WASHINGTON, D.C. 20250








SUBJECT:    USDA Mentoring Program


DATE:     February 1, 2012


OPI:   Office of Human Resource Management




This Regulation establishes policy regarding mentoring programs throughout USDA. 




 a.   USDA is establishing a mentoring culture throughout the Department for three reasons.  First, the Cultural Transformation Listening Sessions conducted in 2010 indicated employee demand for mentoring.  Secondly, there are numerous benefits of a formal mentoring program including:


(1)               Improving succession planning by developing employees;

(2)               Helping pass knowledge from one  generation of workers to another;

(3)               Helping employees develop as professionals by improving their skills in translating values and strategies into productive actions; developing new and/or different perspectives; obtaining  assistance for new and innovative ideas, demonstrating their strengths and exploring potential, and increasing career networks and receiving greater exposure within the Agency or the Department;

(4)               Improving retention of existing employees;

(5)               Enhancing recruiting of new employees;

(6)               Helping employees by communicating the agency’s unwritten behavioral norms and standards; and,

(7)               Helping mentors continue to develop as leaders.


Third, some training and development programs require a formal mentoring component by federal regulation (e.g., Presidential Management Fellows Program, Senior Executive Candidate Development Program). 


USDA includes mentoring as one of many employee development activities such as the use of individual development plans, details and rotational assignments, and formal study and/or training and developmental assignments.  


b.   Published reports indicate that mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge relevant to work, career, or professional development.  Mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the mentee). Mentoring has been identified as an important influence in professional development in both the public and private sector.  Formal mentoring programs are structured, have oversight, and have clear and specific organizational goals.  Successful mentoring programs require planning, monitoring during implementation, and evaluation.


c.   This regulation contains two major components – policy and guidance.  All agencies shall fully meet the policy component in the best manner possible considering agency needs.  Agencies are responsible for defining their mentoring goals and establishing the timeframes for their mentoring programs. 


(1)    Agencies without a mentoring program should use the guidance in Appendix A and B  to develop a program that complies with this regulation. Appendix A is an OPM Mentoring guide which can be found at http://www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/BestPractices-Mentoring.pdf.


(2)   For agencies with mentoring programs, the information in Appendix B is provided to assist in strengthening mentoring programs.   




This is a new policy. 




a.   Each Agency and staff office is required to have or participate in a formal mentoring program. Rather than create an agency-specific program, agencies may collaborate on the creation or maintenance of a program so long as the program follows the guidance in this regulation.  Agencies may participate in a USDA’s Virtual University mentoring program to meet the need for an agency-level program.  It is recommended that mentoring programs follow the guidance at Appendix A.


b.   Mentors must be:


(1)    Solicited and assigned fairly and with regard to ensure diversity of the mentees served


(2)    Consistent with any applicable labor-management agreement 



(3)   From outside the mentee’s chain of command, and must be at least one pay grade higher than the mentee.  Under unusual circumstances, where no other option exists, and with the approval of the USDA Virtual University or Training Officer, mentors may be of the same grade as the mentee.  Mentors may be from outside the Agency or Department.


c.  A mentor is required for the following categories of employees (USDA or agencies may provide mentors to other categories of employees):


(1)    New supervisors (individuals who have never been a federal supervisor before)


(2)    Presidential Management Fellows


(3)  SES candidate development program participants.


d.  Mentors and mentees must receive training on the mentoring process to help ensure successful outcomes from the mentoring relationship.  See Appendix B paragraph 1 for guidance.


e.  Agencies must establish a structure for the mentoring program that includes the following (minimum) items:


(1)    Introductory meeting between mentor, mentee and the mentee’s supervisor


(2)    Agreement on goals and the frequency of recurring meetings between mentor and mentee


(3)    Conducting the agreed upon meetings


(4)    Assessment of the experience by the mentor and mentee


(5)    A close out meeting with the mentor, mentee and mentee’s supervisor


(6)  An individual development plan signed by the mentor, mentee and the mentee’s supervisor.


See Appendix B paragraphs 2-4 for guidance.


f.  Agencies must evaluate the effectiveness of their mentoring program at the end of the    mentoring cycle or annually.   For suggestions on how to evaluate the mentoring program, see Appendix A (Implementing a Mentoring Program, paragraph 11), and Appendix B paragraph 5.


g.  Agencies must track, record, and report on mentoring activities.  It is recommended that agencies use the employee’s learning history in AgLearn for tracking and recording mentoring.


h.  When the Agency has more qualified mentees (i.e., an individual accepted for pairing with a mentor) than mentors, the Agency will establish a waiting list for pairing.  Agencies must make every effort to pair all qualified mentees on the waiting list with a mentor.


i.   Funding for training, travel, etc., is the responsibility of the agency. 


j.   Agencies shall appoint a mentor program manager and provide the name, phone, mailing address and email address to the Provost of the USDA Virtual University.


k.  Agencies may recognize participants (mentors, mentees, supervisors) at the end of the program in an appropriate agency forum.  


l.  Virtual mentoring may be encouraged, and may be particularly beneficial for employees located in geographically remote duty stations.  Agencies are expected to comply with all requirements of this regulation. 


m. Reporting:  Provide the following information each year to the Provost of the USDA Virtual  University by October 15th for the prior fiscal year:


(1)      Type of mentoring programs in progress (e.g., SESCDP, new supervisor)


(2)      Number of mentor/mentee relationships ongoing within the Agency by program


(3)      A summary of the evaluation results for mentoring programs


(4)      A description of the training that mentors and mentees received


(5)      Demographic breakdown of mentors and mentees (i.e., race, gender, national origin, etc.).






a.  Agency heads are responsible for appointing a mentoring program manager and reporting that information as outlined in 4(j).


b.  Directors of Human Resources Management are responsible for ensuring an effective mentoring program is provided to employees from their agency.


c.  Agency mentoring program managers are responsible for ensuring an effective mentoring program is operating in their agency, and that the program complies with this regulation.


d.  The Provost of the USDA Virtual University provides oversight for the USDA mentoring program to ensure that mentoring is conducted according to this policy.







