This step-by-step mentoring program guide is for anyone at MIT with leadership support and the desire to establish a successful staff mentoring initiative in their Department, Lab, Center, or Institute (DLCI). You'll also find a comprehensive assembly of templates and reference sites.
Why create a mentoring program?
Mentoring is a powerful form of employee development for staff members at all levels. Mentoring programs can have a positive impact as a resource to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion, boost morale and retention, develop promising employees, and contribute to the growth mindset at MIT.
Human Resources developed this site for DLCIs in response to Institute initiatives reflecting strong community interest in MIT-supported mentoring programs.
- The MIT Task Force 2021 and Beyond Final Report calls for “Expand[ed] mentoring programs … that can be implemented locally, as well as centrally, in order to support the needs of new employees, new managers, emerging leaders, and staff who are invested in career exploration.”
- MIT’s Strategic Action Plan for Belonging, Achievement, and Composition encourages “Develop[ment] and implement[ation] of an Institute-wide mentoring program that will design, deliver, and evaluate mentor and mentee training using theoretically grounded, evidence-based, and culturally responsive training.”
- Feedback from the MIT Staff Conversations sessions indicated a desire from staff for increased mentoring opportunities.
Before You Begin
Before embarking on creating or enhancing a program, review the keys to success and other information below. Then you’re ready to download our guide and the customizable templates.
You can use the information here on your own or request support from Human Resources. Existing mentoring program owners at the Institute are also welcome to use these materials to improve or enhance their current programs.
Understand formal vs. informal mentoring
MIT employees have expressed that they are interested in mentoring relationships but aren’t sure how to find them or how to approach a prospective mentor. Our guide takes an evidence-based, deliberate approach to broaden formal mentoring access at MIT. This site is not for creating buddy systems or other informal mentoring relationships. Naturally occurring relationships have value and relevance in other contexts.
The goal is to build a program where all staff feel valued and respected regardless of function, level, or aspects of identity.
Understand the terminology
The following terms are used frequently on this site and will be helpful to review before you begin.
Area — interchangeable with Department, Lab, Center, or Institute (DLCI). The MIT organizational unit in which the mentoring program will be implemented.
Institute — MIT.
Mentor — the experienced individual in the mentoring partnership who imparts knowledge, guidance, wisdom, or skill to a less experienced mentee, regardless of the type of mentoring.
Mentee — the individual who is intended to benefit from an experienced person in the mentoring relationship, regardless of the type of mentoring. In some cases both parties become mentees and mentors to each other.
Organization — used interchangeably with DLCI.
Participant — anyone participating in the program, i.e., mentees and mentors.
Partnership — the mentor and mentee relationship.
Program — a formal, structured approach for creating and implementing mentoring relationships within a DLCI.
Customizing the terminology
As you design your program, you may include your own terminology. For example, some resources refer to ‘mentees’ as ‘proteges.’ Also, ‘partnerships’ and ‘relationships’ may be used synonymously to refer to the matched mentee and mentor. Partnerships/Relationships helps to connote a level field, i.e., removing the power differential suggested by a mentor having greater significance than a mentee.
The definition of ‘mentoring’ deserves particular attention as you begin to conceptualize your program. At its simplest, mentoring relationships can be defined as ‘learning partnerships.’ There are numerous types of learning partnerships or mentoring relationships (see Step One for details). Using the phrase ‘learning partnerships’ suggests that both parties in the relationship should be open to learning from each other, even as knowledge, skills, and experiences are intentionally shared by the ‘mentor’ for the benefit of the ‘mentee.’ The roles of mentor and mentee can switch within the same partnership, as well.
Review keys to success
Each step we've provided to help you build your mentoring program is grounded in strategies from successful programs already in place at MIT. The non-negotiable elements for success include the following:
- Clear Purpose: Your area's customized purpose serves as a beacon for program decisions.
- Sponsor (Champion): A champion within your DLCI will provide support and influence for the program owner to accomplish the clear purpose.
- Program Owner: One person (with the support of others) must be dedicated to managing the program. The program owner is the lynchpin from program creation through initial launch, and needs to continue in a dedicated role as it evolves.
- Diligent Mentor-Mentee Matching: The core of any mentoring program is the mentoring relationship. The matching process is key to pairing mentors with mentees for positive mentoring. A well-managed process will also minimize the likelihood of mismatches.
- Program Assessment: A mentoring initiative at MIT should be considered part of your area's professional development, retention, inclusion, and culture strategy. Continual assessment of the program can yield valuable lessons and help strengthen the next iteration of the program.
