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Selecting a Mentoring Software: Critical Success Factors you must consider

Mentoring Software for Corporate Mentoring Program
Selecting A Mentoring Software for Corporate Mentoring Program

The fact that you are here means that you are already an avowed advocate of the power of Mentoring in the workplace. And now you are looking at enabling your Mentoring Program with technology for ease and effectiveness.

Here is a quick blueprint on some of the critical success factors you must consider before zeroing in on the right software for your internal Mentoring Program:

The Right Mentee-Mentor Matching

The key to success of a corporate Mentoring Program is right Mentee-Mentor matching. The software should have a facility for matching based on skills, interests and strengths. This allows for a comprehensive matching leading to great outcomes of your Mentoring Program.

Does it have the necessary features in line with the current Mentoring practices and Technology trends?

Often Mentoring programs fall through the cracks because Mentors and Mentees are not able to find time to meet or talk in the midst of their work. A software that allows them to schedule sessions, pushes reminder notifications and even have quick chats through a messenger can be a great way to keep the Mentoring Program on-course.

It should also allow users (read Mentees and Mentors) to share feedback about the program through quick Pulse Surveys. Pulse surveys allow you to capture the feedback of the employee based on instantaneous  experiences.

Also, the Mentoring Program co-ordinator should be able to track the program health across geographies, departments in the Mentoring cohort to ensure the objectives are met and take necessary course correction. Further, the Mentoring software should allow you to measure the ROI of your Mentoring program. A visual data analytics dashboard in the software is a surefire way to do all of that.

Is it Customizable to your needs?

The software platform should be customizable to meet your specific mentoring objectives. Whatever be your objective  for running a Mentoring Program – whether you are running it for leadership development, succession planning, diversity & inclusion, knowledge transfer the  software should be agile and robust to support all your needs.

Is it Scalable for the size of the Mentoring cohort?

You could be initiating a Mentoring Program for a small cohort in a department or a large cohort across business units, the software should be scalable to support any number of users in your organization. It should allow flexibility to accommodate more users as the program gains traction inside your organization.

Is it backed by Research and Expertise?

While internal Mentoring Programs have been around for a few decades now, current mentoring practices are in line with the changing workforce demographics and realities of businesses facing competitive pressures. The software shouldn’t just be a technology tool and should be backed by a deep understanding of what kind of mentoring is aligned with the changing organizational landscape. It should also have a Customer Success Process to ensure that you are able to accomplish your objectives of the Mentoring Program.

Does the price justify your investment?

Last but not the least, the price of the software should be worth your investment. It’s also important to ensure that the pricing is simple and transparent.

Make yourself aware right at the beginning of your purchase process that it doesn’t have any exorbitant fees over and above what you pay per user. It’s advisable to schedule a demo with the software provider to understand the software platform well enough and make yourself aware of the price you are going to pay.

How to Start A Mentoring Program Successfully and Sustain It

A Mentoring Program is a proven method for employee development and retention, succession planning, knowledge transfer and promoting diversity & inclusion in the organization.

While the benefits of Mentoring are innumerable but how to go about creating a successful Mentoring Program in the workplace?

Through deep research backed by experts, NxtSpark has designed the DELTA Process for not only starting but creating a sustainable Mentoring Program. DELTA stands for Define, Evangelize, Launch, Track and Analyze is based on deep insights into the science of mentoring in organizations.

How to Start A Mentoring Program

Define: Define the objectives and the success factors of the Mentoring Program that you are rolling out in your organization. This is very crucial for tracking of outcomes against the initially laid-down objectives. These objectives may become the super-ordinate goals /overarching criteria for the employees getting mentored. They may use these to decide on their own professional goals.

Evangelize: A Mentoring Program’s success is directly dependent on the participation from Mentees and Mentors. It then becomes very important for it to be marketed well inside the organization in terms of its benefits. Program co-ordinators understand this very well and the right evangelism of the program can make the right noise at all levels of the organization.

Launch:  At the inception of the program, user profiles of those Mentees and Mentors who have shown interest in the program need to made available from the HRIS records. NxtSpark’s unique strengths based / skills based Matching Algorithm matches the mentee with the right mentor to ensure with the necessary flexibility for the mentees to select the right mentor basis comfort and availability.

Track:  Interim tracking of the program is crucial for ensuring successful outcomes.  The Program Co-ordinating team can put in checkpoints for measuring progress and make helpful resources like videos, articles, etc. available to Mentees and Mentors to support the Mentoring Program.

Assess: Using NxtSpark’s superior visual data analytics, you can measure the health of the program, do necessary course correction and calculate the ROI. This data-rich dashboard enables the business leaders and HR Managers to take necessary decisions for gaining maximum mileage out of the program investment in terms of time, effort and dollars spent.

Organizations following this process have reported higher success rates in the achievement of their internal Mentoring programs.

