Why do mentoring programs fail?

By Jan Murray
How to avoid a mentoring program failure

Last updated

Studies have indicated that workers are more likely to thrive in their professional environment when they have a mentor.

Why then do these mentoring initiatives frequently fall short? Although these programs are launched with the most positive intentions, their outcomes often vary. They may be perceived by some as a needless expenditure of time, and securing the dedication of managers and staff is a common hurdle.

Moreover, in the contemporary era, the terms 'mentoring' and 'coaching' have increasingly been used synonymously, with coaching emerging as the trendier approach. Nevertheless, coaching and mentoring are distinct processes, each yielding valuable results, but with different goals in mind. Mentoring schemes offer businesses an economical way to foster employee growth and logically, these can start following the yearly performance evaluation.

So, how do we establish a mentoring bond or scheme that will reap rewards for all parties involved: the mentor, the mentee, and the organisation? Let's begin by understanding what mentoring entails.

What exactly does mentoring imply?

Mentoring commonly denotes a professional connection where an individual with extensive experience (known as the mentor) collaborates with another (referred to as the mentee) to support them in refining distinct skills and knowledge. This is done with the aim to augment the mentee's growth both professionally and personally. In certain circumstances, there are benefits to using reverse mentoring which can be adopted to enlighten more seasoned employees, specifically in realms such as technology and social media.

Mentoring can span a structured scheme aimed at fulfilling a particular objective, like the transfer of knowledge, to matching an employee with a mentor to aid in their adjustment to a new role. The practice of mentoring can enhance employee retention rates and boost morale, while also aiding in the recruitment process, fostering workplace diversity, and promoting integration within the organisation.

Key Elements for Mentoring Success

Similar to all initiatives, mentoring will not yield benefits if established merely for its own "sake". The efficacy of mentoring is highest when both the mentor and the mentee recognise the value of their interaction and are fully engaged. The mentor may experience a sense of "giving back", and while the advantages for the mentee may appear self-evident, it's important that the expectations and benefits are explicitly defined and addressed at the outset.

One of the primary causes of mentoring relationship failures is the lack of structure and direction. Rather than establishing clear objectives from the start, progressing towards them, and reassessing them periodically, the relationship might devolve into an unproductive session of aimless talk or a therapeutic "agony aunt" relationship. Both the mentor and mentee need to stay aligned with the original goal and consistently measure their progress against this.

Frequently, time is referenced as an obstacle to fruitful mentoring relationships. The mentor or mentee's reluctance to devote substantial time can lead to the cancellation of meetings. This is often a consequence of the relationship being unstructured or directionless, or it may even be due to the relationship growing stagnant. If either party perceives that they are not gaining from the relationship or witnessing the desired outcomes, then they are more inclined to call it off. However, if the relationship is proving to be beneficial and satisfying to both parties, then it's more likely to continue and flourish.

Steps to Establish an Efficient Mentoring Program

The foremost thing to consider about a mentoring program is that it ought to be adaptable to concurrently satisfy the needs of the organisation, mentor, and mentee. Accordingly, meetings can be conducted in person, over the phone, or online.

Regardless of how the relationship is identified, paired, or conducted, the following aspects must be defined at the outset:

Pinpoint a Suitable Match
Investigate both inside and beyond your organisation to guarantee that your mentee is coupled with a mentor who embodies the necessary knowledge, competence, and personality traits conducive to successful mentorship.

Define Objectives
Specify what the relationship is set to accomplish. Typical developmental objectives can range from career advice, transfer of knowledge, refinement of communication skills, project supervision, to leadership enhancement.

Secure Engagement
Mentoring relies on the voluntary participation of both parties. For the process to yield positive results, both the mentor and mentee must be genuinely interested in participating and have the time to commit. They need to comprehend the potential benefits and have the tools to foster the relationship and keep the momentum going.

Assessment and Progression
Ensure that both parties assess the process and agree on the future course once the objective has been met.

Mentoring may not be a ground-breaking strategy, but it is an influential mechanism that can sharpen particular employee abilities. Mentoring isn't confined to its traditional format and organisations are encouraged to rethink and implement it effectively to capture its rewards.

If you are interested in learning more about how to administer a successful mentoring program, feel free to reach out.

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