Designing a High-Impact Mentor Training Program for Increased ROI


A recent study found that employees who participated in a mentorship program - both mentors and mentees alike - were more likely to be promoted or receive salary increases, and they were more likely to remain with their employer long term. Joining us today to talk about all the different ways a mentor training program can impact your company’s ROI is Sarah Scala – she is the founder and Principal Consultant of Sarah Scala Consulting. Here, she explains:

  • The benefits of mentorships for businesses and individuals alike;
  • Why mentor programs are a "must-have" for highly skilled jobs;
  • How to set mentor program objectives; and
  • How and when to evaluate program success! 

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 

Mentorship - A Brief Overview

  • Mentor programs provide benefits to both the individual employee and the organization as a whole. These benefits can include: 
    • Culture immersion 
    • Stronger retention
    • Succession development
    • Leadership development
    • Knowledge sharing, and 
    • Quicker & stronger skill mastery.
  • Return on investment (ROI) is typically measured using metrics and mentorship is helpful in that space because when a mentorship program is designed, metrics like defined budgets and key performance indicators (KPIs) are utilized.
    • This makes it easy to understand the impact that a mentorship program has on ROI with quantifiable metrics like employee turnover, skill mastery, engagement, and retention.
  • Mentorship programs have the ability to have a positive impact on companies of any size; They are not just reserved for large corporations.
  • A larger company will require more systems in place to support the program where smaller companies can usually manage it in-house via Human Resources and/or a leadership team. 
  • One example of a successful mentorship program is Kohler Credit Union, who was experiencing a 20% turnover of front-line staff. Ms. Scala evaluated the key issues and performance indicators and developed a program that wound up reducing turnover by 88% in just one year. The price of stopping just one employee from leaving covered the entire cost of the program itself, including incentive compensation!


Get all the notes, links, tips, tricks and most important content from this episode - for free!

By signing up you agree to our terms

A “Must-Have” For Specific Skill Sets

  • Mentorship is essential to businesses that require a very niche or specific skill sets for their employees. 
  • For example, Ms. Scala designed a program she designed for Simon Pearce, which is a custom glass-blowing company located in Vermont. 
    • Glass blowing is, obviously, a very specific skilled trade, and it was taking their new apprentices nearly a year and a half to become master glass blowers.
    • Ms. Scala was brought in to help these new apprentices to become more proficient and efficient by creating a mentorship program that saw their master glass blowers help train new employees.
    • This program featured compensation incentives for established employees because glass blowers at Simon Pearce are paid by each piece they create. These incentives allowed master glass blowers to make even more than they would on a regular schedule.
    • This program saw the reduction of mastery time cut down by 33%, showing clear improvement on ROI for that mentorship program.

Leadership Succession Planning

  • Mentorship programs assist in leadership succession planning - pairing high potential candidates with established leaders is key. 
  • This may also include utilizing both internal and external personnel if, for example, a CEO or CFO of a company doesn’t have a person in-house that would be the most effective mentor. In cases like these, they may need to lean on a board member or even someone in another organization to be a mentor.

The Cost Of Mentorship Programs

  • Depending on the design of the program, the price or investment can vary.
  • Informal mentor programs are often free and very easy to manage, where formal mentor programs often have an expense associated because they require a larger amount of resources including staff, money for training of mentors, incentives, and systems to evaluate the program.
  • Length of program will affect cost - some programs may last just 30-90 days for new hire immersion, while high potential candidates and leadership succession programs could last at least a year.

Building A Mentorship Program - The First Steps

  • The first question a company must be able to answer when considering a mentorship program is: “Why?”
    • A company must be able to identify the objective and purpose behind the need for a mentor program.
    • Identifying this objective/purpose is critical for gaining stakeholder support for the program, whether that stakeholder support is informal and verbal, or formal and involves funds for resources needed to execute the program.