This document is the US Office of Personnel Management’s Mentoring guide found at http://www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/Mentoring.asp and is provided here for your convenience.  Some formatting in this Appendix differs from the original.



September 2008



Table of Contents


Why Organizations Implement Mentoring Programs

Types of Mentors 

Formal and Informal Mentoring Programs 

Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentor 

Benefits of Mentoring for the Protégé



Developing a Mentoring Program

Implementing a Mentoring Program







Mentoring is usually a formal or informal relationship between two people—a senior mentor (usually outside the protégé’s chain of supervision) and a junior protégé. Mentoring has been identified as an important influence in professional development in both the public and private sector. Within the Federal government, mentoring is often a component of different types of development, including comprehensive career development programs like the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP), the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) and the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) Program. The major function of mentoring within these programs is to promote the protégé’s development in specific areas and to facilitate successful completion of the program. While these mentoring relationships can produce positive developmental and organizational outcomes, both mentoring programs and relationships sometimes fail due to a variety of causes and problems (e.g., lack of participation, no leadership involvement, poor planning, unrealistic expectations, and “fuzzy” goals). Successful mentoring programs require proper understanding, planning, implementation and evaluation.


In addition to the stand-alone benefits of mentoring, on October 30, 2004, the President signed the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004, Public Law 108-411, into law. The Act makes several significant changes in the law governing the training and development of Federal employees, supervisors, managers, and executives. One major change requires agencies, in consultation with OPM, to provide training to managers on mentoring employees. In collaboration with the Department of State, Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Corporation for National and Community Service, noted for their innovative and effective mentoring programs and best practices, we have developed this document as a tool to assist agencies in creating a business case for mentoring and as an outline of the critical steps in developing and implementing a formal mentoring program.

Why Organizations Implement Mentoring Programs

More and more organizations are creating formal mentoring programs for various reasons. From increased morale to increased organizational productivity and career development, the benefits of an organization that actively supports mentoring are numerous. However, successful mentoring programs do not just happen. Organizations must first make a strong business case to demonstrate why the organization should devote the time, attention and resources required to make a formal mentoring process work. Reasons for establishing a mentoring program must be linked to the organization's business goals. For example, an agency forecasting tremendous growth in a specific job series may want a mentoring program to help prepare high-potential employees for future managerial positions in that series. Also, an organization planning a reorganization may be interested in a mentoring program to help facilitate continuity of organizational  performance. Listed below are some reasons why agencies choose to establish mentoring programs.

As part of the Onboarding process -- mentoring helps new recruits, trainees or graduates settle into the organization;

Skills Enhancement -- mentoring enables experienced, highly competent staff to pass their expertise on to others who need to acquire specified skills;

Professional Identity -- when younger employees are early in their careers, they need help understanding what it means to be a professional in their working environment. Professionals embody the values of the profession and are self-initiating and self-regulating. Mentors play a key role in defining professional behavior for new employees. This is most important when employees first enter the federal workforce;

Career Development -- mentoring helps employees plan, develop, and manage their careers. It also helps them become more resilient in times of change, more self-reliant in their careers and more responsible as self-directed learners;

Leadership and Management Development -- mentoring encourages the development of leadership competencies. These competencies are often more easily gained through example, guided practice or experience than by education and training;

Education Support -- mentoring helps bridge the gap between theory and practice. Formal education and training is complemented by the knowledge and hands-on experience of a competent practitioner;

Organizational Development and Culture Change -- mentoring can help communicate the values, vision and mission of the organization; a one-to-one relationship can help employees understand the organizational culture and make any necessary changes;

Customer Service -- mentoring assists in modeling desired behaviors, encouraging the development of competencies in support of customer service, and above all, cultivating the right attitudes;

Staff retention -- mentoring provides an encouraging environment through ongoing interactions, coaching, teaching, and role modeling that facilitates progression within the organization; mentoring has been found to influence employee retention because it helps establish an organizational culture that is attractive to the top talent clamoring for growth opportunities. Mentoring is a tangible way to show employees that they are valued and that the company’s future includes them;

Recruitment -- mentoring can enhance recruitment goals by offering additional incentives to prospective employees; and

Knowledge Management/Knowledge Transfer -- mentoring provides for the interchange/exchange of information/knowledge between members of different organizations.


Types of Mentors

There are mainly four types of mentors:


Career Guide -- promotes development through career guidance, counseling and visibility;

Information Source -- provides information about formal and informal expectations;

Friend -- interacts with the protégé socially and provides information about people; and

Intellectual Guide -- promotes an equal relationship, collaborates on research projects and provides constructive feedback and criticism.


