Balancing the Mix of Incentives, Recognition & Support

© 2002, Barry Sweeny


Frequently. induction and mentoring programs consider incentives, recognition, and support as separate issues. In fact, these three should be considered together as one united system. These should be undertaken together to ensure ONE RESULT – that mentors feel adequately supported and appreciated for their mentoring efforts.

Here is a framework for considering mentoring incentives, recognition, and support together.

  • Incentives are those things we can do before a person becomes a mentor to encourage someone to become a mentor.
  • Support is what we do while a person is serving as a mentor, so they have what they need to be successful.
  • Recognition is what we do after the mentoring is done, to thank the mentor for their contribution to the profession and to others.

The chart below suggests that there are several critical categories in mentoring that relate to all three issues of incentives, recognition and support. One of these categories is “time“. The chart helps us to consider the three ways that providing or giving time can serve as an incentive, is needed as support, and deserves recognition. The example of “time” and a few of the other areas are already completed on the chart to clarify how to use this framework for analyzing what a program might do in the areas of recognition, incentives, and support.


Ways To Use The Chart for Program Improvement

1. Starting with the column for “Recognition”, consider the other things for which mentors could be given “recognition”, and list them on a separate piece of paper.

2. Then, consider what major categories these items might be listed under (like “time”).

3. Try to complete the chart by listing the major categories you developed, the items in the recognition column for those categories, and then, items in the other columns of incentives and support for the same categories.

4. Finally, refer to the section below the chart for advice about providing a balanced mix of these three categories. Then come back to the next step here.

5. Consider what balance of these things you already do or might need to do in your program. Circle the items you think would create a good balance of incentives, support, and recognition for the contributions of mentors. Of course one factor is what you can afford to do. Another factor is what people would consider motivating. Finally consider what steps you could take that people and the organization are ready to take and would not resist.

Categories Incentives (before) Support (during) Recognition (after)
1. Time to mentor Offer stipend for extra work Provide release time to mentor Symbolic gift & thanks for time given
2. Mentor Motivation Providing a panel of experienced mentors that give testimonies at a mentor recruitment meeting of how much they have grown themselves as a result of mentoring.
3. Achievement Describing mentoring (among other things) as a staff leadership opportunity. Providing feed back to mentors on how much they have grown professionally.
4. Making a difference, a contribution to one’s profession and institution/company Reading testimonies from protégés about the value they found in mentoring at a mentor recognition dinner or event.
5. Other program activities ?

Providing a Balanced Mix of These Three Categories

There is NO one best way to answer all these questions. Not every program needs to pay mentors a stipend for mentoring time. There are other ways of motivating good people to do good, professional activities.

Whatever you decide, follow the “Rule of Thumb” stated next, trying to get a good balanced mix of things across the categories and in all three columns. Remember, all of these things can be perceived by mentors as “supportive” if you present them that way, and thus, those activities can be used to ensure that mentors do not feel “taken for granted”.

An example of this is mentor training:

  • You can require” mentor training, because you believe mentors NEED it, but that may not be perceived as “supportive”, even after a good training is completed.
  • You can frame the training as support mentors DESERVE, so that it has a better chance of being viewed that way.

A good rule of thumb is that a program should try to do things from at least 2 of the three columns for each category you name. If you can do more, that is even better.