As a production company, charity, or organisation, you may wish to run a formal or informal mentoring programme as a stand-alone activity, or you may have, or plan to have, informal/formal mentoring as part of a wider activity e.g. trainee or work placement scheme.
These guidelines have been created by ScreenSkills based on experience of running our own programme and supporting a variety of organisations based in the film, TV, animation, games and visual effects (VFX) industries. This support was made possible by National Lottery funding to support the British Film Institute’s Future Film Skills strategy 2017-2022 (extended to 2023 due to the impact of Covid-19 on the screen industry).
These guidelines set out the purpose of mentoring, how to run and evaluate a mentoring programme and should be tailored to your needs.
Lots of mentoring can, and does, take place in an informal way. These conversations and partnerships are just as useful as more formal schemes. The general principles and things to consider when setting up a more formal mentoring scheme are listed below. The list is not exhaustive.
Mentoring is a one-to-one confidential partnership between a mentor and a mentee.
The mentor is willing and able to share their experience and ideas with a mentee who wants to develop and progress in their career. The mentor helps the mentee to problem solve and to think for themselves. Mentors do not need to have all the answers.
As a general guide, mentoring partnerships can take place over a set period, e.g. one hour a month for six months. A one-off conversation is not mentoring; mentoring is a learning and development activity focusing on the mentee.
The following sections explore which situations are suitable for mentoring, how to manage expectations, how to set up mentoring partnerships and match mentors and mentors. There is also advice on communication and training. Use the arrows to expand the boxes for more information.
Mentoring can be used for many reasons, including to support and/or develop:
- Someone on a training or trainee course (to embed the learning)
- General career development of individuals
- Applicants who were unsuccessful, but put in a good application or did a good interview, for a job role
- Those identified as talent
- Someone who is held back due to barriers/obstacles
- Opportunities to develop a pipeline for under-represented groups
- Organisational initiatives, e.g: to break down silos or barriers between teams/disciplines; to give employees access to external mentors to tackle an organisational skills gap; to develop a coaching/mentoring/supportive/learning culture.
Important things to note
Mentoring should be a development opportunity rather than remedial. It should be something people want to do rather than forced to do or because they are failing in some way.
To give mentoring the chance of succeeding, it should be introduced because of a real business/development need, not just because it is a ‘good idea’ or ‘trendy’. The reason for mentoring and the aims of the programme should be shared.
Mentoring partnerships should take place outside of the usual line management structure. For example, a mentee should not be mentored by their boss, or their boss’s boss, or higher up the direct line management chain.
Mentoring is one of many leadership styles, along with delegating, directing and coaching. It should naturally be included as part of any line manager’s toolkit to help them lead, manage and develop their own team members.
Manage expectations and be clear about:
- Minimum time commitment
- Duration of partnership
- Central support offered and how to access it
- Boundaries within a mentoring partnership
- Whether training or briefings are on offer to both mentors and mentees, and whether these are mandatory, face-to-face or available online
- Any reporting that is required from mentor and mentee e.g. evaluation form, learning log and when you require it
Be clear about what mentoring is and what it is not.
Mentoring is where a mentor:
- Helps the mentee to focus on specific goals, problems, challenges or general career development
- Encourages the mentee to identify possible ways forward
- Shares ideas, stories, examples, expertise
- Helps the mentee identify an action or a way forward to take steps to reach their goal or solve the problem, overcome the challenge, develop their career
- Listens, asks questions, encourages, supports, challenges, gives feedback, champions
Mentoring is where the mentee:
- Is focused and clear how they want to use mentoring
- Wants to develop and learn from the mentor
- Prepares for the meetings by creating the agenda (goals) and doing actions agreed to after each meeting
- Arranges the meetings
- Is willing to generate ideas, be challenged and receive feedback
Mentoring is not where the mentor:tells the mentee what to do, expects the mentee to work for them for free or focuses the conversations on their own story.
It is also not where a mentee expects the mentor to train them in a skill or craft, give them a job, commission their ideas or help them get an award e.g. an Oscar or BAFTA. Neither should they expect a mentor to share their contacts, offer opportunities to shadow them or join them on set/at work. Many of these are good career goals but are not within the control of the mentee and mentor.
In preparation for setting up a mentoring programme, consider the following:
- Ensure that appropriate resources are secured for running and maintaining the mentoring programme: human; time; money; systems for reporting
- Identify someone who will deal with queries from mentors and mentees during the programme
- Where appropriate, especially for internal stand-alone schemes, the mentoring scheme has senior support and/or a credible champion
- Timelines should be clear, so people know what to expect by when, who to contact, next steps and actions
- Prepare supporting documentation, which can include session/learning log for mentee, evaluation form, mentee action plan
You should also consider your approach. For example, recruit more mentors than you need so you have flexibility in making mentoring matches or recruit mentors before getting mentees so you know how many mentees can be supported.
You could recruit your mentees first and then seek appropriate mentors or recruit mentors and mentees at the same time and match on what a mentor can offer to what a mentee is looking for.
Consider reverse mentoring. This is where, for example, a junior person mentors a senior person in a topic e.g. social media.
Highlight benefits of mentoring for the mentee, mentor and the business/industry. Be clear about what mentors can learn from mentoring e.g. challenges and barriers faced by people from under represented groups, or who are at an entry or early career stage.