Mentorship Program Goals

  • The goals of a successful mentorship program can focus on individual development, company/team development, and overall ROI.
  • A company Ms. Scala worked with utilized a “70-20-10” development planning process, where the ‘20” stands for 20% of individual development being focused on either partnering with a coach or a mentor -- but many of her clients look to create a mentorship program that focuses on improving a specific company need such as employee turnover, building specialized skills, immersion into the culture, etc.
  • Both individual goals and company goals that are worked toward with a mentor program can provide a ROI.
    • It can be more difficult to measure the ROI on a program designed to support the individual’s goals because there are less quantifiable metrics, however, HR departments can have data that relates to individual growth which can in turn, show a return on investment.

Program Structure

  • Ms. Scala believes that mentorship program structure is best when suited toward each company's specific goals. Programs that are designed for a finance company looking to reduce turnover, for example,  will look and operate very differently from the program that was developed for Simon Pearce and their specific skill set employees. 
  • While there are some best practices when it comes to mentorship programs, the culture and objectives of each respective organization are what should really drive the structure and operation of the mentorship program for that specific organization.

Participating Parties

  • Mentees: In order to determine the scope of the participants in the program, first the mentees must be defined. This includes how many there are, who those people are, and what their objectives are both personally and as an employee of the company. 
  • Mentors: With these objectives in mind, mentors must be identified and trained, as needed. 
    • Training mentors often is determined by the type of mentorship program that is being put into place.
    • In a skill-training, interpersonal, or leadership development program, mentors are trained on how to teach others effectively which includes observing, explaining, and giving feedback.
    • In a more formal program, mentors will still have some aspects of teaching, but those mentors may also be trained in how to analyze the results of that training to determine if the program is effective. 

Can Imposter Syndrome Play Into A Mentorship Program?

Evaluating The Success Of A Mentorship Program

  • Success should be evaluated based on the achievement of program objectives which, depending on the objective(s) chosen, may be measured financially, by sales, by turnover, from focus groups, based on evaluations or surveys, etc.
  • Ms. Scala often suggests that evaluations take place at the 30, 60, and 90 day marks for shorter term programs.
  • Especially when the program is a pilot program, stakeholders do not want to wait a year to know whether or not the program was worth it.
  • More evaluation is better than less. 
  • All of the metrics needed to evaluate the program should be known before the program even begins because the mentorship should be designed with those exact metrics in mind. 

Do Mentors Need To Be Compensated?

  • All mentors do not need to be compensated for the mentorship program to be effective. 
  • When needed, Ms. Scala designs her programs to build-in compensation, to prevent loss of income on the part of the mentor. With incentives built-in, mentors will have the opportunity to make the same or even more than they would if they did not serve as a mentor. 
  • Compensation may not be not necessary if the mentor’s current pay structure wouldn’t be hindered by being a mentor. 

Publicizing And Encouraging Participation in a Mentorship Program

  • It may come as a surprise, but some programs are actually confidential and cannot be shared. Others are mandated by the company while some are completely voluntary, so the way mentorship programs are publicized and encouraged can vary greatly.
  • Having stakeholder buy-in from the start is essential because they are able to spread the word about the program and share their excitement.

When To Start Talking About A Mentorship Program

  • Millennials, Generation Z, Generation Y, and more are so hungry for continuous improvement that mentorship programs are essential to keeping those employees engaged and productive. 
  • If you are a hiring manager, expect questions about mentorship early and often. 

Sarah Scala Consulting

  • Ms. Scala is hired by companies to come in, evaluate whatever issue they are looking to solve, and from there design a mentorship program specifically for that company, often partnering with HR in that effort. 

She works with mentors in-person but has also designed an online mentorship program course that is a three-hour, self-paced, program that purchasers will have access to for a year. Learn more about the online course here.

Sarah Scala Background


Subscribe & Review The ProjectHR Podcast!

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of ProjectHR. If the information in our weekly conversations and interviews have helped you in your business journey, please head over to wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to the show. We'd also love it if you left us a five-star review! Your reviews and feedback will not only help us continue to deliver great, helpful content, but it will also help us reach even more amazing professionals just like you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email