Participation in the program

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Decisions regarding the broad question of who may participate in your in-house program should be directly related to your program goals. For example, if your primary objective relates to on-boarding, you might limit mentees to new hires and mentors to people who have a few years of experience at the organization, rather than high-level management. If your goals relate primarily to leadership development and succession planning, consider targeting as mentees those with a fair bit of experience and a record of good evaluations and mentors who are in management and leadership positions.

Of course, factors other than program goals can influence decisions related to participation, such as:

• the number of qualified, willing mentors,
• the number of potential mentees within the target group,
• the mentoring method used – for example, a program using team mentoring may require fewer mentors.

Because the role of mentor and mentee are distinct, participation criteria for each category are usually different.

Participation criteria - mentee

The decision of who to open the program to on the mentee side is usually dictated by the program goals. For example, if your goal is to develop future leaders, you may limit your mentee pool to people you’ve identified as having high potential or those ready for promotion. If the goal is to promote diversity, you may limit participation to persons from under-represented groups.

Three young business people working togetherRegardless of whether you’ve decide to limit mentee participation to a particular group, you should consider whether to make participation mandatory, voluntary, or by nomination (for example, by a person’s supervisor, someone in senior management, or perhaps a nominating committee). Though the conventional wisdom is that participation as a mentee should always be voluntary, there’s evidence indicating there’s no difference in mentee perception of overall program effectiveness between mentees whose participation was voluntary and those whose participation was mandatory.  (Interestingly, mentees who believe their mentor’s participation is voluntary report greater program effectiveness!)

If you anticipate having more potential mentees than mentors, or if you simply need to limit the size of the program, you’ll also need to develop criteria for choosing among those in the target group. There are a number of ways you can screen potential participants, including based on skills, motivation, and behaviour. You can also use interviews, letters of recommendation, employee evaluations, employee development plans, and so on.

Participation criteria - mentor

Depending on your program goals, you may choose to limit the pool of potential mentors based on particular criteria, such as:

Businessman speaking on the phone• expertise,
• technical knowledge,
• seniority, or
• experience.

It’s also a good idea to screen potential mentors to ensure they have the skills and personal qualities necessary for to be a good mentor, as well a high level of motivation to mentor. For a list of the qualities of a good mentor, see Mentor Qualities in the Mentor Tools section.

Because a willingness to mentor is an essential characteristic for mentors, generally speaking it’s not a good idea to require anyone to act as a mentor.

Discover where your career can take you

If mentoring is to support career development . . .

'mycareer' resources may help

As an organization, you can support your mentoring relationships with these additional tools. Mentors and mentees may find the resources at 'mycareer' to be helpful to their discussions and goal setting. The mycareer website provides career maps, education pathways, career exploration tips and assessment tools to help mentees map where they are, discover where they can take their career and plan for what they want. There are additional resources for mentors, managers and HR to support the career conversations.