• Nina Lovelace

Kandu: How to set up effective virtual mentoring programmes - Part One

Updated: Apr 24

Kandu has supported many #mentoring programmes, supporting both entrepreneurs and corporate employees to be better business leaders. So we have developed a deep understanding of the work it takes to set these programmes up for success, and are now pleased to be taking these learnings and rolling them out as part of the setup support we offer to all new clients.

However, to help anyone researching launching a new mentoring or coaching programme to support leadership development, we have come up with a few ‘steps to success’ you may wish to consider. Sometimes, organisations rush to set up programmes without considering a few fundamentals, which can affect success later on. This is even more true where a virtual programme is necessary, as is increasingly the case in a post #COVID-19 #coronavirus world.

This blog is the first of this series where we will outline these steps to help you get started, and be more likely to achieve successful mentoring partnerships and return on investment.

Be clear on why you are running the programme, and what success looks like

Organisations often run #leadership development programmes with mentoring and/or #coaching support because they want to accelerate future leaders' success. But being very clear on one or two specific outcomes you want to achieve is key to successful programme setup, as it can impact everything from how long you run the programme, who needs to help run it, and what mentors or coaches you need to sign up to support mentees.

Being clear on the final outcomes also means you will be better placed to measure the success of the programme, and make a case for repeating it if it is successful.

HR Leads/ Programme Managers: Ask yourself which core strategic objective(s) the programme will help your organisation achieve. Common ones are:


  • developing more diverse leaders, to achieve promotion faster;

  • growing revenues faster in a key vertical;

  • identifying more intrapreneurs and potential new product developments, to speed up company-wide innovation and transformation.

If you need help to scope this out, consider engaging a specialist mentoring or coaching organisation or consultant who can help you create a programme plan.

Identify engaged, motivated mentors and/or coaches ahead of your programme starting

Organisations often ask #mentors to provide (free) advice and support to programme mentees because of their seniority, reputation or network. Although these mentors look good on paper and will be flattered to be asked, they are often the first to struggle to be good 'principal' mentors to mentees as too many other things are competing for their very limited time.

A principal mentor is how Kandu describes an individual who is able to meet regularly/monthly with a mentee for a period of time (at least three months) to help them achieve their priority development goals.

Instead, we would encourage programmes to instead make very senior people ad-hoc #advisors or #sponsors (see below) - and seek the majority of their principal mentors from people with ‘enough’ relevant experience to be effective role models and advisors, but who crucially have a clear and powerful motivation to mentor.

There may be an assumption that a mentor is motivated to provide advice because ‘it's the right thing to do’ - but if mentors are to stay engaged with a mentee and/or a programme, they need to develop or achieve something personally from the experience. Exactly what that depends very much on the reason you are running your programme, but is something you need to identify, deliver on, and measure.

HR Leads/ Programme Managers: Always ask your mentors - why do you want to mentor on this programme? What will have changed for you or the organisation by the end of it? Ideally, you will hear responses such as:

  • I want to develop my leadership & communication skills and will have learnt new ways to motivate and engage employees

  • I am passionate about developing more diversity in leadership (if your programme is for, say, women in leadership) and want to see 50% women on the company board

  • I want to source and work with individuals I may want to sponsor and possibly invest in longer-term (this is a common reason why mentors support entrepreneurs)

  • I want to develop my ‘positive challenge’ skills and gain a non-executive director role within the next year

Fill knowledge and skills gaps by complementing principal mentors with additional 'supporters'

It is very common for organisations to find that, once they are clear on what they want the programme to achieve, they are unable to find enough internal principal mentors to support their plans. For example, if a company wants to run an #intrepreneurship programme, they will often find they have too few senior internal staff with the required entrepreneurial experience or knowledge about emerging technologies, or they may have too few #diverse mentors to support the next generation with positive role models.

A holding solution is often to give each available principal mentor more than one mentee to maximise the resource available, but the more sustainable solution is to start to analyse where the real 'gaps' are in what the mentees want to learn/ develop in relation to the programme's goals, and then build over time a wider 'supporter' community around the mentees that is made up of internal and external supporters who can provide advice and support on the full range of needs - but in different ways. Kandu does 'gap analysis' for all its clients on needs versus offers to help them in this regard.

Kandu has found that the most effective programmes often have one or two supplementary ‘supporters’ of different types working with a mentee, together with the ‘principal mentor’ who provides the majority of advice and support. Our system allows each mentee to have up to five 'supporters' in total, building a mini #personalboard around that mentee. These additional supporters are classified into different types and include the following.

  • On-Demand Advisors - great specialists who can make themselves available to provide ad-hoc advice to several mentees in an informal manner. Areas of support may include marketing and sales, women in business and entrepreneurship.

  • Supporters or Connectors - very busy, high networked senior employees too busy to mentor but who can speak with and introduce mentees to useful individuals at the right time, perhaps for promotion or investment opportunity.

  • Alumni Mentors (relevant only if you have run previous mentoring programme). These are trainee mentors who have recently finished a mentoring programme and may have very fresh 'how to' advice to give to the next cohort of mentees.

  • Coaches - who focus very much on the mentee's leadership skills in relation to their goals and are likely to have formal coaching training (unlike most mentors).

This may seem hard to achieve, but if you are running a virtual programme, remember your supporters can be located anywhere in the world, as long as you are using a virtual solution such as Kandu to create these boards and bring the community together. We are running a solution for one client that brings mentees and mentors together from across four continents.

HR leads/ Programme Managers: Work to identify what the 'gaps' exist between what your mentees need and what your existing mentors can supply. Then think about how you might create a wider supporter community to fill those gaps, so principal mentors have supplementary supporters who can carry some of the advisory load and fill these skills/expertise gaps. External mentors/ advisors may be necessary if you are supporting entrepreneurial development.

Expect Part Two of this blog series soon. Next: How to communicate the programme, and provide adequate training, resources and tools to mentors and mentees.

If you are considering developing a mentoring or coaching programme to develop future #business leaders, please come and talk to Kandu. We can help you get off to the best possible footing to ensure your mentoring programme is successful and gives you return on investment.

In return for a small investment per head, our software helps to support mentees and mentors to follow good mentoring practice - we encourage goal setting in pairs and mentee self- reflection - so they learn new skills just from using it. Kandu's software also collects data on how mentor/ mentee pairs are progressing together to help programme administrators such as HR teams get real-time oversight on what is happening between mentor/ mentee pairs. Kandu analyses this data to make recommendations for interventions to achieve the best possible programme return on investment.

Contact hello@wekandu.io for more details and a demo. Kandu is also fully virtual, perfect for supporting programmes during #social-distancing, #remote-working and across distributed teams.