ATD Blog

How to Measure the Impact of Mentoring

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Brought to you by chronus

From improved retention and employee engagement to increased promotions and more diverse representation in leadership, formal mentoring can build a path to productive and progressive advancements in the workplace for employees and organizations. But if you’re not measuring something, how do you know it’s working? Better yet, how can you prove it’s working?

The Pitfalls of Not Measuring Your Mentorship Program

Without data to back up the developments you’re seeing from your mentoring program, you’re left to rely on feedback and anecdotes from participants. These stories often aren’t enough to prove to senior leaders why the organization should continue to spend resources on the program.

Establishing goals for your program and connecting metrics to those goals will help tie them to business outcomes. Proving what’s good for employees is good for the organization will solidify belief in the mentoring program and increase the likelihood that senior leaders will be vocal ambassadors and participants going forward.

How to Build a Robust Measurement System

These steps will help you make measuring a vital part of your mentoring program.

1. Start With the End in Mind
When establishing or reinvigorating a mentoring program, it’s best to start with these questions. What do I hope mentoring will improve in my organization? What challenges can mentoring help my organization overcome?

Some typical answers to these questions are that mentoring will:

  • Improve employee retention.
  • Increase promotions for high-potential employees.
  • Increase representation of diverse employees in leadership positions.
  • Enable knowledge transfer from tenured employees to new hires.
  • Build development and engagement for mid-level employees.

Once you’ve set your goals, design your mentoring program to achieve these objectives by matching the right mentors and mentees and establishing a connection that keeps mentees and mentors progressing toward the intended outcomes.

2. Use a Framework
With the purpose of the program determined, the next task is to decide which metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) to track. It can be helpful to move through this process using a framework to determine what data you’ll be measuring over the course of the program. Frameworks help you measure characteristics of a program and understand how participation in a program over time enables individuals or entities to optimize their actions and achieve change.

When it comes to mentoring, we often turn to the New World Kirkpatrick model, created by Donald Kirkpatrick in the 1950s and refined by the Kirkpatrick Partners. It is a measurement framework that helps organizations evaluate the effectiveness of their learning and training initiatives. The four levels of the model break down into:

  • Level 1: Reaction
  • Level 2: Learning
  • Level 3: Behavior
  • Level 4: Results

For example, when applying this framework to a mentoring program with the goal of increasing diversity and inclusion within an organization for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), you would evaluate each level as such:

  • Level 1: Reaction—Did BIPOC participants feel their unique perspectives were valued, appreciated, understood, and welcomed?
  • Level 2: Learning—Are participants able to articulate the elements required to foster inclusive environments?
  • Level 3: Behavior—Are there more BIPOC individuals applying for leadership positions? Are there increased promotion rates of BIPOC employees to leadership positions?
  • Level 4: Results—Was there greater ethnic parity in leadership levels or higher levels of innovation? Do we have an improvement in retention rates for BIPOC employees?

The answers to these questions will become the metrics you turn to when measuring the impact of your mentoring program. To design an effective mentoring program, we recommend starting with results and working your way backward. Additional programmatic examples of how the model can be applied in other mentoring use cases can be found in this guide.


3. Determine Your Methods
It’s important to understand how you are going to gather the KPIs and feedback you’ll need to properly measure your program. These methods break down along quantitative and qualitative lines.

Quantitative Feedback

  • Mentoring program data (number of participants and number of mentoring connections made)
  • Surveys (ranking satisfaction with program, with mentor and mentee, with knowledge gained, and so on)
  • Organization benchmarks (employee retention, promotion velocity, and leadership representation stats for participants in the program)

Qualitative Feedback

  • Surveys (open text questions given to participants at mid-program, end of mentoring connection, and so forth)
  • Mentoring participant testimonials

When tracking impact, remember it is important to measure data for those who have completed a mentoring partnership in comparison to other people in the organization who have not completed a mentoring partnership. This will help to measure the mentoring program against a control group that is not affected by your program.

4. Interpret the Data
The final step of measuring a mentoring program is being able to tell the story your measurement conveys. Data for data’s sake will not keep your mentoring program running. You have to align the metrics to the story you’re trying to tell and the goals you’re trying to achieve. Connecting data points to the KPIs you are trying to change along with the testimonials and anecdotes you’re hearing from your participants will help build a complete picture of mentoring as a must-have for your organization, one that is easily conveyed to and understood by your organization’s leadership team and other employees.

The old saying “What gets measured, gets done” is true for mentoring. The most successful organizations over time are high-impact learning and developing organizations. They understand the value of mentoring, evaluate program impact using the measurements listed above, and share compelling mentoring success stories throughout the organization to build a humanized employee experience across the organization.

About the Author

Amanda Schnieders is a senior marketing manager at Chronus. A believer in the innovative capabilities of the modern workplace, she focuses on how human engagement can improve employee productivity and growth in an organization.

Her work in entrepreneurship with the Kauffman Foundation and the power of mentoring in her current role has provided her with insights into the key factors of the workplace today—mentoring, development, inclusion and support. In pursuance of these elements as, she helps organizations work smarter to retain their employees in an engaged and productive workplace.

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