Mentoring Program Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

December 14, 2012

Mentoring is as old as time and actively used in organizations today. Personally learning from someone who has been there and done that is the most fundamental way to pass along knowledge. It holds true whether its learning to start a fire, hunt, farm or for creating killer spreadsheets, writing code or leading an organization in innovative technology development.

Organizations are finding that mentoring is a business and organizational strategy as well as a talent development strategy. By moving from an informal experience to a more formal targeted strategy organizations are satisfying their defined organizational goals.

However, business leaders, L&D and HR professionals often responsible for mentoring initiatives can suffer through the most common mistakes that sabotage their effort as they design, implement and manage their organizational mentoring programs.

Common Mistakes of Mentoring Programs

Recognizing at the outset the common pitfalls in mentoring programs is the first step in avoiding failure. Below are the seven common pitfalls many organizations experience:
  1. Lack of structure and guidance
  2. Lack in clarity of purpose
  3. Lack of interest or support from management
  4. People not understanding their roles
  5. No how to training
  6. No recurs if the partnership is not working
  7. Inability to manage program and ensure sustainability

How to Avoid Mentoring Program Failure

Plan, Implement, Evaluate and Manage, call it the PIEM model. Beginning with planning -
  • Establish clear objectives and metrics and tie them to organizational goals.
  • Ensure you have identified all possible challenges.
  • Nominate a committed program administrator that participants can turn to for guidance.

Consider gaining insight from consultants who can offer guidance on identifying the right mentoring ideology for a specific organization, as not all mentoring programs will have the same goals. Its identifying the end result or the organizational goals in advance that will help form the type of mentoring program that can be successful. Insala, the leading global provider for mentoring solutions offers a mentoring readiness workshop geared to organizations considering mentoring and seeking guidance in the planning process and more.

Next is implementation of the now targeted mentoring program. This includes the following:

  • Marketing and branding your mentoring program. Get the message out using all appropriate mediums available, company intranet, common area signage, rollout at a company meeting communicating this new company sponsored career development benefit, weekly meeting news, company newsletter, etc.
  • Communicate more specifically the mentoring process details for greater understanding, enticement and utilization of the program.
  • Provide training for mentors, mentees, managers/supervisors and program administrators. Ensure roles and expectations are understood as well as provide resources for advice.

Evaluation of the program is critical to sustainability and to ensure success of mentoring partnerships, adjusting process/protocol and overall success of a mentoring program. Track progress of each mentoring partnership and gather ongoing feedback from program participants.

Finally, manage the mentoring program with the support of an online mentoring software solution that helps track interactions and the progress of each partnership. Online mentoring solutions, such as those offered by Insala, allows for administrators to track interactions, gather feedback and organize quantitative data with reporting features to calculate ROI.

Additional value beyond tracking and measuring results is a matching and pairing feature that helps mentees find the right mentor based on their development goals. Furthermore, the use of an online technology solution decreases the time spent administering the program by almost 50%.

To avoid the common pitfalls of mentoring programs, use the PIEM Model - Plan, Implement, Evaluate and Manage. With defined organizational goals to act as a guide, a successful mentoring program can become a key benefit that draws top talent to your organization.


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