Mentoring is a practice which companies are increasingly turning towards for better employee and corporate outcomes. And with this comes increasing pressure to implement effective mentoring programs, which in today’s efficiency and output driven workplace means that mentoring software is often the best option.
But as in most industries in the world, there are a number of players in the mentoring software space. So what can you look for when buying into a mentoring software problem? And what should you be wary of?
It is very important to get an early read on the type of mentoring philosophy a vendor is preaching. Is their mentoring ideology based on HiPo (high potential) growth; is it an enterprise solution that requires long sales and training cycles; is it a mentoring platform that is focused around bringing low performers off the side-lines; or is it a mentoring software that is focused on being accessible and affordable. Like with all products, if a product was built for a specific purpose and audience, it is more likely to work very well for that specific use case.
Program coordinator focus
One of the main pain points mentoring software is solving for is the admin burden on HR or mentoring program coordinators. Running a mentoring program involves a lot of ‘stuff’ including gauging demand, matching mentors and mentees, providing program participants with resources, and reporting on program outcomes. In the past – and still today – many of these activities have been conducted via spreadsheets and email, which is completely unnecessary. Does the mentoring platform you are buying into solve for this pain point? Does it remove the menial tasks and annoying busy work that mentoring programs have typically involved? A good mentoring software platform will free up time for the person who was previously engaged in simply facilitating the mentoring program.
Program participant focus
Equally important is that the mentoring software has been built to provide the end users with a great experience. Often times, because mentoring software vendors are selling into HR, diversity, or L&D, they get caught up building solely for program coordinators and overlook the needs of the employees/end users. But if you are to build a scalable and sustainable mentoring culture at your organisation, you need to make sure that program participants are having the best experience possible. After all, who will want to keep using a product that doesn’t work for them?
Customer support and user success
An often overlooked element of any software purchase is customer and user success and support. All software platforms and programs have some kind of learning curve; will your mentoring software vendor help you and the users through this part of the process? Do they have the infrastructure in place to support thousands of users in addition to hundreds of program coordinators? Will they help you, share the most useful outcomes with your stakeholders?
Mentor and mentee onboarding and training
Mentoring isn’t a plug and play activity for most people; it isn’t a practice that people naturally do well. Is teaching mentors and mentee your responsibility? Or is it the responsibility of the software provider? A good mentoring provider has expertise in what good mentoring looks like – and will ensure that users follow a framework that results in success.
Mentoring program management tools and reporting
“You’re only as good as what you measure” rings true when it comes to managing a mentoring program. Can you easily measure ROI on your program? Can you see who is getting the most out of their match and who isn’t? Do you know when to intervene and rematch a pair of individuals? Quality mentoring software can assist with reporting on the health of your program, down to the individual.
And finally, after all these things are said and done – can you afford it? Many enterprise software solutions can be exorbitantly expensive, which creates a real barrier to entry. Look for a provider who fits within your budget – but also within the context of your program. Weigh up the costs and benefits of your mentoring program, as well as the mentoring software platform to arrive at a place where you feel comfortable.