When planning and developing mentoring programs, agencies must consider the types of mentors and decide which type(s) of help will be most appropriate given the program goals.

Formal and Informal Mentoring Programs

Formal mentoring programs are structured, have oversight, and have clear and specific organizational goals. For example, some agencies, as part of their formal onboarding process, assign mentors or “peer buddies” to new hires as an information source allowing new employees the opportunity to better navigate a new work environment. Unlike formal mentoring, informal mentoring has minimal to no structure and oversight and may or may not have a clear and specific goal. Informal mentoring is normally for interpersonal enhancement, but can also promote career development. Nevertheless, the success of either type of mentoring is greatly dependent upon clearly defined roles and expectations in addition to the participants’ awareness of the benefits of participating in the mentoring program.

Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentor

As a result of being a mentor, the person:

·         Renews their enthusiasm for the role of expert;

·         Obtains a greater understanding of the barriers experienced at lower levels of the organization;

·         Enhances skills in coaching, counseling, listening, and modeling;

·         Develops and practices a more personal style of leadership;

·         Demonstrates expertise and shares knowledge, and; 

·         Increases generational awareness.


Benefits of Mentoring for the Protégé

As a result of having a mentor, the employee:

·         Makes a smoother transition into the workforce;

·         Furthers his/her development as a professional;

·         Gains the capacity to translate values and strategies into productive actions;

·         Complements ongoing formal study and/or training and development activities;

·         Gains some career development opportunities;

·         Develops new and/or different perspectives;

·         Gets assistance with ideas;

·         Demonstrates strengths and explores potential, and;

·         Increases career networks and receives greater agency exposure.



Things to Consider in Developing and Implementing a Formal Mentoring Program


Because a mentoring program, either for career or interpersonal enhancement, is built on mutual trust and respect of the individuals involved, much care should be given to its development and implementation. While organizational mentoring programs may take on different shapes and structures, there are certain critical steps that must be considered by any group embarking on establishing a mentoring program. Below are elements of effective practice that have proven effective in a wide range of existing mentoring programs throughout the Federal government. [Note: These activities are taken from best practices of current mentoring programs from Federal agencies, private sector, and from secondary research.]

Developing a Mentoring Program

1.  Conduct Needs Assessment


Any organization interested in developing a formal mentoring program needs to create a business case and address why this program is needed, what the organization hopes to gain, and what components the program should include. Needs Assessments can be conducted by the agency’s human resource office, training office, or a steering committee/working group via on-line or paper surveys (e.g., organizational assessment surveys and exit surveys), focus groups, and interviews with staff. Statistical data from secondary research like, retirement trends, attrition rates, succession plans, knowledge management processes, and performance ratings can also be used in the needs assessment. Depending upon the goal of the program and the target group the audience can include new hires, junior employees, mid-level employees, managers, senior level experts, and senior leaders. Here are some sample questions that can be included in a survey, focus group and/or interview:

·         If the agency were to develop and implement a formal mentoring program, how would you benefit?

·         Would you participate as a protégé?

·         Are you available to be a mentor?

·         What specific knowledge, skills and abilities do you look for in a mentor and/or protégé?

·         Do you have access to mentors outside this agency?

·         What kinds of activities would you like to see implemented in a mentoring program?

·         Do you utilize other career development activities provided to employees? If so, how have you benefited from these activities?

·         Do you believe the agency encourages a mentoring culture (e.g., creating readiness for mentoring within the organization, facilitating multiple mentoring opportunities)?

·         Do you currently receive any type of mentoring? If so, are you getting any benefits out of the mentoring relationship?

·         Do you have access to mentors in this agency?


2.  Develop a Mentoring Program Roadmap


A mentoring program roadmap should include a business case, project plan, and implementation plan. A roadmap should also include needs assessment findings, project plans with key milestones, and the program description. The program description should include:

·         The goal(s) of the mentoring program;

·         Success factors and desired outcomes;

·         Targeted population (e.g., all GS employees, specific occupations, new employees, new SES members, new supervisors);

·         Duration of the program;

·         How the agency plans to market and recruit mentors and protégés;

·         Benefits to mentors and protégés;

·         Benefits to the agency (e.g., increased morale, transfer of knowledge from one employee to another);

·         Budget (include contractor cost if planning to use one);

·         Matching process;

·         Outline of the orientation session;

·         Types of materials provided to mentors, protégés, and supervisors; and

·         Potential mentoring and career development activities.


3.  Gain Top Management Support and Commitment


A formal mentoring program will succeed only if senior leadership supports the program and makes it part of the learning culture. It is best to identify a champion (preferably a senior leader) of the program who will play a major role in marketing the program and recruiting mentors. Agencies currently operating successful formal mentoring programs have support and commitment from leadership and management. Not only do these leaders pledge their support and commitment, they participate as mentors. When senior leaders participate as mentors it shows a true commitment to the program and will encourage agency employees to participate.

To help maintain commitment from senior leaders, it is advisable to ask senior leadership to define a “successful mentoring program”. After senior leaders are able to define a successful mentoring program, present them with continuous success stories and best practices contributing to their definition of a successful mentoring program. When leadership and management see the program is successful, they will continue to support it and possibly provide more resources.


