The 6 Common Mistakes That Make Good Corporate Mentoring Programs Fail

By EverwiseAugust 14, 2014

Research consistently shows that mentoring can help organizations recruit, retain and develop top talent. But only when it’s done right.

Your company may have a workplace mentoring program in place, but is it living up to its full potential?

In practice, companies often struggle to deliver great mentoring experiences, particularly at scale. Our recently published whitepaper assesses six obstacles that hold many programs back, with guidance on overcoming them to deliver outstanding mentoring experiences to employees to really create an outstanding corporate mentoring program.

1. Mentor Motivation

In a quest to meet the demand from protégés, many companies pressure people into becoming mentors, resulting in impressive numbers but poor engagement. If people only participate because they’ve been “voluntold”, they won’t provide the enthusiasm and commitment that is at the heart of any good mentoring experience.

2. Protégé Goal Setting

Have your protégés taken the time to define sharp, specific goals for their mentors to help them achieve? Often, people approach a mentoring partnership with vague, ill-defined objectives, which makes it difficult for their mentors to help them, and difficult for the organizers to measure progress. The mentoring relationship can lack direction, and become a talking exercise.

3. Effective Matching

If you only have a few dozen people in your program and you know them all well, then you’ll probably do a good job of matching each protégé with the ideal mentor. But when programs become larger, the process becomes very messy very quickly.

The danger is that people end up getting matched based on more superficial criteria like job title or tactical skills. Effective matching, in mentoring just as in romance, is a much more complex process. And when protégés are left to find their own mentors by sifting through profiles, they tend to go for the people with the most impressive titles, overlooking specific match qualities.

4. Protégé Openness

Honesty is an essential component of any good mentoring relationship. But often protégés are guarded, particularly when they need to discuss sensitive issues like problems with a boss or co-worker. They may fear comments coming back to haunt them, or in other cases they may simply want to make a good impression. If they don’t discuss weaknesses and problems, they won’t get as much out of the partnership as they could.

5. Providing Structure

How do you support your mentors and protégés? Most mentorship programs provide information and guidance at the outset, but after that things often tail off. Resources are limited, and HR departments may have conflicting priorities that prevent them from providing hands-on assistance.

The result? Good mentoring relationships can turn sour due to simple problems that could have been resolved with the right support.

6. Tracking Outcomes

The results of enterprise mentoring programs are rarely measured. Sometimes the only metric available is the total number of mentor-protégé pairings, which doesn’t mean much. But effective metrics are critical if you want to judge the program’s success, plan its evolution, and justify its budget. They also crucial for protégés and mentors to assess personal progress. If you don’t track outcomes, your participants will lack clarity, and you’ll lack the information you need to manage the program effectively.

Solutions That Work

If any of these problems sound familiar, don’t worry. We offer expertise in how to overcome these 6 challenges and create workplace mentoring programs that help employees grow and develop.

For example, you can deal with the first challenge of mentor motivation by articulating the benefits of mentoring—not for the company, but for the individual. Research shows that mentors are more likely to get raises and get promoted. Talk in those terms, and you’ll have more motivated mentors.

And when recruiting mentors, if you don’t have enough internal candidates, consider sourcing externally. We believe that organizations with fewer than 3,000 employees may simply not have enough managers and organizational breadth to internally support an ongoing program.

Our white paper further explores these challenges, and the solutions that we consistently see working.



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