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Why Do Enterprise Mentoring Programs Fail to Live Up to the Promise of Talent Development?

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder and CEO

Employee Engagement and Talent Development are key challenges facing companies today. Mentoring is one of the most common practices that several companies implement, either formally or informally. In both cases, mentoring programs bring an array of benefits to the table. Designed well, they can:

  • Serve as an effective onboarding tool for new employees
  • Shape future leaders
  • Hone existing skills
  • Develop new skills
  • Transfer the essential organizational knowledge
  • Enhance workplace engagement
  • Encourage employee retention and loyalty
  • Provide a competitive advantage

But more often than not, these benefits are never fully realized. In many instances, corporate mentoring programs fail to deliver or make the kind of impact they are supposed to, leading organizations to reevaluate their strategy.

Here are some of the main reasons why corporate mentoring fail to deliver the desired results:

Flaws in the Program Design

First things first.

Every company structure is unique. Therefore, the one-size-fits-all approach falls flat on its face when one organization tries to mimic the mentoring program set up in another organization.

The solution here is to first study the culture and structure of any organization, understand the fundamental challenges facing the organization, take into account the mentors’ investment in time and effort and tap into their maximum potential. It is also important to decide whether the mentoring needs to be formal or informal, since both approaches have their pros and cons. Most importantly, the goals and objectives need to be well-defined to lead to favorable outcomes.

Poor Matches

Matching the right mentors and mentees is a critical, yet challenging step in most mentoring programs.

This is because different participants have varied needs, come from different backgrounds, have unique competencies, and learning styles. Therefore, a mentor who is an excellent match for one person may not be the perfect fit for another. Likewise, the ratio of mentors and mentees should be balanced. Other issues that lead to ineffective pairing include lack of commitment from either of the participants, a change in job roles, disagreements about the learning styles and so on.

Sometimes, even lack of proper communication between the mentors and the mentees leads things to go south. No program can flourish without transparent communication that can transcend the existence of power plays/favoritism deeply rooted in the organization’s work culture.

Ergo, when corporates have a wrong matching model, it can lead to participants opting out of the program or low participation. This takes us to the next point.

Half-Hearted Efforts/Participation

Mentoring programs often falter because of half-hearted efforts from the mentors and lack of participation from the mentees.

This is a nightmare for organizations that build mentoring programs using their best resources. Think of the situation when a mentoring program launches but strays off-track due to lack of enthusiasm shown by the mentees enrolled in the program. Also, it doesn’t help when the mentors are always busy and can’t devote the amount of time and effort required by the program, not just in the short-term, but over a period of time. Building a trustful, long-term relationship between the mentor and mentee is critical to the success of any mentoring initiative.

Organizations, on their part, need to convince their employees about the importance of the program and why to keep going at it. They need to explain the key takeaways that employees can expect from these programs, both for mentors and mentees. Mentoring programs help to build long-term and successful relationships between mentors and mentees, helping them mutually to advance their career and seek better opportunities within the organization.

Limited Availability of Data

A mentoring program will have the most impact when it has all the necessary program data related to all the activities, impact, and results vis-a-vis defined KPIs. Moreover, organizations need to make sure that they keep an accurate track of this information. It can be obtained via regular surveys, feedback and performance reviews. This keeps them abreast with understanding the fallacies and take rectifying measures. To overcome this, KPIs need to be accurately embedded in the program plan and should be measured at regular intervals with precision.

Low-Quality Training

Low-quality training is the chink in the armor for any corporate mentoring program. It can ruin not just the entire course but can hurt the morale of the participants negatively. In other words, lousy mentorship does more harm than good, including taking a toll on the emotional and behavioral aspects of the mentors as well as the mentees.

Additionally, failed mentorships as a result of low-quality programs can be a significant setback for several employees, translating to negative feelings about the organization. They lose faith and trust, which often leads to higher attrition rates.

Ensuring Mentoring Program Success

Implementing the best mentoring program, which benefits everyone in the organization is not an easy feat. These challenges need to be tackled first before implementing a robust program that can lead to a fantastic work culture within the organization. The right solution here is to use algorithms and third-party tools, which can work towards providing a consistent, better, and tailor-made mentorship scheme that guarantees to deliver the desired results.

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