4.  Commit a Program Manager


Most successful mentoring programs have a full-time employee dedicated to managing and administering the mentoring program. The program manager’s role is crucial in making the program a success. The role of the program manager involves:

·         Working with the Steering Committee or Working Group (see #5) to assist in developing a needs assessment, building a business case, and implementing the goals and objectives of the program;

·         Creating the roadmap (see #2);

·         Developing and working with the budget;

·         Working with a contractor/vendor if services are acquired;

·         Marketing the program;

·         Recruiting and following-up with mentors and protégés;

·         Developing activities for the program including orientation, training workshops, and the closing ceremony;

·         Maintaining a database on a pool of mentors and protégés, and mentoring pairs;

·         Sustaining relationships with mentors and protégés; and,

·         Assisting with any problems that occur throughout the duration of the program.


5.  Create a Steering Committee or Working Group


A formal mentoring program is tied directly to the organization’s leadership. To represent that leadership, a steering committee or working group should set the goals and objectives of the mentoring program. This committee or group should consist of representatives from different offices of the agency, not primarily from the human resource or human capital office. The committee members should be committed to creating a learning culture within the agency. The committee or working group should establish a charter. The charter should contain the following:

·         The purpose of the committee or working group;

·         List of members;

·         Roles and responsibilities (includes hiring or designating a program coordinator, reaching out to leadership and management for support and commitment);

·         Tasks to complete (includes building a business case);

·         Outcomes; and,

·         Program evaluation.


The committee or working group can also take the lead in conducting a needs assessment to establish a need for a mentoring program.

Implementing a Mentoring Program

1. Develop a Recruitment and Marketing Strategy

Communication is crucial in assuring a successful mentoring program. A good marketing strategy will effectively advertise the program and help recruit mentors and protégés. In addition to other challenges in communication, one of the biggest challenges of a mentoring program is recruiting mentors. Oftentimes, employees who could be potential mentors do not understand the value of participating in a mentoring program. To combat this problem, an agency’s marketing strategy showcases benefits to both mentors and protégés. Here are other strategies to recruit mentors and protégés. [Note: Contact information should be clearly displayed on any marketing materials]:

·      Develop brochures, flyers, and posters to distribute around the agency;

·      Send an email from the champion (either the agency head or another senior leader) asking for participants;

·      Post a message on the agency’s intranet site advertising the program and asking for participants;

·      Conduct brown bags or career development sessions on the importance of mentoring;

·      Ask for supervisors and office chiefs to advertise the program and encourage participation from their employees;

·      Work with organizational leaders to set a target number of protégés for each senior person to mentor – 3 to 5 is considered a reasonable number;

·      Provide agency-wide feedback regarding the value of mentoring along with program results; and

·      Provide ongoing recognition of mentors.


2.  Match Mentors and Protégés


Agencies have found web-based mentoring tools as valuable in the mentor/protégé matching process. Web-based mentoring tools reduce the administrative and paper burden of matching mentors and protégés by electronically matching participants, tracking meetings, and providing participants access to career development materials. A web-based tool also assists with:

·         Identifying competency strengths and opportunities for growth;

·         Determining the goal(s) of the mentoring relationship;

·         Determining preferences for a possible mentor (e.g. a mentor with similar interests, mentor of the same race, ethnicity, or gender)

·         Identifying choices for possible mentors (or protégés);

·         Tracking dates and other mentoring activities;

·         Accessing resources for additional learning needs;

·         Conducting evaluations by sending an online evaluation to all participants; and

·         Analyzing results from the evaluations and providing an overall report.


Future directions for web-based mentoring tools include virtual mentoring meetings and group mentoring activities. Paper-based matching requires the collection of bios from mentors. The protégés review the bios, and indicate their top choices (usually two or three). The program coordinator then matches the protégé with one of their top choices, if possible. Protégés should be matched with mentors outside their office or unit. Some protégés may prefer to be matched with their supervisor’s boss or another senior manager in their chain of command; however, matching a protégé with a mentor within the same chain of command may cause conflict within the office or unit.


It should be noted that sometimes mentoring relationships do not work. In such cases, the program manager should intervene and explore whether the mentoring relationship should be revised or terminated. In these cases there should be a process in place to amicably terminate the relationship and match the protégé with another, more suitable, mentor.


3.  Conduct an Orientation Program


The orientation is a vehicle for matching pairs to get acquainted, establish a mentoring agreement, and begin working on a mentoring action plan. Orientation is usually a half to a full day. The orientation can include a workshop or session on tools and techniques to begin and enhance a mentoring relationship. Exercises during the orientation should allow mentors and protégés to practice the tools and techniques presented to them.


4.   Develop an Instruction Guide for Mentors and Protégés


The instruction guide for mentors and protégés should:

·         Define a mentoring relationship;

·         Make clear roles and expectations;

·         Recommend topics to cover at mentor/protégé meetings;

·         Present other ideas to enhance the mentoring relationship;

·         Highlight the time commitment for both mentors and protégés;

·         Highlight qualities a mentor and protégé should either have before the beginning of the relationship or work to improve during the relationship; 

·         List critical skills and/or competencies for a successful mentoring relationship; and

·         Explain a successful mentoring relationship depends on the commitment to the relationship and the participants understanding of their roles.


Instruction guides can include exercises for both mentors and protégés to build the mentoring relationship and improve on critical interpersonal skills including listening, negotiating, and providing constructive feedback. Some books, articles and organizations in the Resources section below discuss critical skills and qualities of both a mentor and protégé.


