Demonstrating ROI with Your Mentoring Program

Many mentoring programs fail to address a critical part of demonstrating success, which is measurement.  That is, starting by defining what you are hoping to accomplish with your mentoring program and how you intend to measure success and determining what methods will be used to capture the success.  As with any initiative, if you start with the end in mind, it will help determine the strategy and increase the likelihood of success.

In defining what success looks like, it is important to understand where you are today.  This includes collecting  and knowing the baseline metrics of your employee population as a whole.  Knowing your current attrition rate and what attrition is costing is an important place to start.  In addition, you may also look at metrics related to the diversity and health of your organization as a whole.  If you have current information on employee engagement scores and metrics related to the diversity demographics at various levels in your organization, these can be important baseline numbers as well.  Finally, if your mentoring program is focused on skill development, a skill assessment may be an important component to measure against as well.

Once you understand those baseline numbers and have a clear picture of what you hope to accomplish, it is important to design a program with outcomes in mind.  A skills-based mentoring program is a powerfully efficient way to meet employees where they are and help them learn and enable them to build a relationship in the process.  If you don’t introduce mentor and mentee with a clear topic or learning outcomes in mind, it can be hard to track progress or success with your program beyond simply making connections and helping employees with networking and visibility within an organization.  Although networking and visibility may be helpful to employees, it can be hard to track success unless you have defined the learning outcomes intended for both the mentor and mentee.

Along the way, other metrics that are important to track in the short term include:  the number of hours of mentoring taking place, the demographics of mentor and mentee, the topics selected (if opting for skills-based mentoring), and the overall population engagement.  In addition, feedback is critical to determine the perception of the program and whether mentors and mentees feel the program is beneficial.  

In the long-term, studies tracking retention, promotability, and diversity demographics of the mentored population as compared to the non-mentored population can be useful in demonstrating the success of the program as well as calculating the return on investment of the program.  In addition, a successful mentoring program addresses many of the key drivers for why employees stay, which include having caring, competent, and engaging leaders, having effective and engaged managers, concern for well-being, and effective teamwork at all levels.  A quality mentoring program may lead to higher engagement scores on your employee survey and a more engaged, productive workforce overall.  Therefore, it may be useful to track employee engagement scores in addition to the other metrics outlined here.

A formalized mentoring program can be a powerful talent strategy and address so many of the critical challenges facing companies today, but it is important to begin with the end in mind and structure a program tailored to the outcomes you are seeking and have the data necessary to prove outcomes.  A well-constructed program helps ensure employees at all levels have the skills necessary to be successful in the roles they occupy today and the roles they may occupy in the future, ensuring a strong leadership pipeline and a thriving organization.

Alison Martin is the Founder and Managing Director of Engage Mentoring, a software-enabled leadership development program that helps companies attract, retain, and develop their talent through strategic mentoring initiatives. For more information, visit www.engagementoring.com.

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