Why Many Workplace Mentoring Programs FailMentoring Programs
Empirical study and expert analysis of mentorship in the workplace is built on over half a century of work. The answer is clear — mentoring is incredibly beneficial for both personal and professional development.
This domain agnostic practice is applicable in virtually any professional and organizational environment with both experienced and developing employees. From skilled trades to healthcare to STEM fields, these close, developmentally-oriented relationships are critical for the transfer of skills, strategies, and knowledge from one generation of professionals to another.
So, if mentorship is so important to both employee and organizational success, why do so many enterprises fail in their attempts to implement mentoring programs in the office?
In this article, we’ll outline the four likeliest culprits for when mentoring goes bad.
Why Workplace Mentoring Programs Fail
The Fortune 500 enterprise-class relies extensively on mentoring programs, with over 70% of these firms offering mentorship to their employees. For SMEs, the number sits closer to 25%. And yet, with all this industry effort, there are still many programs that don’t scratch the itch. Worse still, a growing body of psychological research highlights how bad mentoring experiences can actually have negative mental and even physical side effects.
In order for Chief People Officers, executives, and HR stakeholders to be confident in their pipeline of leadership-ready talent, a comprehensive organizational mentoring platform is key. This includes everything from selecting a properly structured program to identifying ideal partners to adopting mentoring software that streamlines the process in the era of remote work.
Here are some of the most common reasons why mentoring programs fail at the enterprise level.
Poor Program Design
Large organizations have an unfortunate drive to try and roll out employee mentorship programs as quickly as possible. Especially in our current climate of increased turnover, many stakeholders prioritize a faster rollout over the development of a program that truly addresses the needs of employees. While this may seem logical during skill shortages, this approach is often at the root of a poorly designed mentorship initiative.
The telltale signs of a poorly-designed mentoring program include:
- Creating a process that is either too constrained or too laissez-faire, missing out on the “goldilocks zone” of semi-structured, organic relationship development
- Creating a short-term solution that doesn’t allow mentor and mentee to establish the report that is crucial to success
- Selecting mentors based on professional success and not on their interpersonal abilities and industry experience
- A lack of adequate training for mentors and mentees to prepare them for the program
- No measures to collect data and feedback from both parties on their program experiences and outcomes
The first step to addressing these design flaws is a thorough understanding of the art of mentoring. Once executives and stakeholders are aware of the benefits mentoring programs provide, they can begin to select the business outcomes and overarching goals they are looking to achieve.
Finding the ideal fit between mentor and mentee can be a somewhat arduous process, but it’s crucial to success. In fact, identifying the ideal mentor for each junior employee is one of the single most important components of a successful mentoring program. A strong connection between mentor and mentee helps drive participation and produces better results. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to identify the right matching model for a given professional environment.
Should program administrators be creating the pairings? Do employees and mentors get free reign to identify a partner that best fits their personality? Is it better to match the pairings based on personality or domain? Should leadership provide suggestions to achieve a happy medium?
For SMEs and smaller organizations, the process is more straightforward. But for the larger enterprises out there, human resources departments and administrators will require the assistance of mentoring software to provide data-driven suggestions.
Lack of Structured Support
Like most enterprise-level initiatives, mentoring programs need consistent monitoring and fine-tuning to perfect. It’s not just something that you can roll out and then hope for the best. Stakeholders need to guide all participants, whether they are a mentor or a mentee, along their road to success. For organizations that employ thousands of workers across the globe, this can be a major challenge as not every journey is the same.
As outlined earlier, all program participants need to receive proper training to know what to expect throughout the mentoring process. By informing potential mentors and mentees about the ins and outs of the process, they can prepare for their role and also iron out the administrative and logistical tasks associated with regular meetups. Providing support resources to help navigate the initial feeling-out period is also key for creating a solid working relationship.
One of the most effective ways to ensure a successful mentor program is by creating personalized mentoring journeys. Since every employee is different, it is understandable that their path to success will include different methods of support, guidance, and encouragement. With the right mentoring platform, organizational leaders can provide the necessary structured support through a personalized journey for each mentee.
Remote Work Disruptions
The fundamentals of quality mentorship don’t change, but one thing certainly has after the last 18 months: the medium.
For decades, mentorship has been a face-to-face, in-person experience that allows both parties to feel out their ideal match while also growing that rapport that is so crucial to a quality mentoring experience. But now, more and more departments are transitioning to remote or hybrid operations, limiting the amount of physical time employees spend in the office.
A digital world offers many benefits to organizations, but providing ample time for synchronous communication is not one of them. People now rely on email, Slack, and video meetings to communicate, but only the latter is optimally positioned for remote mentoring programs. That’s why solutions like mentoring software are going to become a critical tool for enterprises looking to foster and retain talent in the new age of distributed organizations.