5. Develop an Instruction Guides for Supervisors


It is a good idea to develop a separate instruction guide for supervisors. Supervisors can be critical to the success of a mentoring relationship. Without the support of the supervisor, the mentor and protégé may not have the opportunity to accomplish their goals. The supervisor can suggest developmental goals to the pair and provide continuous feedback to both the mentor and protégé. This guide should include:

·      Time commitments from mentors and protégés;

·      Benefits to the mentor and protégé;

·      Benefits to the supervisor; and

·      The role of the supervisor during the program.


6.  Conduct a Pilot


Before an agency implements a full-blown mentoring program, it is suggested the agency begins with a pilot. A pilot does not need to have all the components listed above but can be implemented piecemeal. For example, the first phase could include the matching process, orientation, instruction guides, and evaluation. If the pilot is successful, the agency could add career development activities to the next phase. A rigorous pilot should include a mechanism that allows continuous feedback and input. Feedback can be received in numerous forms including:

·      Evaluation forms;

·      Surveys;

·      Interviews;

·      Focus Groups; and

·      Observations.


Once the pilot has been completed and all feedback and data have been collected, the data should be presented to senior leadership along with lessons learned and recommendations for improvement to the program. Once changes are made and the program is fully implemented, it is wise to continue to present results, best practices, lessons learned, and further recommendations for improvement to senior leadership. This is important in maintaining ongoing commitment and support for the program.


7.  Develop a Mentoring Agreement


Agencies can allow mentors and protégés to develop their own mentoring agreements or develop a standard mentoring agreement to use during the program. An agreement should contain:

·      The roles, responsibilities, and expectations during the program duration for a mentor and protégé;

·      An action plan completion date;

·      The number of times the mentor and protégé will meet;

·      A confidentiality clause;

·      Termination of agreement rules, and;

·      Signatures of both the mentor and protégé.


This agreement can be included in one’s Individual Development Plan (IDP). Some of the goals and/or activities can be included in both the IDP and action plan.


8.  Develop a Mentoring Action Plan


Agencies with successful formal mentoring programs require the protégés to develop a personal action plan or developmental plan (similar to an IDP). These plans include goals and objectives, learning activities to accomplish the set goals and objectives, and desired outcomes. Numerous web-based tools provide electronic mentoring action plans as a convenience to mentors and protégés (see Organizations under the Resources section).


9.  Provide a List of Topics to Discuss


To assist mentors and protégés in their discussions, the program coordinator can suggest periodic topics to discuss during the mentor and protégé’s meetings. Some suggested topics are:

·      Managing conflict within the office or unit;

·      Career progression;

·      Networking;

·      Influencing others;

·      Managing politics in the office and organization;

·      Newest trends in technology;

·      Time management;

·      Work/life balance; and

·      Leadership development.


10.  Provide Developmental Activities


Most successful mentoring programs offer numerous developmental opportunities to participants. Some activities are:


·      Career development seminars;

·      Training activities that provide tools and techniques to maintain effective mentoring relationships;

·      Networking events; and

·      Guest speakers – possible guest speakers can include community leaders, clergy, school (teachers, students, and administrators), retirees and other organizations.


Mentors and protégés can attend these together, discuss what they learned and develop a plan to implement the knowledge gained into their current and future work. It may be difficult to get full or at least a large percentage of mentors and protégés to participate in these activities due to schedules and other work priorities so web based activities like webinars may be more appropriate in some cases. Materials from developmental activities should be made available to those participants who could not attend.


11.  Conduct an Evaluation


Evaluations should be conducted throughout the program. They can be conducted online using a web-based mentoring tool or manually using traditional paper evaluations. Evaluations should be conducted for mentors, protégés and supervisors. Evaluating the experience for both the mentor and the protégé is a critical step in ensuring a successful program. Evaluation can aid the mentoring program by capturing relevant information such as interaction, activity and satisfaction level. It is also critical for supervisors to evaluate the program from their point of view. The supervisor can provide feedback on ways the mentoring program has improved the employee’s performance and contributed to their office or unit goals. Supervisors can also make valuable recommendations on improving the program.


The evaluation process should occur at least twice throughout the duration of the program or agencies can conduct an annual evaluation of the program/participant results. One evaluation should be conducted at mid-point and the other at the end of the program. Here are some sample questions that could be included in an evaluation:

·      What were the goals of the mentoring relationship?

·      Were the goals met?

·      How many times did the mentor/protégé pair meet?

·      What were some obstacles that prevented you from accomplishing the goals?

·      How suitable was your mentor/protégé match (possible response scale – Excellent, Good, Poor, and Not Sure)?

·      How supportive has your supervisor been during the mentoring program (possible response scale: Very Supportive, Somewhat Supportive, Not Supportive, and Not Sure)?

·      What have you learned so far from the mentoring program?

·      Is there any part of the mentoring program you would like to see improved (Yes/No)? If yes, what part?


In addition to a program evaluation, mentors can provide written reports to their protégés on their thoughts of the program, accomplishments as a pair, and recommendations for future interaction. Protégés could also provide a similar report to their mentors.

There are several evaluation models agencies can use but the majority of agencies with established formal mentoring programs use the Kirkpatrick four-level evaluation model1. See Appendix A for details on Kirkpatrick’s model.