Creating Shared Journeys In The Workplace

mentoring coaching onboarding

In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” before leaving for the Trojan War Odysseus had left a wise and trusted fellow named Mentor to be the guardian and teacher of his son, Telemachus, during his absence. While this provides a root metaphor to Mentoring, the book entitled Seasons of a Man’s Life by Levinson, et al aroused the interest in modern day study of Mentoring and Developmental Relationships. Kathy E Kram’s seminal Mentoring at Work: Developmental Relationships in Organizational Life has provided the core concepts of Mentoring.

Modern day employees need mentors as much as Telemachus, especially in these times of corporate upheaval.

Shared Journeys Are Vital For All

Sachin is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and is a Senior Vice President for Sales at a Leading Pharmaceuticals Company. He has more than 20 years of experience behind him. At work, he is mentoring two people who have around 8 years of experience. They are neither in the same department as Sachin nor are in the same function. They are in operations department of the organization. He meets them atleast once in a month and shares his insights into the pharmaceuticals industry, the company and its hierarchy, its values and norms, the people in the company they should know, etc. The sessions are either initiated by Sachin or by the other two people. Sachin believes that this is not a one way road and he has himself learnt a lot in this ‘give-and-take’ relationship with his mentees.

Sankalp is one of the members of the core team at a thriving Start-up in India. He often realizes that people in the organization, while talented and driven, needs skills to manage their ever increasing teams in a dynamically changing start-up environment. He is currently mentoring 3 people, who don’t report to him, on important leadership facets. Sankalp had to build his leadership competencies all by himself and often struggled with a lot of dilemmas with no one to reach out to when the startup was a fledgling one. Sankalp believes that people in his organization should not have the same situation and has taken to mentoring with all the sincerity and commitment to groom leadership talent in the organization. In the process, Sankalp gets important insights into what drives younger, junior people, what are their challenges and what are their aspirations.

This has helped shape Sankalp into a better leader and has also helped the organization hold on to talented yet restless younger people.

Organizations Need To Adopt Mentoring As “Team Science”

Mentoring has been often referred to as “team science” that delivers the goods to all the stakeholders – the mentors, the mentees and the organization.  By adopting Mentoring, organizations have been able to develop emerging leaders, engage them productively and retain them for a longer term. It’s time organizations take to creating meaningful shared journeys a mantra for success in the workplace.

Setting Goals is Not Enough for Success of Mentoring Program

Mentoring Coaching Onboarding Software

What are SMART Goals?

The concept of SMART Goal appeared first in 1981 in Management Review and is now widely used for setting career, business, financial and health goals. SMART Goal helps in setting goals that are relevant and realistic.

While SMART method is a great way of setting a Goal, it per se doesn’t guarantee achievement of the Goal. What is required is a Process to achieving that goal.

Process for achieving SMART Goals

Scott Adams, the famous creator of Dilbert, in his book ‘How to Almost Fail At Everything and Still Win Big’ describes that the Process is more important than the Goal when it comes to achieving success.

The Process has all the steps built in that ensure incremental progress towards the goal. When the process is followed, one can work towards the seemingly  far goal and achieve it ultimately. Without the Process, one may just lose track especially when encountered with obstacles or distractions.

While setting Career Goals, a similar scenario may crop up. With so many distractions at work and demands on one’s time, it is possible to lose sight of the goal one is working towards. The Process ensures one can pick up the chips and start from where one left.

Further, with disruption happening all the time and all around us, the Process helps in ensuring goal achievement through a step-by-step approach of revisiting some of the inbuilt steps and modify them if necessary.

Process of Breaking down SMART Goals

The Process breaks down Goals into two sub-levels – the first level is near term which could be achieved over 3-6 months e.g. a certification required for achieving the Goal – and the second level is what could be done on a daily or a regular basis at workplace to achieve the first level objectives.

This Process ensures visibility of progress and enabling one to do course correction or bringing one upto speed on Goal achievement.

NxtSpark’s online Mentoring software is based on the underlying Process of Goals and breaking them down to two sub-levels to ensure maximum Goal achievement by mentees, because the primary purpose of the Mentoring Program of an organization is to achieve Goal achievement as many mentees as possible. The Mentoring software also has a way to record and indicate progress at each of the three levels.

NxtSpark’s intuitive, online Mentoring software is a combined effort of understanding Mentoring as a science and using latest technology, to bring the benefits to organizations and its workforce when conducting Mentoring, Coaching and New-hire Onboarding Programs. NxtSpark’s Mentoring software has been appreciated by industry leaders at CXO level and Mentoring Experts like Prof. Kathy Kram of Boston University.

