What Should We Evaluate?

What evaluation questions should an existing mentor program be asking itself and then answering through Program evaluation?

The following are some of the questions frequently asked when people wonder about what they are accomplishing in their mentoring and their mentoring program. Perhaps these questions will help you examine some of the issues involved in improvement of a mentoring program so that you can see them and your own program from a new perspective.

The critical questions to ask are:

    • Are there program purposes that are not evaluated?
    • Are there program purposes that are evaluated and not attained? If so, do you know why?
    • Is there program evaluation that gives you feed back about the extent to which the desired purposes are really happening?
    • Do you know the mentoring strategies that are the most powerful for improvement of protege performance?
    • Are mentors trained in, had guided practice in, and follow up support for and feed back about their use of the most powerful mentoring strategies?
    • To what extent are mentors specifically and explicitly trained in how to use mentoring to transform their work and that of the protégés?
    • To what extent are mentors explicitly trained in how to increase productivity and results?
    • To what extent are mentors specifically trained in how to respond positively when non participants in mentoring make comments that are negative or that reflect a misunderstanding of mentoring?
    • Have mentors been specifically trained in what it is that mentors are supposed to model, when they themselves feel that they are only beginning to become the kind of employees that we now know we need to be?
    • Are there clear program purposes and expectations or goals against which to measure current mentor and/or protégé performance?
    • Can mentor and protégé performance be measured and supported so that the assessment experience is positive, growth-producing, and yet, ALSO holds participants accountable for effectiveness and results, monitors stewardship for time and other resources, and leads to actual improvement?
    • How do mentors actually use their mentoring time? Is it enough time? What can and can’t they find the time to do?
    • Are there mentor roles and tasks defined against which to compare mentors’ actual use of time?
    • To what extent do mentors and protégés create norms in their own relationship that are different from and better than those in the rest of the organization?
    • To what extent do mentors know how to help novice employees learn and join into the organization’s other improvement initiatives?
    • To what extent do mentors know how to enlist novice employees in the career-long commitment to be a continual learner?
    • To what extent is and should mentoring be used as a tool for organizational improvement?
    • To what extent have mentors discussed and had guidance in how to induct novice employees into a profession that is in the midst of redefining itself?

Mentoring programs rarely have sufficient data to answer these questions with any certainty. Often, we respond that we are too busy working and trying to DO the mentoring to find the time to formally evaluate what we are doing. Yet, these do seem to be very critical questions that mentoring programs should want to be able to answer, and even to address. Even if YOU don’t feel you have the time to ask these questions we urge you not to wait to do so until your BOSS asks some of these questions. At that point it may already be too late to demonstrate the value you provide and to save your program.

Better, take the time at some point soon to ask and answer these questions. Better yet, use the IMA listing of consultants to access the expert help you need to design an effective program evaluation process and instruments, and quickly give you the data you need to answer these questions and defend your program. It’s ALWAYS better to do the evaluation yourself because the goal is NOT JUST to have the answers evaluation provides. Doing it yourslef creates deep understanding of the cause and effects chain that makes more effective things happen. It builds commitment to make the improvement happen. That’s what you need.

Accountability is sustainability.  By choosing to hold yourself accountable, you will be ready when some decision maker decides to hold you accountable..