12.  Conduct an End-of-Program Graduation/Recognition Ceremony


Agencies with successful formal mentoring programs have a program graduation/recognition ceremony. Senior leaders should be invited to speak on behalf of the program. Awards, such as certificates and/or books can be presented to the mentors and protégés.


1 ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals (2008): Kirkpatrick, Donald L., “Section VI: Measuring and Evaluating Impact.”



Other Types of Mentoring


Flash Mentoring-- is a new concept in mentoring which is growing in popularity. 13L is a leadership collective of 13 committed mid-career federal employees who have a strong interest in issues related to leadership in the Federal Government. They have worked with the National Academy of Public Administration to develop a pilot Flash Mentoring program for the Federal Government. It is a low budget and simple option to recruit busy executives and other senior staff to become mentors without investing a lot of time. The only requirement is one-hour or less of a mentor’s time to meet with a protégé. During the one-hour session, mentors can share lessons learned, life experiences and advice to aspiring protégés. After this meeting, mentors and protégés can decide if they would like to continue the relationship. The matching process is simple. Mentors and protégés are matched with little or no criteria. Protégés may recruit their own mentors or a 13L staff person can request participants’ resumes then match them at random. Once a protégé is assigned a mentor, it is the protégé’s responsibility to contact the mentor within an established timeframe. After the initial meeting, the mentor and protégé decide whether or not to continue the relationship.


Some of the activities mentioned in the formal mentoring program section should be addressed in this type of program. At a minimum, basic instructions on roles and expectations should be given to both the mentor and protégé. Follow-up after the meeting and an evaluation form should also be included in this type of program.


Group Mentoring -- is when one mentor can be teamed with several protégés who meet at the same time. As the mentor poses questions, listens and reflects he or she engages all members of the group into the conversation. Each one has their own experience and insight to share and can draw their own learning from the discussion.


Peer Mentoring -- is usually a relationship with an individual within the same grade, organization, and/or job series. The purpose of peer mentoring is to support colleagues in their professional development and growth, to facilitate mutual learning and to build a sense of community. Peer mentoring is not hierarchical, prescriptive, judgmental or evaluative.


Reverse Mentoring -- is the mentoring of a senior person (in terms of age, experience or position) by a junior (in terms of age, experience or position) individual. Reverse mentoring aims to help older, more senior people learn from the knowledge of younger people, usually in the field of information technology, computing, and Internet communications. The key to success in reverse mentoring is the ability to create and maintain an attitude of openness to the experience and dissolve the barriers of status, power and position.


Situational Mentoring -- is the right help at the right time provided by a mentor when a protégé needs guidance and advice. It is usually short term addressing an immediate situation but can transition to a more long-term connection.


Supervisory Mentoring -- is an inherent responsibility of leadership. The Individual Development Plan usually outlines expectations for supervisory coaching and feedback. Most frequently, this mentoring is informal and related to day-to-day guidance about the current job. As leaders, supervisors should also encourage outside mentoring partnerships, informal and formal, and allow their employees the time to work on them.


Team Mentoring -- involves more than one mentor working with one protégé or a group of protégés. Team mentoring allows mentors to work together or separately to help the protégé reach identified developmental goals (If mentors work separately, they should communicate regularly to share information and ideas.)


Virtual Mentoring -- uses videoconferencing, the Internet, and e-mail to mentor individuals. This is beneficial for those who are unable to leave their workplace and for those who live in rural or remote communities. Virtual mentoring is usually less expensive compared to face-to-face mentoring and provides an individual with more choices for mentors. Even with virtual mentoring, it is recommended the mentor and protégé meet face-to-face at least once.

Appendix A: Kirkpatrick Model

One of the best known training evaluation models is Donald Kirkpatrick’s four level model which includes:

·      Level 1: Reaction – how the participants feel about the training or learning experience;

·      Level 2: Learning – was there an increase in knowledge; this level assesses whether knowledge was learned, skills were developed or improved, and attitudes were changed;

·      Level 3: Behavior – application of learning and changes in behavior since completing the mentoring program; and

·      Level 4: Results – final business results occurred as a result of the mentoring program.


Typically, evaluation is limited to Level 1. The purpose of a Level 1 evaluation is to measure how the participants feel about the program. The Level 1 evaluation takes place in the form of a mid or end of the program evaluation. Below are examples of how organizations can incorporate the different levels of Kirkpatrick’s model into their mentoring programs.


A Level 2 evaluation for mentoring programs consists of a self assessment before the mentor and protégé begin their mentoring relationship. The pre-self assessment could contain questions like:

·      What behaviors are you intending to work on during the course of the mentoring relationship?

·      What specific career objectives are you intending to focus on during the course of the mentoring relationship?

·      What specific personal objectives are you intending to focus on during the course of the mentoring relationship?


A post-self assessment is given immediately after the participants complete the program. Similar questions that could be asked are:

·         What behaviors did you intend to work on during the course of the program?

·         Did you and your mentor/protégé work on these behaviors? If so, in what capacity?

·         How have these behaviors improved since the mentoring relationship began?

·         Are improvements in these behaviors improving job performance?


Another qualitative approach is to ask the protégé (and mentor if the agency would like both to participate) to outline what success would look like. The protégé’s (and mentor’s) vision of success could be negotiated with the supervisor, mentor and/or protégé. Once the program is completed, the participants evaluate whether the vision of success was met and how it was met.


