Mentoring Programs Prove Effective, But Can Anyone Prove It?

In the day and age of reduced workforces and bootstrap budgets, mentoring programs are a relatively affordable way to improve productivity, retain employees and accelerate skill development and career advancement. According to i4cp's recent Mentorship Programs Survey, conducted on behalf of a member company, over 80% of organizations who have such programs say they are moderately to highly effective. The number climbs to above 90% for high-performance organizations.

High-performance organizations see more impact from mentoring programs.

However, less than half of these companies actually measure the outcomes of their mentoring programs, begging the question: how do these companies truly know whether their mentoring programs are effective? Or, perhaps the better question is, are they sure the programs aren't more impactful than first assumed?

Four ways to track the effectiveness of mentoring programs

Measurement is easier said than done. Like many human capital programs, there's a lack of direct human capital metrics, but the success of mentoring programs can be gauged through a variety of methods:

  1. Measure participant satisfaction (Kirkpatrick's Level 1). Once the mentoring experience is over, ask participants if they were happy with the program and results. Also, ask them if they would recommend the program to others. Ambitious programs can be designed to incorporate the more strategically significant, higher Kirkpatrick levels of measurement.
  2. Compare retention rates of those who have participated in mentoring programs against those who haven't. If retention rates are statistically higher, the program is having a positive impact on employees.
  3. Compare time to full productivity for those who have entered a new position. Mentoring often leads to more effective onboarding and accelerated ability to work within a particular organizations structures and procedures, things that go beyond basic job knowledge.
  4. Track employee engagement. Mentoring programs are sometimes provided to employees who have low engagement scores or are frustrated with a lack of career opportunities. If this is the case, comparing engagement/satisfaction responses between participants and non-participants will likely reveal the impact of the mentoring program.

As with any program, clear goals should be determined from the outset. The impact of mentoring programs on employees with tangible metrics such as sales, customer service ratings and quantity of product defects will be easier to assess. For those whose mentoring experience may be measured against more nebulous results, such as listening skills or improvements in conflict management, a more indirect approach may be needed, like asking other employees to assess changes.

Most companies measure mentoring programs on an annual basis

i4cp's research shows that most companies measure results on an annual basis, though high performing organizations are nearly as likely to conduct quarterly measurements.

Corporate examples

i4cp members can download the full results of the study in both Adobe Acrobat (PDF) and Interactive Data formats now. For practical and innovative ideas of how companies have implemented mentoring programs, we recommend i4cp's Coaching: What Really Works Playbook.