Mentoring, the process of passing knowledge and experience along to others is an ancient concept that remains relevant in today’s workplace. In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to develop talent. Mentoring doesn’t require the expense of external training and it can assure the transference of organizational knowledge. Strong mentoring programs can also help businesses attract top job candidates.
Unfortunately, many mentoring programs are problematic and simply don’t work – often because they take too much time for HR professionals to facilitate personal match-ups or for employees to find suitable mentors on their own. In a recent interview published in Workforce, Brian Kropp, who heads Corporate Executive Board Co., an advisory firm in Arlington, Va., pointed out that among the approximately 1,300 firms his firm works with, 70% have some sort of mentoring program in place. However, he noted “The vast majority of them are disappointed in the results. There tends to be a lot of hoopla about mentoring, but not a lot of actual value being derived from it.”
However a solution that makes mentor matches quicker and more suitable – and therefore more long-lasting and effective – may be on the horizon for many companies, thanks to the use of technology. In the 21 st century where numerous people find romantic “matches” online and build professional and personal contacts through sharing interests via social media, locating a mentor through software developed specifically for that purpose appears to be a logical step.
In fact, employers are increasingly turning to mentor-matching software created by companies such as Insala, Chronus and Nobscot to streamline the mentor process and adeptly make mentor match-ups that work, based on mutual interests.
Mentoring Technology Advantages
The use of technologically-based matching of mentors to mentees can save organizations valuable time as well as money as they move toward more effective approaches to develop talent and retain knowledge. Employees can quickly connect with potential mentors using a software and/or web-based program.
A case in point: mentor software created by Chronus, a leading mentoring software solutions provider, uses a start-up guide that helps employees learn how to use the mentor matching system quickly. Participants are able to import information from LinkedIn and they can select mentors using suggested matches based on an optional matching mode. A personalized web-based homepage provides employees and HR with a snapshot of all current interactions, announcements and news relevant to the participant.
Nobscot’s Mentor Scout is a self-service mentor/mentee matchmaking and administrative platform used for general mentoring programs and also has features designed for specialty diversity groups, high potential employees, new hires and/or new supervisors. Prospective mentors and mentees complete profiles about their backgrounds or interests and then search for matches by any group or parameters – resulting in the elimination of hours of manual matching by a mentoring program director. Mentor Scout has created hundreds of successful mentorships for organizations ranging from Best Buy and Home Depot to General Mills and the Magazine Publishers of America.
Covance, one of the world’s largest drug development services companies, reported in Employee Benefit News that using Mentor Scout had saved the organization’s HR department 300 to 400 hours of time over the course of a year that would normally be spent reviewing all the mentor and mentee applicants, making matches and communicating with all the people who were matched.
Covance also revealed that the company originally spent approximately $140,000 per year on a traditional mentoring program with 300 participants (about $500 per participant). By using the automated Mentor Scout program, the amount decreased to $34,000 total per year and $115 per participant, saving Covance about $370 per person.
Expanding Mentoring to Groups
The success of technology-based mentoring has spurred some mentor software creators to expand into group mentoring efforts. For example, Mentor Scout has added a suite of tools designed to facilitate mentoring group formation and communication.
“Group mentoring can be challenging to organize and manage because there are so many moving parts scattered across the organization. Yet it is a widely adopted mentoring strategy that is growing as organizations seek alternative models for skills and career development and knowledge transfer,” Mentor Scout President Bruce H. Daly explained.
Advantages to this expanded mentoring platform include:
- Many of the day-to-day networking, scheduling and administrative processes that can help group mentoring programs succeed can be automated.
- Pre-defined mentoring group types can be loaded into the system, helping employees to quickly locate groups of interest and connect with others with common needs.
- A virtual group workspace can be created with designated areas for group discussions, group event notices, project postings and document uploads.
- Group administration control and moderation within an administrative console can facilitate and simplify the monitoring and evaluation of mentoring programs.