A Level 3 evaluation could either be a follow-up survey, interviews, or focus group three to six months after the participants complete the program. Planning for a Level 3 evaluation should begin at program development. Evaluating participants three to six months post completion allows time for the behavior to change.


Here are some sample questions that can be used in a Level 3 evaluation:




Sample Participant Questions2:

·      I have more confidence in my abilities since I completed the Mentoring Program.


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree


·         Now that I am back at my workplace, I believe the Mentoring Program provided me with the Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes to…


o …lead others in the execution of job responsibility and mission performance.


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree

o …employ clear, concise and effective communications.


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree

o …assemble effective teams.


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree


Sample Questions for Participant’s Supervisors:

·         I have more confidence in the performance of the graduate after he/she completed the Mentoring Program.


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree


·         To what extent do you agree the performance of your unit has improved as a result of your employee attending the Mentoring Program?


- Strongly Agree

- Agree

- Neutral

- Disagree

- Strongly Disagree


The last type of evaluation in Kirkpatrick’s model is the Level 4, Results. A Level 4 evaluation cannot be conducted without conducting Level 1, 2, and 3 evaluations. Results are the last to evaluate, however, this level should be considered in the planning stages. Questions including “what results do we hope to achieve” and what behaviors are needed to accomplish these results”3 should be included in the program roadmap. Measures should also be identified at the planning stages. Some measures of success to include in a Level 4 evaluation are:

·         Improvement of retention rates;

·         Increased morale;

·         Decreased absenteeism;

·         Improvement in overall job performance; and

·         Increase in promotion rates.


Similar data collection methods listed in a Level 3 evaluation can also be used to collect data in a Level 4 evaluation. This type of evaluation should be conducted at least nine to twelve months after the completion of the program. This allows for the environment to change and results to occur.


It is helpful to have a control group to compare these measures. The control group should consist of employees who did not participate in the program but who are demographically similar and who work in similar work environments. Also, to the extent possible, the control group should be isolated from the group that participated in the program4. Results from both groups can then be analyzed and evidence of either program effectiveness or ineffectiveness can be confidently reported.


There are many resources available that discuss Kirkpatrick’s four level evaluation model and other evaluation models on evaluating training programs. A few of these resources are listed in the Resources for Mentoring section.











2 The Level 3 evaluation questions are taken from the US Army Command and General Staff College, Army Management Staff College’s Civilian Education System Basic Course evaluation. This evaluation is given to students who have completed the course 6 and 12 months after course completion.

3 ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals (2008): Kirkpatrick, p.490.

4 ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals (2008): Kirkpatrick, pp.547-548

Resources for Mentoring

Disclaimer: These resources have been used successfully by a number of organizations and top researchers in the field. OPM does not endorse these resources. This is for informational purposes only.




Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors And Protégés Get The Most Out Of Their Relationships, by Ellen Ensher and Susan Murphy (2005). This book provides the fundamentals for mentors and protégés who want to create a connection or improve on the mentor/protégé relationship. The book is filled with illustrative examples from the most successful mentors and protégés.


Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide, by Lois J. Zachary (2005). This book provides organizations with the basics on setting up mentoring programs. The book provides checklists, worksheets, and toolkits.


The Mentoring Advantage: Creating the Next Generation of Leaders, by Florence Stone (2004). This book provides a general introduction to mentoring and its benefits to those who are new to mentoring. This book also provides insight on the qualities to look for in a mentor or protégé and discusses existing mentoring programs including IBM and JP Morgan. You can also find useful checklists, worksheets, templates, assessment tools, case studies, and tips to use in creating a mentoring program.


The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, by Lois J. Zachary (2000). This book provides tools and tips for mentors and protégés to build and maintain an effective mentoring relationship. Worksheets are provided to help mentors develop their mentoring skills.


The Step-by-Step Guide to Starting an Effective Mentoring Program, by Norman H. Cohen (2000). This book offers practical information for organizations that are looking to start-up and operate mentoring programs.


The Mentoring Coordinator’s Guide, by Linda Phillips-Jones, Ph.D. (2003). This guide includes detailed information on how to design, manage, and evaluate a program. Guide topics include: Coordinator's View of Mentoring, Strategic Considerations, Glossary of Mentoring Terms, The Formal Mentoring Process, Skills for Successful Mentoring, Etiquette of Mentoring, Challenges in Planned Mentoring, Identifying Target Groups and Needs, Finalizing Your Design, Communicating about the Mentoring Initiative, Recruiting Participants, Selecting and Matching Mentors and Mentees, Role of the Mentee's Immediate Manager, Developing Mentors and Mentees, Helping Mentees Set Compelling Goals, Evaluating a Mentoring Initiative, and Special Topics in Mentoring (enhanced informal mentoring, distance mentoring, mentoring groups, reverse mentoring, and cross-difference mentoring).


The Keys to Mentoring Success, by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz (2004). This book contains a step-by-step approach for establishing and running a mentoring program.


ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals, edited by Elaine Biech00 (2008). This handbook contains best practices in the field of learning and development. Topics included in the handbook are needs assessment and analysis, designing and developing effective learning, and measuring and evaluating impact.



The Mentoring Group-THE MENTORING GROUP is a division of the not-for-profit corporation, the Coalition of Counseling Centers (CCC). CCC was founded in 1980 by Dr. Brian Jones, Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones, and some colleagues in the San Francisco Bay area. In the mid-80's, Brian and Linda organized THE MENTORING GROUP to provide consulting/technical assistance, skill-based training, skill assessment, research/evaluation, and publications related to mentoring.

