DOES TECHNOLOGY IMPROVE MENTORING OUTCOMES?
Many enquiries to Peer Resources pertain to identifying an effective method for matching mentors with partners and managing the relationships. In the last five years a number of organizations have developed specialized software or technology solutions to aid in connecting mentors and partners, tracking the relationships, and reporting and assessing the outcomes.
The data about the effectiveness of technological systems is far from compelling. In fact, published research is relatively silent about software-based or system-based matching and management of mentoring. The individual companies responsible for their own technological innovations typically provide supportive anecdotal data or testimonials they have gathered, but at present there are no independent, objective assessments.
In 2006 Peer Resources initiated a project to counter the lack of data. We intended to identify and assess the value of each of the various technology-aided mentoring management systems. However, circumstances prevented us from completing the data gathering, interviews, and review process.
How to Determine Which System is Right for Your Organization
Since that initial intention, we've modified our direction. Rather than evaluating each system ourselves, we have curated a series of the best and most objective articles that take the guess work out of selecting a valuable mentoring technology.
For example, we've developed, with the help of the team at River (one of the systems), a set of 10 criteria that can be used to assess each system. These are intended to be used as questions that potential users can ask each vendor. The answers to these questions (or lack of answers in some cases) can be used to determine which vendors provide a viable system to meet user needs. In addition, we expect the questions (or criteria) will themselves help potential users know what they need to know to make a decision about which system will be best for them. (The Top Ten Criteria appear at the end of this list).
In addition to the Top Ten Criteria, another mentoring software pioneer, River Mentoring Software & Services, has provided an article on how technology has changed the way we think about mentoring and how mentoring software speaks to the misconceptions that software makes mentoring impersonal. That article is available here.
River has also provided an article that details what they refer to as "the five must-have components in mentoring software." Read that article here.
Our list only includes companies that sell their technology or make their matching system part of a more comprehensive mentoring management system. Our list does not include organizations that use computerized matching exclusively to match the mentors and partners in their own in-house systems.
Many of the companies listed here provide demonstration versions of their systems. They all include an emphasis on the ability of their systems to be custom-designed to fit the needs of their clients. Only one organization provides any basic pricing information on their website. If any Peer Resources Network members have experience with these companies or if you know of companies that provide similar services that are not listed below, please let us know.
Company Name and Location
Name of Technology Developed
Website, Email, Phone
(Menlo Park, CA)
|Uncommon Individual Foundation
|TMC The Mentoring Connection, Inc.
(Prince William, VA)
|"The Mentoring Connection (TMC) Web-Based Tool"
|The Coaching and Mentoring Network
|"Mentor Matching Software"
+44 (0)870 733 3313
|River (Formerly Triple Creek Associates)
(Greenwood Village, CO)
(303) 707-0800 or (866) 470-1603
(Mill Valley, CA)
|Innovative Technology Solutions
|"Innovative Mentoring Software"
|Talentnova (formerly Intrainfinity)
(Scotts Valley, CA & Toronto, ON)
|iMentor (not available as of September 2011)
(New York, New York)
|"iMentor Interactive" (no longer available)
|"MentorCore" (Formerly MentorPRO)
|America Learns Tutoring and Mentoring Programs
(Los Angeles, California)
|"Performance Measurement & Learning Network"
(US, Europe, South Africa, Sweden)
(817) 355-0939 (Texas)
|"Learning Relationship Management"
|Life Moxie Mentoring and Leadership
(Red Bank, New Jersey)
|"Smart Mentoring Platform"
(Inverness, United Kingdom)
(San Francisco, CA & Atlanta, GA)
(888) 532-7503 or (647) 983.6670
The Top Ten Criteria to Assess Mentor Software
(Developed with the help of the team at TripleCreek)
1. The software should be able to be configured by the organization to accommodate:
- Demographic profile fields;
- Competency/skill sets and frameworks;
- Privacy Statement;
- Click-through Agreement for users;
- Single Sign-on (SSO) for authentication; and
- Integration with other systems of record via a secure data push process.
2. The software needs to meet stringent security requirements (such as hosted in a SSAE 16 Type II environment).
3. Users need to be able to profile themselves on demographic/work history information and level-set their experience related to the competency/skill framework(s) that were configured by the organization.
4. Both users and administrators need to be able to create intentional learning engagements (w/defined goals and timeframes) via a guided workflow process, with the ability to:
- Set the engagements as private (invite-only) or public (open and available for anyone to join);
- Allow for participation in the engagements to be of any size, ranging from traditional one-to-one connections to groups of 100 or more; and
- Make the connections in a variety of ways (such as self-directed, administrator-matched, or facilitated by another third-party such as one’s manager).
5. The software should have an integrated algorithm that makes smart recommendations to users regarding engagements and users that they might be interested in joining/connecting with based on their competency/skill profiles and powers a search function that allows users to search for:
- Engagements to join.
- Users to connect with; and
- Resources and content within public engagements to read/access.
6. The software should automatically send notifications that direct users to take necessary actions (such as email asking a user to respond to an invitation to join an engagement).
7. Users need to have the ability to collaborate with others in their engagements by leveraging the following types of collaboration utilities:
- Discussion threads (posts and responses);
- Questions ability to ask questions and have a thread of responses;
- Events ability to create events (such as a web-conference) with other participants;
- Resources ability to share resources (such as white papers, articles, links) with other participants;
- To-Dos ability to assign and track tasks; and
- Polls ability to ask poll questions of other engagement participants.
8. The software should allow users to provide feedback in multiple ways:
- Evaluating the effectiveness of engagements;
- Indicating competency/skill gains over time; and
- Providing positive/appreciative feedback to other users around their participation.
9. The software should include robust administrative reporting that provides business intelligence on both usage/activity (snapshot and over time) and organizational impact (such as competency improvements, engagement effectiveness). This type of intelligence should be available via standard reports and data export capabilities.
10. The software should be available in multiple languages to assist with use across the workforce for global organizations.