Review the steps
See the overview of the steps in creating a successful program. These steps are described in detail in our guide, available below.
You can perform some steps simultaneously. For example, if it suits your purposes you may combine Step 4: Create an Implementation Plan with Step 6: Create and Implement a Communication Plan.
Step One: Clarify the Program Purpose
- Specify objectives for your local program
Step Two: Identify the Program Sponsor and the Program Owner
- Decide which senior leader will support the initiative
- Decide who will design, implement, and manage the program
Step Three: Design the Program
- Establish specific program elements and responsibilities
Step Four: Create an Implementation Plan
- The plan serves as your map and timeline
Step Five: Develop Materials
- Tailor our templates for your initial information session, orientation, and other events
Step Six: Create and Implement a Communication Plan
- Determine how prospective participants will learn about the program
- Establish the who, what, how, and when
Step Seven: Match Mentors and Mentees
- Facilitate a process for the matching committee
- Leverage applications and other relevant information to create partnerships
Step Eight: Launch the Program (or Pilot)
- Facilitate an interactive orientation with mentors and mentees
- Clarify expectations
Step Nine: Monitor and Assess
- Address program challenges
- Provide ongoing learning for mentors and mentees
- Mid-program review
Step Ten: Closure, Celebration, and Program Evaluation
- Hold a visible gathering for mentors, mentees, and relevant others to celebrate success
Review the time commitment
The approximate time commitment by role is outlined here. The first month of start-up time will be higher while creating a new program. Less time will be required after the program is up and running and after the first session is implemented.
Sponsor: Initial start-up time is estimated at 2 to 3 hours. Once the program is ongoing, the estimate is 1 hour or less per month.
Program Owner: Initial start-up time estimate is 31 to 34 hours. Estimated time commitment per month once program is running is 4 hours.
Mentors and Mentees: Initial start-up time for orientation and first meeting is estimated to be 2 hours. Estimated ongoing time commitment is 1.5 to 3 hours per month, depending on mentor/mentee meeting frequency and additional training. Additional time for program check-ins will be as needed and will depend on the local program schedule.
Create Your Program
Get the guide
Ready to begin designing your mentoring program? Download the full guide below.
Get the templates
Use these templates to help you develop your program materials. The files are provided in Microsoft Word format so that you can customize them for your area.
- Expression of Interest to be a Mentor or Mentee (signup sheets)
- Mentor and Mentee Responsibilities
- Mentor and Mentee Applications
- Matching Meeting Agenda and Materials
- Matching Meeting Matrix
- Orientation Agenda
- Guidelines for First Mentor-Mentee Meeting
- Mentoring Agreement
- Mid-program Review: Mentee and Mentee Meeting Agendas
Help is available
As part of MIT's commitment to the creation of successful mentoring programs, Human Resources is pleased to provide program owners with optional support at any stage. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To support your own learning as well as provide materials for potential mentoring program workshops, we've curated these resources from inside and outside the Institute.
About this site and feedback
This guide was authored by David Hosmer with support from the following MIT community members:
- Mathew Breen (Daper Intercollegiate Sports)
- Gabriel Campos (Human Resources)
- Sonja Dagbjartsdottir (Office of Dean of Students)
- Alicja Estabrooks (Office of Dean of Students)
- Jeannette Gerzon (Office of VP for Research)
- Anna Giraldo-Kerr (Human Resources)
- Elizabeth Greenly (Office of Dean of Students)
- Ronnie Haas (Human Resources)
- Maritza Hall (Consultant and DEI)
- Elizabeth Hawley (Human Resources)
- Michael Kalin (Daper Intercollegiate Sports)
- Chris Karam (Human Resources)
- Michele King (Human Resources)
- Maryanne Kirkbride (Office of the Provost)
- Dyan Madrey (Human Resources)
- Libby Mahaffy (DEI, Human Resources)
- Michele McCauley (Office of Dean of Students)
- Devan Monroe (Office of Minority Education)
- Scott Rolph (Human Resources)
- Heather Williams (Office of the Provost)
All of the mentoring information on this site is © Massachusetts Institute of Technology, unless otherwise indicated.
Organizations outside of MIT are permitted to use and reproduce the information on this site. Please notify us of your intent by contacting email@example.com.
How are we doing? If you are a program owner at MIT who has used these materials to create a mentoring program, or improve an existing one, let us know how it went and what was most helpful to you. How might we improve our guide for future use? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.