Triple Creek Associates Mentoring – This organization provides free resources including a monthly mentoring newsletter. The newsletter provides practical and valuable tips to those wanting to cultivate successful mentoring relationships. The organization offers their web-based tool, Open Mentoring which assists organizations with matching mentors and protégés, managing the mentoring process, and measure relationships built among customized products.


The Mentoring Connection – The Mentoring Connection (TMC) is a web-based tool designed to assist organizations in handling the logistics of their mentoring programs. Features include: connection of mentors and protégés to their organization’s mentoring program on-line, assisting with the matching process, developing mentoring action plans, and tracking upcoming mentoring activities and events. The tool provides an online evaluation process that collects information which then clarifies which parts of the program are working and what areas need improvement. TMC also offers a monthly newsletter on a wide variety of subject areas including work-life balance, and strengthening the mentor/protégé relationship.


The Manager’s Mentors, Inc – The Manager’s Mentors, Inc (MMHA) provides a wide range of services including designing and implementing performance systems, custom training, and implementation of a facilitated mentoring process. The organization features Margo Murray’s book, Beyond the Myths and Magic of Mentoring: How to Facilitate an Effective Mentoring Process. This book reflects Murray’s experience assisting organizations in developing facilitated mentoring and offers a practical approach to the mentoring process utilizing mentoring as a key strategy for filling today’s need for a highly qualified and diverse workforce.


SkillSoftSkillSoft offers multi-level learning solutions through a combination of e-learning content, online information resources, flexible learning technologies, and other support services. SkillSoft offers a mentoring essentials courseware series for organizations who want to develop and implement a mentoring program and for those who want to enhance their capabilities as a mentor or protégé. Mentoring courses offered include Effective Mentoring, Implementing an Organization-wide Mentoring Program, and e-Mentoring.







Linney, B.J. (1999). Characteristics of Good Mentors. Physician Executive, 70-72. This article describes the characteristics and traits of a good mentor and gives accounts of actual mentoring relationships (formal and informal).


Mentoring Programs in the Federal Public Service: Status and Best Practices, Government of Canada (2004). This study contains useful information on existing mentoring programs in the Public Service of Canada and explains why these programs are successful. The recommendations made for a successful mentoring program can easily apply to Federal agencies interested in either establishing a new mentoring program or improving current mentoring programs.


Smith, W.J., Howard, J.T., Harrington K.V. (2005). Essential Formal Mentoring Characteristics and Functions in Governmental and Non-governmental Organizations from the Program Administrator’s and Mentor’s Perspective. Public Personnel Management. 34.1, 1-28. This study examines who mentors are as well as what mentors do in four types of organizations (i.e., academic, business, military-armed forces, and military academic organizations).


Sosik, J.J., & Lee, D.L. (2002). Mentoring in Organizations: A Social Judgment Perspective for Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 8, 17-32. This paper presents a theory of mentoring that proposes effective mentorship fundamentally depends on the mentor’s ability to help solve various complex social problems that arise in the protégé’s career.


Young, A.M, & Perrewé P.L. (2004). An Analysis of Mentor and Protégé Expectations in Relation to Perceived Support. Journal of Managerial Issues, 16, 103-126. This article describes the impact of perception and attitudes on participation (based on general beliefs and past experiences of participants).


Kirkpatrick’s Learning and Training Evaluation Theory (www.stfrancis.edu/assessment/Kirkpatrick_1.pdf). This website provides an overview of Donald Kirkpatrick’s four levels of learning evaluation model.






The information in this appendix consists of suggestions that agencies should consider when creating a mentoring program.


1.  Training.   The following topics are examples of content that can be included in training mentors and mentees:


·         Definition of mentoring

·         Difference between mentoring and coaching

·         Roles and expectations of the mentor, mentee and supervisor

·         Awareness of the mentor’s mentoring style

·         Available tools

·         Benefits of mentoring for all parties

·         Description of the mentoring process that is to be used in the agency.  For example, length of the program, minimum requirements, reports required, resources available, etc.

·         Key mentoring skills

·         Pitfalls to be avoided

·         Feedback skills

·         Listening skills

·         Resolving conflict

·         Evaluating the mentoring experience for the mentor and mentee


2.   During the introductory meeting between the mentor and mentee, the following topics should be discussed.


·         Meeting frequency, location and how to handle conflicts in schedules

·         Availability of the mentor outside of scheduled sessions

·         Mentee and mentor’s personal goals to be gained from the experience


3.  Assessment of the experience by the mentor and mentee


·         Use a multi-point rating system with questions covering all significant aspects of the program

·         Have each separately provide an overall rating of the program as well as written comments for how the program can be improved

·         Develop a summary report of the findings

·         Conduct focus groups to gather more detailed information, if needed


4.   Agencies must evaluate the effectiveness of their mentoring program at the end of the    mentoring cycle or annually.  


·         Review all participant assessments and recommendations

·         Summarize aspects of the program that are working well, and look for ways to make those aspects even better

·         Summarize the problem areas, identify mitigation strategies, assign owners and target dates


6.   Training for mentors and mentees.


Agencies may develop their own training for mentors and mentees, contract for this training, and/or use AgLearn courses.