When you read about the robust mentoring programs that have been in use at Sun Microsystems since the 1990s, you can’t help but be envious of the fact that their estimated return on investment (ROI) has exceeded 1,000%. Whether you’re considering the launch of a mentoring program or wish the one you have could be improved, leveraging eLearning to make sure your mentors and mentees are both equipped to succeed can make a huge difference.

Mentoring Skills through eLearning

The benefits of having great mentoring programs in your organization are nothing to sneeze at, and include the following:

  1. Makes use of the resources your company already has in place.
  2. Boosts the effectiveness of all the other learning, training and development efforts in your company.
  3. Increases inclusion.
  4. Sparks both creativity and innovation.
  5. Fills your company’s internal pipeline with developing leaders.
  6. Contributes to the retention of your best talent.

At Sun Microsystems, that translated into the following hard metrics from mentoring:

  • Retention rates increased to 69% for mentors and 72% for mentees while the retention rate among non-participants was just 49%.
  • Those better retention rates translated into saving $6.7 million that would otherwise have been spent on replacing employees.
  • 25% of mentees and 28% of mentors enjoyed positive change in their salary grade, contrasted with only 5% among non-participants.

One thing that will help your new or existing mentoring programs is to be clear about the different kinds of mentoring, and decide if you’re focusing on just one or several. The Harvard Business Review describes the following three different kinds of mentoring:

  1. Buddy or Peer Mentoring/Coaching. This involves pairing up a new employee with a “buddy” to help the new hire travel through the learning curve faster. This shouldn’t be thought of as a short, one-off orientation. It should last more like one or two years.
  2. Career Mentoring/Coaching. This kind of mentoring/coaching pairs up a more senior employee with the more junior employee to help them shape their career in the company and also serve as an internal advocate. The career mentor should not be the manager who conducts the mentee’s performance evaluation reviews. It’s a less intense mentoring relationship in terms of frequency of meetings compared to buddy/peer mentoring.
  3. Life Mentoring. In this case the mentor/coach might not even be an employee of the company. This kind of mentoring is for people who are reaching the midway or senior stages of their careers. The mentor/coach serves as a big-picture sounding board for various issues and challenges that come up in the mentee’s career.

You can give your mentors and mentees a leg up by making sure they are aware of the skills they need to make mentoring successful, and eLearning is a great delivery method for accomplishing that task. Of course you can create your own eLearning content for mentoring skills, but it might also be useful to test out some options that other have developed. Here are three examples of eLearning programs for mentoring skills, one from the US, one from the UK, and one from Australia:

Maximizing Mentoring Success: Creating Effective Relationships. As the title suggests, this eLearning course focuses on describing the mentor/mentee relationship, how it differs from coaching, the various stages the relationship goes through, and the communication skills needed to make it all work.

Management Skills – Mentoring. This eLearning course is a more nuts-and-bolts series of 8 short eLearning modules that cover the rationale for mentoring, how to set up a program, matching mentors and mentees, having them create a mentoring agreement, how to be either a mentor or mentee, and guidelines for meetings.

Mentoring that Makes a Difference. In this eLearning course, there are modules specific towards mentors and mentees. The focus once again is on what skills will make the relationship work and covers 14 critical skills.

With such a compelling business case for robust mentoring programs and three different eLearning options to explore that can help make mentoring more successful, I hope you’ll do right by your organization and either launch or improve your own mentoring programs.