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How to Create a Successful Cohort Mentorship Program

As organizations evolve to meet the needs of their workforce, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to create opportunities for career advancement, mentorship, and diversity of thought. One of the most effective ways to do this is to implement a Cohort Mentoring program at your organization. 

At Namely, I was chosen to be a part of the third cohort of our mentoring program, and it has tremendously enhanced my understanding of the business while providing a safe space for career guidance. 

Here are a few of my observations on running a successful mentorship program: 

1. Understand the Goals of the Program 

First, it’s necessary to define the goals and objectives of the program so everyone has a comprehensive outlook of their participation and contributions. Knowing the “why” of committing to this initiative will allow both parties to immerse themselves and establish trust. 

At Namely, our philosophy around mentoring is threefold:

1. Establish cross-functional communication and collaboration

2. Foster a transparent relationship between senior leadership and the organization

3. Develop top talent and provide development opportunities

With these three pillars in mind, each member of the mentorship team has the guidelines needed to keep conversations and goals on track. They will gain unique perspectives and find synergies with a diverse group of individuals. Additionally, situations that tend to be overlooked can be surfaced by the mentorship circle to promote professional and personal development.

2. Establish a Meeting Rhythm & Expectations 

Creating time to meet regularly with your mentor holds both sides accountable and requires thoughtful preparation. The senior leader typically outlines the meeting cadence. 

In our group we have three mentees, assigned to one senior mentor; we meet once monthly for forty-five minutes as a group. I also meet once monthly with my mentor 1:1 for thirty minutes. 

The expectation is that we each come prepared with discussion topics, business scenarios to solve together, and career pathing questions. Discussion topics vary from budgeting for headcount to contractor review and selection, as well as management and people decisions. Employees are encouraged to work through a professional challenge, learn how to advocate, or manage relationships to advance their careers. The time spent together is incredibly valuable and both sides are able to reap the benefits of honest, constructive dialogue. 

3. Build Trust & Confidence Together 

It can be somewhat intimidating to come together with a group of colleagues you may not know very well to openly discuss business solutions and personal career pathing. However, being vulnerable within your mentorship circle has many advantages. 

Knowing that everyone is sharing confidential information creates a secure space to explore together while exchanging ideas and experiences. The support of your group lends itself well to identifying and facing workplace challenges. The trust and confidence in one another will grow as you continue to share and receive authentic feedback. This enables your mentorship circle to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of their colleagues’ work in other parts of the organization and continue to collaborate on shared goals.

4. Improve with Each Iteration of the Program 

The effectiveness of the program will continue to improve as each cohort provides meaningful feedback for areas of improvement upon completion of the program. 

With Namely’s mentorship program, we found that surveys were an effective way to collect and organize feedback. Our leadership then used the survey results to adjust the parameters of the program. For example, there may be a better pairing method, more preparation needed, or a different meeting cadence to try out. 

With each set of mentors and mentees “graduating” the program, constructive observations and evaluations of the program are provided so the next set of mentors and mentees will have the best possible version of it. 

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