Battling The Talent Crisis

Mentoring Software

In the new organizational era, it appears we have a new buzz term: “talent crisis.” On September 19, 2008, BusinessWeek reported in an article called “The Global Talent Crisis” that, “Companies and countries will need more than 4 billion people by 2020 to fill knowledge worker positions. Projections indicate that there will be shortages between 32 million and 39 million people to fill these positions. The U.S. will have the biggest shortfall—needing as many as an additional 14 million people.”

To add to the bleak picture, consider this: A 2008 study by Deloitte Research found that one in three new hires leave a company within the first year of employment. The first-year turnover rate grew to 31.7 percent in 2007. In addition, according to Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and Success Factors, which conducted a survey of over 700 human resource professionals (in cooperation with the Human Capital Institute), 98% of respondents said competition for talent is increasing in their industry, and 65% said it’s increasing to a “high” or “very high” degree.

As you can see, attracting, developing, and retaining top talent is likely to remain a challenge. What companies need is a proactive and viable solution to this challenge. Luckily, that solution exists: mentoring programs. Mentoring programs involve matching talented, experienced employees (mentors) with promising, less experienced employees (mentees). Over time, working one-on-one, the mentor and mentoree—and the organization—reap real rewards.

A successful mentoring program benefits your organization by:

  • Enhancing strategic business initiatives
  • Encouraging retention
  • Improving productivity
  • Engender collaboration across departments
  • Linking employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
  • Using your own employees, instead of outside consultants, as internal experts for professional development

In this article, I would like to share how Mentoring can benefit your organization:

Attract the Best & Brightest

Your organization’s reputation is a huge incentive for eager and skilled prospects to join your organization. However, with ‘talent crisis’ this scenario changes. Think of it like this: if a prospective employee is deciding between a company with an outstanding reputation but a notoriously brutal work environment and an organization with an outstanding reputation and a proven mentoring program that grows and nurtures its top talent, which company will the person likely choose? A planned approach to a person’s career development, such as a mentoring program, has become a “must-have” for organizations that want to attract top talent. When marketing to prospective employees, advertising that your company has a professional and effective mentoring program can be a significant differentiator between you and your competitors.

Develop Your Employees into Tomorrow’s Leaders

Developing your company’s junior employees can be a daunting challenge. Where does a new employee go if he or she wishes to gain from the experience and wisdom of a more seasoned manager? Yes, new employees can always turn to their immediate supervisors and HR directors, but there is an inherent hesitation to do this because the new employee doesn’t want to appear “incompetent” or “weak.” Mentoring can provide not only the experiential wisdom, but also a supportive environment whereby the newer employee can share the real issues affecting success. During the mentoring relationship, mentees and mentors will discuss important issues, such as how to interact and work effectively with your top clients; how to get along and communicate with peers and upper management; how to understand and fit in better with your organization’s “corporate culture”; and how to deal with increased scrutiny; plus so much more. While baptism by fire often remains a popular strategy for getting new employees up to speed, it still makes sense to provide a safe haven—the mentoring relationship—where the associate can relax and let down his or her guard.

Retain Top Talent & See High ROI

According to the Deloitte Research study, “Research suggests that a company’s ‘HiPos’ are the first to be poached and are less likely to stay. Also, a study of investment banks found that when imported from elsewhere, stars rarely sustain their performance in the new organization.” The last thing you want to see is your HiPos walk across the street to one of your competitors. Talent retention affects the bottom line not only by reducing costs, but also by building an effective workforce. Companies often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting talent but then stop there and miss the opportunity to get the best return on their hiring investment. Mentoring is a strategic tool that has multiple outcomes for your organization:

  • Demonstrate to new employees the company’s investment in their future with the organization
  • Create a more effective contributor to the company’s overall goals
  • Engender a sense of loyalty in employees

Succeed in Succession Planning

Mentoring is an ideal strategy for enriching your succession-planning program. In succession planning, you’re targeting individual talent to take on increasingly more responsible positions and eventually assume a major position within your organization. This requires solid experience and solid advice from seasoned employees. Adding mentoring as a method of pairing such individuals with your talent pool ensures that the right expertise will complement your succession-planning goals. Mentoring also ensures that your senior managers’ expertise will not be lost once they retire or leave the company. Rather, the expertise will be retained by having been shared with those who are poised to take their place.

It’s evident by now that mentoring programs can achieve many positive results when implemented in the most effective way. Also, read How DHL & Sun Nailed IT With Mentoring to know how you can implement a successful Mentoring Program.

Correct Mentor Mentee Matching Holds The Key

In order to make Mentoring Programs successful, an organization needs to make a significant investment of time and effort. However, investments made by the mentor and the mentee are even greater in terms of time and commitment.

It’s crucial then to make this investment worthwhile.  According to a research report by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit working for over 50 years towards building inclusive workplaces, Mentor-Mentee matching is the most important criteria for a Mentoring Program to be successful.

