Corporate Mentoring Programs

Is Your Mentoring Program Underperforming? Here’s how to Fix It.

Is your mentoring program falling short? Learn how to identify and address common issues that can impact the effectiveness of your program in our latest blog.

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The main reason Mentoring Programs fail lies in faulty preparation. Did you just click “start” on the software and send out an email blast? Was there a plan on how to garner attention and bring about participation? Were the company goals defined before it launched?

But even if meticulous planning was done, Mentoring Programs can fall into common pitfalls crippling their success from the start.

If your Mentoring Program is underperforming there are a few keys areas you should focus on improving to turn the ship around. A Mentoring Program is almost never beyond salvage. Simple tune-ups can take a program from failure to roaring success.

Here are the main make or break points of a Mentoring Program:

1. Lack of communication with participants.
2. Low engagement.
3. The program isn’t tailored to specific goals
4. Matching was botched.
5. Senior Management didn’t make it a priority.

1 - Lack of communication with participants

There is no such thing as perfect. No matter how carefully something is planned there will always be unforeseen wrinkles. The trick is to handle them fast when they come up. When it comes to Mentoring Programs, one of the best ways to handle problems is to open up communication channels with participants and employees from the very start.

Asking for feedback at the end of the program isn’t enough. By then it might be too late. Sure you can take that information and do better next time, but why not get feedback throughout the program so you can course correct on the fly?

Make sure there are communication channels in place for participants to log complaints, share successes and give constructive feedback on how it is going. Frequently check in with participants after meetings by emailing them. Create an automatic survey that goes out after mentoring sessions to get immediate feedback that you can use in realtime to improve the program.

Use feedback to correct weak points and enforce things that are working. To best understand feedback and how to use it, it is best to work closely with an experienced consultant who has a track record of running successful Mentoring Programs.

2 – Low Engagement

Participants need to be actively engaged in the Mentoring Program or it will die away. Sometimes the end comes fast and sometimes it’ll be a slow trickle of lowering activity.

To avoid this, marketing plans need to run from program launch to finish. Too often, Mentoring Programs start out with a bang. The marketing is strong. Emails go out, social media focuses on mentoring and the program gets a ton of sign-ups. But to take advantage of that initial interest marketing needs to continue.

Without the right Public Relations actions to encourage participants to continue to engage with the platform, engagement will slip away. Promoting the Mentoring Program is easy to do. Find successes and share them on social media. Ask mentees who are enjoying the program to share their experiences on intra-company channels such as newsletters or Facebook Groups.

The key is to draw up a marketing plan that doesn’t let up until the program is complete that way it will grow and have life all the way to its conclusion. Have a complete marketing plan before launching.

3 – The Program isn’t tailored to specific goals.

Announcing to your employees that the organization is launching a Mentoring Program will often fall on deaf ears. There has to be specific goals attached. Employees won’t know what you are asking them to get involved with unless the goals are hyper specific.

In the planning stages, ask yourself questions about why your company needs mentoring? Are you trying to boost engagement? Does your company suffer from lack of culture? Are you trying to skill transfer from the top executives to lower level talent? Are retention rates needing to be improved.

Step one is to define the goals for yourself. Step two is to rephrase those goals into attractive concepts you can market to your employees.

With these goals in mind, your mentoring program can be tailored to achieve exactly what you want it to. You can also communicate the obtainable goals to your employees. It’s a lot easier to convince people to participate when they know they will be learning new skills from Upper Management Mentors or develop their careers by networking with sectors of the company that have always been out of reach.

Be clear about goals in all marketing. Tell your employees what you want them to get out of it. "Sign up for Mentoring" is flat. "Get one on one mentoring sessions from top management" pops with excitement.

4 – Matching was botched.

Matching is the bedrock of a Mentoring Program. If the matches between mentors and mentees aren’t right the relationships will be strained and the program can fail.

Entire volumes can be written on matching. There are a lot of wrong ways to do it and only a few right ways. Letting participants self-match can be risky. Using common interests as a basis for matching can make your program narrow. You want participants to be exposed to people outside of their comfort zone.

If matching is botched, there will minimally be stagnant and unproductive relationships within the program. The worst case scenario is intra-company upsets and argument. This can be catastrophic especially if one of the programs goals is to boost diversity and inclusion.

Some of the key components of successful matching are:

Skills – What does the mentee want to learn. Who can teach them these skills?

Goals – What do participants want to achieve? Participants should fill out a survey when they enroll so their goals for the program are clear. Do they want to network? Do they want to advance their careers? Gain leadership skills? Keep this in mind when matching so you can deliver on these goals.

Distance – Do mentees want to meet with mentors in person or over Zoom? How often? You can match with mentors who have similar preferences.

Experience – When matching, try to arrange mentees with mentors who have background in the areas participants want to explore. If you have a mentee who wants to learn to be a great public speaker, find a mentor who can teach them these skills.

Inclusion – This one can be tricky. Personally, I like to try and mix it up. I try to find people with polar opposite backgrounds and match them. I’ve found this exposes mentees to demographics, cultures and professional backdrops they would not otherwise interact with and makes for a more enriching experience on both ends of the relationship.

Using shared interest is a good starting point, but using this alone leads to stale relationships and neither mentees or mentors grow.

If you find yourself handling a mismatched partnership there is nothing wrong with suggested rematching. If its the right call, both mentors and mentees usually consent and amicably agree to be rematched.

5 – Senior Management Didn’t Make it a Priority

When it comes to implementing anything new into a company, if Senior Management doesn’t put it towards the top of the priority list and push doesn’t happen.

This is not to shift the blame or put all the responsibility on Senior Management. Senior Management obviously wants its employees to succeed and do well. The key is to coordinate with Senior Management and get full endorsement, backup and support before launching a Mentoring Program.

Usually, Senior Management is made up of veteran and successful executives that junior employees look up to. In other words, Senior Management is where all of the companies Opinion Leaders are. Employees listen to these people.

If Senior Management outwardly uses its communication channels to support a Mentoring Program makes all the difference.  If members of Senior Management participate as Mentors this can create huge company buy-in from the start.

If your Mentoring Program is failing, go upstairs to Senior Management and ask them to support the program and endorse it. Having a Senior Executive give his or her time to being a Mentor can give your program a shot in the arm.

Ultimately, if you aren't getting the desired engagement or results from your Mentoring Program you can use the above tips to trouble shoot it. If you purchased Mentoring Software like Wisdom Share then you can always communicate directly to the software administrators for their expert guidance on what to do.

Mentor Resources can help any company or government agency to leverage technology to create tailored career development programs that are cost-effective. Our mentoring software - Wisdom Share is a cloud-based program that is simple and comes with guided workflows. Included are tools for administrators to attract, enroll, connect, and guide participants. We also provide analytics to ensure you can monitor your employee development program and easily see ROI metrics.

Reach out to us today for a Free Demonstration of our software.

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