Faced with an increasingly complex, fast-moving and ambiguous business environment, more and more companies are looking to build the leadership skills, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence of their staff to gain a competitive advantage. One of the most effective ways to grow capabilities internally is through a formal mentoring program.
However, when starting a new mentoring program, companies can make some common mistakes. Read about and avoid the following blunders to give your mentoring program the greatest chances for success.
Mistake #1: Starting a mentoring program without setting clear goals.
Organizations start mentoring programs for several reasons: to increase diversity among leadership roles, to develop high potential employees, to retain and keep engaged their most experienced employees, or some other reasons.
However, without a clear sense of purpose for the program, it’s likely to flounder. Tactical decisions such as who should be included in the program as mentors and mentees, the structure of the program, etc. will depend on the purpose of the mentoring program.
Further, if there are no particular goals for the program, there is no way to evaluate whether the program is working or not. Although the outcomes for mentoring are broad and sometimes indirect, if there aren’t clear KPI’s related to the program (such as the number of mentees promoted to new positions, employee tenure, etc.) the program won’t be able to demonstrate success. Check out this article to see how to create smart goals around mentoring programs.
Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from top leadership.
As with any program within an organization, if the top executives don’t play a role in or otherwise support the program, it’s not likely to have much impact.
A mentoring program that doesn’t have top leadership support is not likely to have the resources, time and attention necessary to be a success. Part of what makes a mentoring program valuable is the the message to the rest of the organization that the participants are worth investing in, and without executive support, this message is undermined.
Greater competence in navigating the political system within the organization is often a key outcome for mentees. If the mentoring program has failed to be a priority in the eyes of the executives, it’s not likely to help the mentees learn how to garner support for their own initiatives and goals. To combat that, we've created a 4-step strategy to get buy-in for a mentoring program from the C-suite.
Mistake #3: Not providing clear expectations and training for participants.
Clarifying roles and providing support to participants is a critical part of a successful mentoring program. New mentees may not always understand their role, and expect the mentor to reach out when typically the mentee should drive the relationship.
Additionally, being a good mentor isn’t always intuitive or easy. Skills like active listening, leadership, and questioning are important to mentors, and people need help developing them. Your mentors would almost assuredly benefit from additional training or support. Further, mentoring programs are all different: some may be more structured than others, and it pays to take the time to get everyone on the same page.
Mistake #4: Dedicating too few resources to the program.
Running a good mentoring program takes time and resources. When there hasn’t been enough commitment to the program by the organization, mentoring programs can sometimes start off with a bang, and then fizzle out.
Further, many organizations don’t have the expertise in house to successfully run a mentoring program. In these cases, it’s important to contract with a reputable professional services firm that can provide mentoring expertise.
Mistake #5: Failing to use technology to support mentoring programs.
While a pilot program might include only a few mentor/mentee pairs, scaling a mentoring program across a large organization demands a lot of coordination. In these cases, an online mentoring platform is essential. When compared to manual tracking, using an online platform can save up to 50% on the costs of running a mentoring program.
In addition, leveraging technology in a mentoring program can allow employees to connect with one another across divisions, geography, etc. to provide mentees with access to the mentors with the right experience, allowing employees to get the “just-in-time” mentoring that they need.
Mistake #6: Pairing up mentors and mentees randomly or out of convenience.
For a mentoring relationship to be fruitful, there needs to be a certain level of rapport between the mentor and the mentee. This is less likely to happen if the pair doesn’t have complementary goals and interests, or similar personalities and temperaments.
Generally, it’s best to have the program administrator set up pairs or to have mentees choose their mentor, but it depends on the purpose of the program. Mentor pairs can also be effectively matched through a mentoring software system.
Starting a mentoring program can produce excellent results for an organization. However, when organizations commit the most common mistakes when starting a mentoring program, the program is less successful than it could be.
Ready to start a mentoring program?