You might be thinking that running a mentoring program is a lot of work. And, you're right.
That is if you don't have the right tools.
Now, if you have the right tools, it's probably easier than you imagined.
Let me show you how that works.
Follow the jump links below to get straight to the section you're interested in, or simply read on to see the tools available for mentoring.
What do the mentoring tools need to achieve?
There are many moving parts to a mentoring program that you'll need tools for so that it runs successfully and smoothly. These include:
Matching up the right mentors and mentees
Scheduling their meetings
Providing good communication between participants
Getting feedback from your mentors and mentees
Here are some of the main hurdles you might encounter:
Finding the right fit: Matching mentors and mentees with compatible personalities, interests, and goals is crucial. Mismatches can lead to frustration and a lack of progress.
Attracting mentors: Busy professionals may not be willing to commit the time and resources required to be a mentor.
Balancing supply and demand: Programs with more mentees than mentors can leave some participants without matches.
Engagement and Communication:
Keeping participants motivated: Both mentors and mentees need to be actively engaged in the program to experience its benefits.
Scheduling conflicts: Between busy schedules, finding time for regular meetings can be challenging.
Maintaining communication: Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and a loss of momentum.
Administrative burden: Managing logistics, training, and communication can be time-consuming, especially for smaller programs.
Measuring success: Demonstrating the value of the program and its impact on participants can be difficult.
Building a sustainable program: Ensuring long-term funding and attracting participants over time can be a challenge.
Unclear goals: Without well-defined goals, mentors and mentees may not be on the same page about what they want to achieve.
Lack of training: Both mentors and mentees can benefit from training on how to navigate the mentoring relationship effectively.
Resistance to change: Introducing a new program can face resistance from participants who are comfortable with the status quo.
Working with PLD on the alta platform is overall a very positive experience. The team is incredibly supportive and provide some amazing guidance. As well as this PLD have consistently gone above and beyond to meet deadlines when making changes and updates to the alta platform. This amount of support has been integral to allowing us to build such a successful mentoring platform.
Royal Aeronautical Society
Finding & Using the Right Mentoring Tools and Techniques for Your Needs
The right tools and techniques to use for your mentoring program will depend upon:
How large your company or organisation is.
The number of participants in your mentoring program.
Time and personnel available to run the program.
For instance, spreadsheets and your usual communication options may be better suited for smaller programs.
But as the number of participants and breadth of a mentoring program grows, different tools may be needed for running the program to avoid organisational hold ups which would otherwise hold the program back.
A good mentoring programme will:
Have strategies on how to work through the mentoring process,
Specify or provide the standard tools to be used within the mentoring program
Have instructions and guidance on mentoring techniques and strategies built into system.
What Types Of Mentoring Tools Do You Need?
As soon as you start to get into mentoring, it becomes clear that lots of different tools are needed to make the program run efficiently. The following types of tools can help you in running your program:
Communication tools - You may already have favourite communication tools within your company, such as Zoom, Teams and even Skype. Standardising the tools to use will help the mentoring to run more smoothly.
Timekeeping tools – Free tools like Google Calendar can help with scheduling in meetings.
Organisational tools – you may decide simply to use a spreadsheet as the tool of choice in running your programme. This can work nicely for small programs. Trello can also be used as part of your mix.
Feedback tools - tools such as Survey Monkey can be useful for feedback.
Other tools – Tools such as Slack and Evernote can help for not taking and informal communication.
Useful tools for mentoring
So, now you have an idea on the kinds of tools you need, which tools are right for your organisation or company? You may also have other tools that you already use which you can substitute for those below. The trick is to reduce your administrative burden and make sure the tools used are standardised wherever possible.
General tools suited to use for mentoring
Although not specific for mentoring, the following tools can be used where a dedicated mentoring platform or software isn't being used.
Use in Mentoring: Zoom is widely used for virtual mentoring sessions, offering video conferencing, screen sharing, and recording capabilities.
Benefits: Enables face-to-face interaction remotely, facilitating a more personal connection.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Issues with security and privacy have been noted.
Use in Mentoring: Teams is useful for messaging, video calls, and document sharing, supporting continuous communication and collaboration.
Benefits: Integrates well with other Microsoft Office tools; good for group mentoring.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Can be complex to navigate for new users; may be too feature-rich for simple mentoring needs.
Use in Mentoring: Helps in scheduling mentoring sessions, setting reminders, and sharing availability.
Benefits: Widely accessible and easy to use; integrates with other Google services.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Limited functionality beyond basic scheduling; privacy concerns with sharing calendars.
Use in Mentoring: Trello's board and card system is great for setting goals, tracking progress, and task management.
Benefits: Highly visual and customisable; facilitates easy tracking of mentoring objectives.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Can become cluttered with information; not specifically designed for mentoring.
Use in Mentoring: Offers a wide range of courses that mentors can recommend to mentees for skill development.
Benefits: Access to a vast library of professional courses; can be a great supplement to mentoring advice.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Requires a subscription; course quality can vary.
Use in Mentoring: Useful for obtaining feedback through surveys to evaluate the mentoring process.
Benefits: Easy to create and distribute surveys; helps in gathering structured feedback.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Limited to survey-based feedback; may not capture nuanced responses.
Use in Mentoring: Slack is ideal for quick, informal communication and file sharing between mentor and mentee.
Benefits: Real-time messaging; integrates with many other tools.
Pitfalls and Limitations: Can lead to information overload; may not be suitable for more formal mentoring aspects.
Use in Mentoring: Useful for note-taking during sessions, organising resources, and sharing notes.
Benefits: Syncs across devices; great for keeping all mentoring materials in one place.