We recommend mentors and mentees receive training and guidance about how to give and get the best from mentoring. Where training or a briefing is offered consider including:
- A definition of mentoring; the purpose of mentoring
- The key skills to bring to mentoring e.g. listening, giving and receiving feedback, building rapport, planning and organising
- Tools and resources which can be used during the meetings for the mentors and mentees (with time to practice) e.g. how to structure a meeting, goal setting and action planning, giving and receiving feedback, identifying strengths and development needs, roles and responsibilities
- How mentors and mentees should contract or agree how they are going to work together, including confidentiality, conflict of interests, boundaries, safeguarding
- A code of conduct, ethical guidelines or share the values and behaviours that are expected
- What to do if there is a problem and where to go for support
- Benefits of mentoring
Stay in touch with mentors and mentees during the programme to keep engagement high and to troubleshoot any problems.
For example, you could make contact once a quarter to share: a link to an article; an updated document; a reminder about any reporting or data you need from them; a change or addition to policy; a reminder about where to go for support; some generic anonymous feedback/testimonial about the mentoring scheme; update on numbers/impact/evaluation; a request for case studies to share more widely.
The process for matching mentees to mentors should be carefully considered and appropriate. Application forms (if used) should be fully accessible for mentors and mentees and should ask for similar information to aid the matching process. This consistency also helps with reporting and analysis.
Application information could include:
- General information: name; contact details; role; career stage; craft or department; online presence, membership of professional organisations; access requirements
- For mentors: what they can bring to mentoring, skills, knowledge, expertise; the role or career stage of their ideal mentee
- For mentees: what they want to gain from mentoring, skills, knowledge, expertise; their top three achievements; a personal statement about how they would use the mentoring opportunity
- Location and willingness/access to travel and/or willingness to meet virtually (e.g. video call, phone)
- Depending on the purpose of the mentoring programme, any personal data you want to collect - refer to current data protection regulations and guidelines for collection, use and storage of personal data
- Terms and conditions, such as agreement for the mentoring manager/team to use the application details for mentoring matching, how the data will be used and stored, and who will have access to the data.
Create a timeline for all stages of mentoring and contact points, so people know what to expect and when it will happen. This should include introducing mentors and mentees; the start and end of the mentoring partnerships; training; check-ins; requests for feedback; any additional events or training.
Where there are deadlines, be clear about your expectations of mentors and mentors and give them reminders.
Matching can be done by the mentoring programme manager based on:
- General experience and skill in a field/sector e.g. visual effects; hair and make-up; production management
- Specific skills within a field/sector
- General career development
- Diversity, under-representation
- Career stage
Mentoring matches could also be made where there are no common areas in order to broaden horizons, increase understanding across boundaries etc. for both the mentor and the mentee
Mentees could form a shortlist of mentors who have written a statement about their experience and what they can offer to mentees, or vice versa.
You could run a mentoring event for mentors and mentees giving them the opportunity to meet as many people as possible and identify who they would like to be their mentoring partner.
If you decide to match on specific skills and expertise, mentors can list all/key areas of skills, knowledge and expertise they have to offer or make selections from a prepared list you have created.
If you ask mentors to list all their skills and then ask mentees to list what they are looking for, you run the risk of the skills not matching, and mis-managing expectations. It can be more tailored to the programme aims, ensure more consistency and manage expectations if the mentors and mentees select from a prepared list of skills or themes.
Where you are matching based on specific skills, you could ask the mentee to select what they want and to prioritise a maximum of up to a maximum number, e.g. eight. Be clear that you will aim to match on a minimum number, e.g. five.
If you are matching on a list of specific skills, it is unlikely that there will be a perfect match of eight skills on each occasion. By prioritising what they are looking for, the mentee is beginning to identify the focus of what they want from the mentoring partnership.
You may match mentors and mentees based on meetings, interviews or conversations you have with each of them. In this case you may base your decision on rapport and experience or knowledge of each.
This will involve a lot of your time but is likely to improve the chances of the mentoring partnerships being successful, and you have the opportunity to build a good relationship between you and the participants. You may want to consider having one or two meetings with the mentees to help them set suitable goals, before they meet their mentor.
Once the mentoring partnerships have been set up, consider running some events for mentors and mentees.
You may want to run a launch or induction session; mentoring training sessions; additional learning and networking sessions for both mentors and mentees which can be good to build connections; a graduation event.
It is good practice to offer structured and facilitated sessions for mentors to share experiences and to learn from each other. These encourage knowledge to be shared, a consistent approach and builds a community spirit between mentors.
You may want to check in with mentors and mentees informally during the mentoring programme, to get feedback along the way and troubleshoot immediate problems.
It is good practice to evaluate the programme more formally e.g. halfway through and at the end, as well as beyond the mentoring partnership to evaluate its longer term impact.
After the mentoring it is important to identify what worked, what could be improved, the impact it had on the mentee and the mentor, and whether the programme met the original aims and objectives.
Systems and processes will need to be in place to track, monitor, report and analyse based on the original aims, purpose, KPIs and targets. This may take months or a year or more to demonstrate as the mentees develop and progress in their careers.
When evaluating the activity, you may include questions relating to:
- The original overall purpose of the mentoring scheme
- How the mentors and mentees experienced the mentoring partnership
- How the mentors and mentees experienced the admin/support
- Progress made by the mentee towards their goals and longer term in their career
- What worked well, could be done differently
- A quote for marketing and publicity purposes