About 'Structured' Mentoring Program - What, Why and How to be 'Structured'?

About 'Structured' Mentoring Program - What, Why and How to be 'Structured'?

According to Megginson & Clutterbuck (1995), Mentoring is defined as:

'Off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking'.

There are plenty of research, vendors and companies out there doing mentoring. At a personal level, I've had mentors, and also mentor-ed others. And after all these years, the most important lesson I've learnt in order to have effective mentoring is...mentoring program should ideally be 'structured'.

What do I mean by Structured Mentoring Program (SMP)?

A SMP has the following characteristics:

1. Assessment Mechanism to Select Mentors

Eligibility criteria has to be in place. Some companies may say only Directors and above can be mentors. Others may institute a requirement that all mentors need to have been with the company for at least 2 years.

This article does not seek to dispute if the above criteria are right or wrong.

The point I am trying to make is: A SMP cannot be free for all. When you are introducing a structured mentoring program, you need to have in mind what are your requirements from a mentor, what you expect and what profiles best suit your mentees' needs, which brings me to my next point.

2. Assessment Mechanism to Select Mentees

Likewise, there should also be a eligibility criteria for the selection of mentees. Some companies may say only employees who are rated high potential. Others may institute a requirement that all mentees should have a minimum performance rating track record of average and above.

The same principles apply. There are limited mentoring resources. You have to prioritize, select and choose the mentees who have the right values and humility, want to truly benefit from a mentoring relationship instead of using it as a springboard to make political gains at work.

3. Fixed Mentoring Duration

A SMP should has a fixed mentoring duration, it can be for a period of 12 months.This gives both mentors and mentees a timeline to work towards, a period for them tomeasure progress, and a milestone to decide if they wish to end the mentoring relationship and move on if they like to have a change in mentor for a development area that the previous mentor could not assist.

This gives both party a timeframe, knowing when it ends... rather than to assume an 'indefinite timeless responsibility' which may become a burden for some mentors or mentees. Afterall, Mentoring works only when both parties are willing to invest the TIME and energy to do so!

4. Minimum Meeting Requirements Prescribed

Once a duration is defined (e.g. 12 months), minimum standards should be met. This can be in the form of agreeing to meet at least 6 times over a period of 12 months. Of course, the mentor and mentee can choose to meet more often in a SMP.

Minimum standards should be prescribed, so that both parties know the commitment upfront. They will decide if this is something that are ready to commit before taking a step further in the mentoring relationship.

5. Social Contract

In any mentoring relationship, it is important to establish the following agreement onconfidentiality:

All matters discussed during the mentoring session are confidential except for matter involving breach of corporate governance or criminal breach of trust intent.

Matters discussed can be shared or divulged by one party only if the other party gives consent.

Enough said on the above.

6. Peaceful Breakups Mechanism

There will be times where there is a lack of chemistry between the mentor and mentee matched. We should not judge whether the mentor was a fault or the mentee wasn't proactive.

Instead, a SMP must provide the avenue for both parties to speak to the SMP Faciltiator, and request for 'peaceful breakup'. The Facilitator or Program Manager will manage the communication to formally & professionally terminate the mentoring relationship between both parties, and where possible, re-assign new mentor for the mentee and vice-versa.

7. A Kick Off Session with Tips for Mentors and Mentees

Last but not the least, never underestimate the importance of a kick off session for both mentors and mentees. During the session, the Lead plays the role of breaking the ice for both parties, and it's a great platform to once again share obvious but timely reminders & tips for both parties such as:

Tips for Mentors:

  • Maintain regular contact, at least 6 meetings over a period of 12 months
  • Avoid being judgmental
  • Don’t expect to have all the answers
  • Be clear about expectations and boundaries
  • Respect confidentiality

Tips for Mentees

  • Be considerate about your mentor’s timing
  • Identify your development goals
  • Listen attentively to what you mentor has to say
  • Be diligent in acting on the agreed follow-up activities
  • Don’t be defensive and explain yourself too quickly
  • Respect confidentiality


Bottom line, a SMP is the way to ensure the effectiveness of a Mentoring Relationship. A SMP approach ensures the best use of both parties' time.

An effective Mentoring Relationship has the following characteristics:

  • They Meet regularly
  • Mentees drive the relationship
  • Mentors support, listen, challenge and guide
  • They deal with both short and long term development
  • Mentees should be helped to find their own solutions

To end this article, I like to share this favourite quote of mine from Ray Kroc, the founder of the MacDonalds Franchise who once said,

“The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed".

Through mentoring, you can help one another to succeed.

Enjoy a Structured Mentoring Program!

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