Successful Mentoring Software

How do you then do that? Here are three useful pointers for successful matching criteria:

Goals should be clear and objectively defined

Without having clarity around goals, it’s difficult to assess what kind of mentoring support is required. The mentee can approach this in multiple ways – self reflection, talk to peers and managers and take a self assessment for goal identification.

Clear Goals lead to Identifying support required

Once the goals are clear, the mentee would know what kind of skills are needed to reach the goals. The mentee can then reach out to the right mentors who have those skills or have overlapping interests and can help.

Matching Should Be Comprehensive

In order to ensure the match is compatible to the mentor mentee relationship, one needs to ensure that matching should be done not only at skills level but also at the interest level, personality type, etc. as they become crucial to the success of the relationship.

Matching with so many parameters can be complex and a manually daunting task. NxtSpark’s intuitive algorithm takes all the matching criteria into consideration and throws up the most optimal matches between a mentee and several mentors out of which either the Mentoring Program administrator or the Mentee can make a choice.

Have Startups Got Their People Strategy Right?

Digital-startups

In the last few weeks there has been an interminable spate of news around Indian startups and their people. Amongst the high-profile exits were Punit Soni the Chief Product Officer of Flipkart left who left after a year at the Indian ecommerce giant, Anand Radhakrishnan CPO of Snapdeal, Manish Dugar, CFO and Samuel John Director, Operations for North America who left InMobi.

In another string of events around people, Flipkart, Stayzilla, Babajobs, Nearbuy and a few other startups delayed joining dates at premier B-school and engineering campus thereby inciting nationwide uproar against these brands and inviting the ire of the management of these prestigious schools.

A sea of opinions from industry experts and HR gurus started floating around on the mainstream and social media about why they shouldn’t have reneged on their offers or not postponed the joining dates. Like many others I also enjoyed reading these opinions and posts.

However, at this juncture, I want to take a step back and reflect on something deeper. Isn’t it time for us to take a pause and ponder what’s going wrong? Will it not be far more constructive to figure out what could be done to set it right rather than pass judgment on their decisions as wrong or right?

Here are a few thoughts and suggestions that I think startups should consider tackling some of these issues:

People Are The Biggest Brand Ambassadors of A Company

And I mean to include those who have worked in the past and those who didn’t get selected in the interview round. Every potential hire does a lot of research about the company before joining as career is one of the most important decisions of life. They find out about the company from their friends who are working in these companies. Also, as work is a significant part of our lives, employees (and former employees) talk often about the company with their friends and family.

So what do you do to meaningfully engage them? It has been observed that money and perks beyond a point are not sufficient motivators.

In 2010, Timothy Judge and others carried out a meta-analysis of research literature that covered over 15,000 individuals and found that the overlap between pay and job satisfaction is less than 2%!

A startup has a lot of business challenges and every employee goes through the same. Startups need to engage their workforce as they try to navigate through these challenges. Do employees have a sounding board in another employee who can help them with some clues? Do they have the ear of an industry veteran inside the company who can help them acquire the required skills to navigate? If the answers to these questions are in affirmative, then employees and alumni of startups will become the biggest PR machinery for your startup.

Talent Engagement Needs to Happen At All Levels

Even senior people need to feel engaged and they can do so by giving away from the veritable storehouse of knowledge and skills that they have because of their varied experiences and years of work across multiple companies and geographies. Established companies like Intel, Sun Microsystems and IBM have understood this very well and have designed Mentoring Programs to not only engage the junior and middle level employees but also gainfully engage their leadership cadres. Across all these levels, these have been able to grow people faster and have been able to retain them longer.

People Strategy Is A Part of Business Strategy

People Strategy is the cornerstone for a startup’s success.

Designing and implementing a sound People Strategy should not be interpreted as having stylish workspaces with candy colored work-pods, cutting-edge fitness equipment and coffee machines brewing beans sourced from Kenya, Sumatra and Brazil.

It’s also not definitely about astronomical salaries that are doled out as a trade off to the employee for the risk he’s taken of joining a startup. All of these are good to have provided there is a well thought out People Strategy to nurture and grow them.

A solid People Strategy should have a well meaning Mentoring Program which has the buy-in of the leadership team can address a lot of people issues and create effective engagement.

Startups should have a strong engagement process during On-boarding too, apart from the orientation. By mentoring the employees during On-boarding period, they get completely aligned with the culture and are able to find a sure footing, thus contributing to the organization sooner than expected.

Startups usually suffer from a deficit in leadership pipeline and a Mentoring Program can develop that by leveraging internal talent available in senior employees to groom high potential people for future leadership roles. This creates a huge engagement point for the senior employees as well as they contribute to the growth of the company and tend to stay around longer.

People Strategy should be a part of the Business Strategy of the startups and should have the leadership of the company completely involved in its drafting and implementation, without which Indian startups are bound to go through difficult times with their people.