6 Reasons Mentoring Programs Fail

Published on
May 30, 2022

In order to support employees over the long term and help them tackle their career goals, it’s important for organizations to offer well-thought-out mentoring programs and growth opportunities.

While the idea of starting a mentorship program sounds great on the surface, it’s often much more challenging than originally anticipated. Companies can start a mentoring program with all of the best intentions, only to find that it ends up failing and not producing the desired result.

What causes mentoring programs to fail? What can organizations do to address common points of failure early in the development and implementation process?

In this blog, we’re going to explore common reasons for failure in employee mentorship programs and discuss what your business can do to avoid these potential pitfalls.

Why do mentoring programs fail?

While most businesses start mentorship programs with all of the best intentions in mind, implementing and running these programs doesn’t always go to plan. Effectively managing the mentor-mentee relationship can be challenging, especially if both parties aren’t aware of how to make this relationship work with maximum efficiency.

Pairing a mentor with a single mentee or group of employees is only the first step. In order to effectively mentor all the individuals looking to them for expertise and industry knowledge, the mentor has to understand how to engage and lead the group.

Some of the most common mentoring program failures occur during the process of choosing a mentor, when there is a lack of clarity regarding the mentorship program, when participants are inadequately trained on mentoring when structural bottlenecks occur, and when an organization doesn’t customize its mentorship program.

1. Poor Pairing of Mentors & Mentees

When mentors and mentees aren’t matched up in relation to the goals your organization has, the mentor-mentee relationship can suffer.

A great example can be made with new hires and employees who are just joining your organization without much internal knowledge of your processes, rules, regulations, and best practices. An ideal mentor for a new hire would be an experienced individual who is willing and able to pass on their knowledge and isn’t afraid of being asked numerous questions. Depending on the mentor’s personality type and how responsive they are to sharing their knowledge, this mentor-mentee relationship can either go very smoothly or terribly wrong.

On the other hand, if an individual is already well-established in their career and requires a mentorship program to push them into management or a further leadership role, the ideal mentors might be executives or other managers with extensive experience.

Take the time to match employees with mentors that are ideally suited to their current situation. Organizations that overlook the importance of proper pairing tend to experience difficulties further down the line.

2. Lack of Goal Clarity

Take the time to identify the primary goal of your organization’s mentorship program upfront. What is expected of the mentor? What is expected of the mentee(s)? This can be established by creating a mentoring plan document.

If mentors and mentees don’t have a clear goal in mind, they’ll be forced to “improvise” and come up with the discussions they have on the fly. At times, this can be a great thing as it forces collaboration between mentors and mentees. Most of the time, however, it creates a scattered approach that can only end up confusing both parties.

As an example, if a new employee is entering your organization and needs a mentor to guide them through the onboarding process, it would be ideal to have an “onboarding guidebook” or “onboarding checklist” a mentor can walk them through step by step. Mentoring software can also help 

3. Inadequate Training in Mentoring Relationships

Do both mentors and mentees know what is expected of them, and do they have the training required to have a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship?

If a mentor doesn’t know what is required of them and expected of them, how can they effectively pass on their knowledge and skills to their mentees? Organizations can implement mentor training programs that show mentors how to be effective mentors, and what they should do to engage their mentees consistently.

Similarly, mentees should also be aware of your organization’s best practices, policies, and training expectations they should uphold.

4. Structural Bottlenecks

Structural bottlenecks can seriously inhibit mentoring programs, and there are two opposite extremes that lend themselves to failure.

If your organization is too structured in the way you expect the mentor-mentee relationship to progress, you could be inhibiting progress and simply frustrating all of those involved. In other words, this is essentially “micromanaging” both your mentors and their mentees.

Similarly, being too loose with your rules, regulations, and expectations allows mentors and mentees to do “whatever they want”, which isn’t very productive in the long term.

Establishing a healthy balance between properly structuring your mentorship program and leaving mentors and mentees room to make some of their own decisions is the ideal way to prevent a structural bottleneck failure.

As an additional bonus, providing a mentorship report with data and feedback, such as this example mentoring report from CWU, about how your mentors and mentees feel is a great way to learn how things are progressing. A good mentoring software can help you accomplish and streamline this process. 

5. Not Customizing Your Mentorship Programs

Oftentimes, it’s not worth it to reinvent the wheel. There are effective mentorship platforms that your business can implement and use – there’s nothing wrong with leveraging this information for your own mentorship programs.

The problem lies with organizations that take this information and don’t customize or tailor it to their specific needs and expectations. If your company has certain policies, terms, or jargon you use within your company, you should update all mentorship program materials to match.

While this may seem self-explanatory, it is often overlooked. Take the time to properly update and tailor any external material you use to your organization’s standards – it’ll pay off significantly in the long run.

6. Lack of Participation 

Companies often overlook the benefits of mentoring that come from a mentoring relationship. If mentors don't see a benefit to them, a mentoring program can fail due to lack of participation from senior managers. 

To overcome this, companies should use a mentoring program to identify top mentors and see their contributions as part of their career growth. Additionally, you can explore a rewards system as a way to acknowledge your top employees and their contributions to creating a more productive business environment.

Examine Your Organization’s Mentoring Programs

We’ve discussed several common pitfalls organizations encounter when implementing or creating mentoring programs, and several ways you can avoid making these mistakes within your own company.

Take the time to examine your organization’s current mentoring programs, and whether or not you’re currently making any of these mistakes.

If you catch it early, you can fix it early, ultimately resulting in your mentorship program thriving and succeeding.

To learn more about how you can make your mentoring program a success, book a demo of MentorCloud’s platform and a mentoring specialist will get in touch with you. 

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