as well as mid-way and final evaluations.

Step 3: Implement your Initiative

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to bring your vision to life. Remember that the beginning days of an initiative are the defining days. Successful mentoring initiatives need ongoing support and monitoring to ensure that relationships thrive. Again, partner organizations can significantly help you with many action items in this step, particularly if you’re a smaller company.

Take full advantage of your partner’s expertise, especially when it comes to recruiting and screening prospective mentors and mentees, as well as planning orientation and training sessions for them.
Recruit your mentors.
Based on your established criteria and in collaboration with your partner organization, target appropriate mentors within your company. Realistically describe the program’s goals and expected outcomes and provide candidates with a written statement that outlines eligibility requirements.

Recruit your mentees.
Your company may not have ready access to young adults who are interested in participating in a mentoring program. This is where a partner organization can play a critical role in reaching out to young adults whose needs and interests would benefit most from your initiative (young adults may also be engaged with another program). Provide prospective mentees with a written statement that outlines the eligibility requirements for the program.

Screen your mentors.
Determine if they have the time, mindset and commitment to be successful. Make sure they’re willing to commit to a few hours per month. Conduct at least one face-to-face interview per candidate, as well as a reference check. (Note: in a best case scenario, a partner would help with screening because they have the experience and infrastructure.) Provide prospective mentees with a written statement that outlines the eligibility requirements for the program.

Screen your mentees.
Be sure they’re ready to commit the time to a relationship and have a positive attitude about being mentored. Again, a partner organization will be a great asset here.

Conduct mentor training.
Hold a two-hour training session that will provide mentors with the basic knowledge and skills needed to build an effective mentoring relationship (this will also offer mentors a chance to meet one another, planting the seed for a future support network). Training should include a focus on mentor’s expectations, with an emphasis on keeping them realistic. Your partner can help you tailor your training sessions to address specific concerns for opportunity youth.
Checklist: Successful Mentor Training
Checklist: Successful Mentor Training
  • Walk through initiative goals and expectations
  • Discuss mentor obligations and roles
  • Provide tips for relationship development and maintenance
  • Cover ethical issues
  • Provide support resources and assistance information
  • Discuss effective commitment length and closure of the mentoring relationship

Conduct mentee training

Before matches are made make sure mentees understand the role of their mentors, their responsibility to communicate regularly and appropriate behaviors during meetings. A partner organization can help prep mentees.
Make the match.
The most significant predictor of positive outcomes from mentoring is a close, trusting relationship between mentors and mentees. Matches should be made based on common interests. Similarities such as gender, race and ethnicity are often recommended, but studies show that common interests trump all. Most important is the mentor’s ability to tune into the mentee’s interests and needs.

Offer follow-up training, evaluation and problem-solving support.
In order for your initiative to be a success, matches should be evaluated throughout the duration of the program. Inevitably, challenges will arise. Be there for your matches when they need help solving problems and offer training opportunities for the duration of the relationship. Your partner will be a huge help with this. Also, consider setting aside time for check-ins with your mentors, too.

End on a high note.
Make sure the formal relationship between mentor and mentee concludes with a sense of closure, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the experience. A big event at the end of a mentoring experience is a nice touch.

Best practices

  • Set clear expectations about time commitments and activities for both mentors and mentees
  • Hold orientation sessions to ground everyone with a common roadmap
  • Reimburse mentors (and mentees) for reasonable expenses to keep morale high
  • Have a procedure in place for handling challenges (e.g. when either party isn’t fulfilling its roles and responsibilities)
  • Provide mentors with a list of recommended mentee activities/ topics that align with initiative goals to help them get started
Best Practices

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Step 4: Manage Your Initiative

Identify a mentoring manager to lead your initiative will provide the vision and leadership for your mentoring initiative. He or she should be committed to its success for many years to come and have a good system in place for tracking and communication. Here are the keys to overseeing a successful initiative.
Monitor and evaluate the initiative.
Ensure that your initiative is following established policies and staying within budget and scope.
Mentoring Manager Functions
Mentoring manager functions:
  • Define an overall vision for the initiative
  • Act as a liaison with the partner organization
  • Create a communications plan
  • Plan and schedule events and activities
  • Evaluate the overall success of the initiative
  • Oversee training and orientation sessions
  • Maintain an initiative budget

Monitor and support mentor/ mentee relationships.
Make sure that the initiative is going well and that mentors and mentees are having a rewarding experience.

Manage the partner relationship.
Set aside frequent, designated times for check-ins with your partner. Remember that ongoing communication is essential to success. Make sure to incorporate feedback into a continuous improvement strategy.

Report program results
Choose a time during the internship period to report preliminary findings to key stakeholders and/or supervisors. This may relate to internship and employee satisfaction, productivity and/or smooth communication between interns, mentors and teams. Create an internal system to track mentoring activities and outcomes that include date, activity and assessment.

Quick Reference List
  • Initiative finances
  • Initiative schedule
  • Mentor records
  • Risk management procedures
  • Initiative activity
  • Evaluations

Step 5: Measure Your Initiative

Performance measures should align with initiative goals. You’ll want to evaluate the process/ implementation of your initiative (e.g., dedicated hours, training) as well as the outcomes (e.g., effectiveness with respect to impact on mentors and mentees). Mentoring program performance should be evaluation at least annually to make sure the results align with the goals. Work with your partner to determine how you might be able to scale up or make improvements to your program.
Measure performance.
Performance measures should align with program goals. For example, if your goal is to engage with a specific number of opportunity youth annually, then you should measure the number of opportunity youth enrolled in your program. Build on existing measures already in place from other internship program examples. It’s important to assess both quantitative and qualitative measures.
Quantitative & Qualitative Measures
Quantitative measures
  • Number of mentors/ mentees engaged in the initiative
  • Number of mentees successfully completing the initiative
  • Number of new skills and experiences acquired by mentees
  • Number of hiring prospects identified from mentee pool
Qualitative measures
  • Satisfaction levels of mentors and mentees
  • Professional growth of mentee

Get the right people to evaluate measurement.
Initiative evaluation can be internal or external. Internal evaluation should include the mentoring manager, the executive champion and any other relevant employees/ mentors with the passion to support the initiative. Once a program has gained traction, an external evaluation involving a non-biased, third party consultant can be valuable.

Evaluate future potential.
If your mentoring pathway is successful, you’ve just nurtured future talent for your company. Consider each mentee for full- or part-time positions with your company.
Evaluation Questions
Evaluation Questions
  • How well did the program achieve its objectives?
  • What challenges did the team experience and how were they resolved?
  • What improvements can be made?
  • What were effective strategies?
  • How can the program be scaled-up to other business units?

Use your learnings to optimize your next effort.
Remember, the best-laid plans make the best programs and create the most value for employers, mentors and mentees. When you’re ready to take the next step to grow your program, defining what “growth” looks like is important. Although a more formal program could mean bigger numbers, it doesn’t have to. Work with you partner organization and key participants to define what growth means to you.
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