Pitfalls and Limitations: The free version has limitations; can be a bit complex for simple note-taking.
Using spreadsheets as a mentoring tool
Using spreadsheets for organising a mentoring program can be both effective and efficient, especially for managing data and tracking progress. However, like any tool, spreadsheets come with their own set of benefits and pitfalls.
Benefits of Using Spreadsheets in Mentoring Programs
Ease of Use and Familiarity: Spreadsheets, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, are widely used and familiar to most people. This ease of use means there's often little to no learning curve involved.
Flexibility: Spreadsheets are highly customisable. You can design them to track various aspects of a mentoring program, from participant details to session schedules and feedback.
Data Analysis: They offer robust features for data analysis. You can use formulas and functions to calculate metrics, such as the number of sessions completed, average session lengths, and mentor-mentee matching criteria.
Cost-Effective: Spreadsheets are a cost-effective solution, particularly for small organisations or those with limited budgets. Many spreadsheet tools are available for free or at a minimal cost.
Accessibility and Collaboration: Tools like Google Sheets allow for easy sharing and real-time collaboration, making it simpler to coordinate between mentors, mentees, and program administrators.
Reporting and Visualisation: Spreadsheets can be used to create graphs and charts, providing visual insights into the progress and effectiveness of the mentoring program.
Pitfalls and Limitations of Using Spreadsheets as a mentoring tool
Scalability Issues: As the program grows, spreadsheets can become unwieldy and difficult to manage. Large amounts of data can lead to cluttered and confusing sheets.
Risk of Human Error: Manual data entry increases the risk of errors, which can affect the integrity of the data and lead to incorrect conclusions or decisions.
Limited Automation and Integration: Spreadsheets lack the advanced automation and integration capabilities of dedicated mentoring software. Tasks like matching mentors and mentees based on specific criteria can be time-consuming and less efficient.
Data Security and Privacy Concerns: Sensitive information stored in spreadsheets can be vulnerable, especially if shared over email or stored on unsecured platforms.
Time-Consuming Updates: Keeping spreadsheets updated requires continuous manual effort, which can be time-consuming for program administrators.
Lack of Dynamic Interaction: Unlike specialised mentoring platforms, spreadsheets don't offer interactive features like in-built messaging, notifications, or reminders.
No Tailored Functionality: Spreadsheets are not specifically designed for mentoring programs, so they lack specialised features such as feedback collection forms, session notes templates, or built-in mentoring resources.
Size Matters in Mentoring
How many people can spreadsheets manage successfully within a mentoring program? The answer is that it gets harder as the number of participants grows. Being aware of this can help you plan forwards when you get past your initial hurdle of running the program. So what sort of numbers of mentors and mentees are okay to run on a spreadsheet? Here's a rough guide:
Small programs (up to 20 participants): Spreadsheets can be a viable option for small programs with simple data needs and limited participant interaction. Their flexibility and low cost make them attractive for basic tracking and reporting.
Medium programs (20-50 participants): As programs grow, the limitations of spreadsheets become more apparent. Data management, version control, and collaboration become critical, and spreadsheets may struggle to keep up. Consider hybrid solutions using spreadsheets for basic data and a dedicated tool for communication and progress tracking.
Large programs (50+ participants): For larger programs, dedicated program management tools are almost always necessary. They offer robust features, scalability, security, and collaboration capabilities that spreadsheets simply can't match.
So, while spreadsheets can be a good fit and a practical tool for organising and managing mentoring programs, especially in the initial stages or for smaller programs, their limitations become more apparent as the program scales up.
So many mentoring tools, so little time!
At this point, you may be asking yourself how you're going to administer all these programs and fit the whole thing together.
It's a good question, and this is where a mentoring platform can take care of most of your needs in one place...
And avoid a huge learning curve and training overhead for you, your mentors and mentees.
Dedicated Mentoring Platform & Tools
As a mentoring program grows in scope and members, you will start to need something a little more sophisticated that takes the weight off your shoulders in terms of organisation and feedback.
Running things on a spreadsheet can get unwieldy and lead to bottlenecks. And using lots of different tools can consume valuable staff time, need more staff training and present compatibility issues between systems.
A good dedicated mentoring platform will combine many aspects of the tools listed above and will help keep the mentoring program organised and efficient.
You get to save time on administration and give a much smoother, more effective experience to your mentors and mentees.
A good mentoring platform will also provide training resources, help and guidance on mentoring techniques just as users need them.
"We could not have asked for a better service from PLD. They were very responsive to our specific platform needs and available to talk to for help and support when needed. Regular check ins from them were also very useful and they have helped to make sure our mentoring platform is successful. After the implementation, regular contact has been maintained, which has led to further refinements and tweaks to improve user experience even further."
Royal College of Midwives
PLD's Dedicated Coaching & Mentoring Platform
Our innovative mentoring platform, which is used by well over a million people, simplifies and enriches the mentoring experience, offering an integrated solution for both mentors and mentees revolutionises traditional mentoring by:
Providing a secure environment for mentor and mentee privacy and confidentiality.
Automated mentor / mentee matching tools.
Efficient scheduling tools for mentoring sessions.
Comprehensive progress tracking.
A suite of resource tools and training materials.
Historical records of notes and action points.
It not only streamlines the process but also ensures impactful and focused mentor-mentee relationships, catering to the diverse needs of modern mentoring programs.
The mentoring platform offers a suite of tools including video conferencing, goal-setting functionalities, and insightful resources, all within a secure and customisable environment.
This both saves valuable time for participants and those running the program, and ensures a more focused and impactful mentoring journey.
The best way to decide which tools are right is to start.
There's a free, 3 minute quiz that will help you decide whether a mentoring program is the right fit for your company.