Your mentoring programme is more likely to succeed if you understand both:

  1. the issues the programme is trying to address
  2. the effects you are trying to create for your participants

Having a clear evidence base will mean you can better structure your programme, and making sure your intervention has the biggest impact. It might also help you to design robust evaluation for the programme, by informing your logic model.

Gather and review any evidence you might have before you start to design the programme. Analysing your evidence base could help you to understand:

  1. whether you should create a mentoring programme or a different kind of programme
  2. what type of mentoring programme to create
  3. who your programme should be targeted at

Kinds of evidence you could use

There are many different types of evidence you could assess to inform your programme design. You might have data that is specific to your organisation. If not, you could draw on wider evidence from outside your organisation.

The kinds of evidence that you could use include, but are not limited to:

Staff survey data

Most organisations run regular staff surveys. These can be a rich source of information. If your survey asks demographic questions – for example about respondent’s grade, sex, age, sexual orientation or ethnicity – review the disaggregated data. It might show differences between staff with different characteristics that can show you where to target your intervention. It might also be able to show whether mentoring is the right intervention for these cohorts.

Recruitment, retention and progression data

If your organisation collects systematic data about who you are hiring, how long they remain in your organisation, and where they move on to, this might give you an insight into where to target your intervention.

Academic and third-sector research

Academic institutions and organisations in the third sector – charities and non-governmental organisations – regularly publish research into career development and mentoring.

Whilst it won’t be specific to your organisation, you might find general insights about what types of programme would suit your target audience, and who might need the most support.

Engage employee voice networks

If you’re thinking about designing a mentoring programme for a particular group – like women, LGBT+ or ethnic minority staff – many organisations have networks internally that represent the needs of these groups. You could consult with them to gather their views.

Case study

Civil Service LGBT+ mentoring programme

The cross-government LGBT+ network conducted research into the career progression of LGBT+ civil servants in 2011. The research found that respondents felt they didn’t have access to the same career and development opportunities as their straight or cisgendered counterparts. Mentoring was one development opportunity that was cited and has been consistently asked for.

There was also consistent evidence that LGBT+ civil servants felt it was difficult to identify LGBT+ role models across government.

The programme the Civil Service LGBT+ Network designed as a result was intended to:

  1. support LGBT+ civil servants with developing their career
  2. create greater visibility of LGBT+ role models throughout the UK Civil Service

If you have poor evidence or no evidence

If you can’t establish a robust evidence base or you can’t find any relevant evidence, that’s fine too. Especially if this is your first time running a mentoring programme for your target audience, you could treat this as a trial and use the programme itself to generate evidence.

If this is the case for you, pay special attention to designing your programme evaluation.