Why Business Mentoring Programs Fail

The best way to learn is often through watching others first followed by a practice period until that new skill becomes natural. That learning curve can be significantly shortened through the input of a mentor who can provide honest feedback and tips to accelerate your growth process.

The same is true in business. Mentorship in corporate environments often paves the way for promotions and succession plan strategies.  According to an article titled “Why Your Mentorship Program Isn’t Working” on Harvard Business Review (HBR) (by authors W. Brad Johnson, David G. Smith and Jennifer Haythornthwaite), over 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs in place, but the data from those programs is mixed with some reporting tangible relationship outcomes, but a significant number reporting little benefit or meaningful engagement.

Most failures are attributed to marginal mentoring because of assigned mentors being too busy, dysfunctional, disinterested, or simply lacking the skills for how to be an effective mentor. Rather than seeing mentoring as an honor to significantly impact a colleague’s future, it is often seen as “one more thing they have to do” or a time waster blocking their own promotional aspirations.

If your organization is serious about establishing a successful mentoring program, then you must establish a mentor competency program which includes communication and role-modeling skills training, along with incentives for the mentors to prioritize it alongside their other professional responsibilities. You will also need to qualify each mentor through understanding their inherent values and virtues which directly impacts their ability to mentor someone well.

The HBR article uses a case study from the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University from 2012 which showcases how to select mentors and what to do to prepare and support them in their mentorship role. They designed a Master Mentor program “to create cohorts of experienced and well-trained mentors who are not only effective at enhancing the personal well-being and career trajectories of mentees, but also willing to become resources and coaches to less experienced mentors. Successful Master Mentors accelerate the advancement of high-talent hires while elevating the quality of mentoring throughout their organization.”

Take a second and think about what could happen if your organization developed a formal mentoring program. It’s likely that employee retention would increase, employee satisfaction would soar, and the culture of your organization would attract even better candidates than before.

To read the HBR article in full, click here.

If your company could benefit by establishing a mentoring program, but you have no idea how to get started with that idea, contact us to learn how we can help design it and train your staff to be effective mentors.

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