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4 Critical Mistakes Employers Should Avoid

When Creating A Mentorship Program

The mentor/mentee relationship can be powerful, often creating opportunities that are vital to connecting people to the next stage in their life and career as noted by many well-recognized successful leaders. Take for instance, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who became the first female CEO of a major global automaker in 2014. When discussing her rise up the ranks she shared, “I have worked for a lot of really great leaders and mentors that I felt provided me, along with many of my peers - many of them women - opportunities.”

The mentor/mentee relationship is a specific and highly strategic partnership that can provide pivotal experiences for both participants. Now more than ever, with the workforce including up to 5 generations simultaneously, increasing use of a virtual-first or hybrid employee experience, and employees craving more meaning in career, mentorship relationships have the potential to be more transformative than ever before.

Why implement a mentorship program?

Many organizations, associations and academic institutions have built in mentorship programs, and with good reason. Rhett Power, head coach at power Coaching and Consulting, explains, “starting a mentoring program in your business allows you to capitalize on your greatest resource, your employees. Strategically developing their talent contributes to the company's growth, innovation, and bottom line.” He emphasizes that “It shows management's support, interest, and concern for an employee's potential with the company. It demonstrates to employees that management is willing to invest the time and resources necessary to help employees succeed in their careers. In return, employees are more likely to be more productive and loyal to the company.”

Like any great business strategy that focuses on growth, a plan and concrete objectives are paramount to success. An effective mentorship program seems like it should be easy to pull together. Just match the experienced people with less experienced people, and watch the relationships grow.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple, but if you avoid the top 4 mistakes below, your mentorship program will begin to create momentum and results that matter quickly and effectively.

Mistake #1: You don’t have clear & measurable program objectives & KPI’s

Often there is a grand philosophical objective for how mentorship is going to help solve a particular problem in your organization. Maybe you are creating opportunities for employees across the company, connecting alumni to undergraduate students, or supporting community members in their career development, all are rewarding reasons to have a mentorship program. When these overarching objectives aren’t clearly defined, communicated, and translated into success metrics, you will likely ask “what’s the ROI?”, drop-off rates soar, and/or participants are left disappointed because there is no common objective. To ensure success of any formal organizational initiatives, benchmarks and measurable goals must be set in order to truly achieve and understand the ROI.

  • The first step is getting grounded in how mentorship will come into play in your organization. By clarifying the “why” you will have a clear understanding of who you’re going to support, how (what supports or guidance are needed), which stakeholders to consult, how you’ll measure success, etc.

  • Step two includes developing clear participant objectives that help individuals identify their personal reason for joining the program and connect their career to the mentorship program. This is critical to attract the right participants who are ready and willing to engage.

  • The final step is establishing the key performance metrics that you would like to accomplish. What does ‘success’ look like if you achieve everything you envision? Think big and then identify what are your ‘must-have’ metrics and use those to inform your program design and evaluation. All mentorship programs are different - be clear what is important to your organization.

Mistake #2: A lack of structure or system for your mentors & mentees

Once you’ve defined why you are setting up a mentorship program, it is important to create the “how”. Creating a framework for your mentorship program ensures mentors and mentees know what is expected of them, what supports they have access to, and ultimately how to engage in the program. Without this, you may find that mentors and mentees are unfamiliar with what committing to a program may entail of them and the various tasks required of them during the process. A lack of structure can lead to mis-alignment between mentors/mentees expectations, uncertainty for mentors/mentees (particularly first time ones!) and ultimately impact your results as mentors/mentees can feel disconnected to organizational objectives.

Your program will need a variety of steps to guide your mentees and mentors throughout the experience. Your program planning can take a variety of forms ranging from a light framework, slightly structured to highly structured and more formalized. While you may not need a detailed instruction manual for your program, you will at the very least require a list of expectations for your mentors and mentees to understand and accomplish in order to work toward the program goals.

Mistake #3: Not enough communication & accountability throughout the program

Achieving program goals requires consistent and valuable communication. If it feels like too much of a challenge or is taking too much effort to make a connection, either because of schedules or a lack of interest from one side, people tend to disengage. Similarly, even if there is a first meeting, but either party does not make an effort to genuinely communicate or connect over the program’s common objective, efforts fizzle out and the relationship can lose perceived value. Vulnerability can be hard for some, but a willingness to engage from both sides is part of a meaningful relationship.

Once you’ve created a structure; COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Start by clearly outlining how your program objectives (or the framework you’ve created above)connect to your participants’, what outcomes you are helping them accomplish through mentorship, and the commitment required of the participants. Through experience we have noticed that if there is a successful first meeting, followed up with action (and a second one booked), then mentors and mentees are more likely to continue to build a relationship over time. By implementing a robust orientation for both mentors and mentees, it normalizes the experience, and promotes clarity on the objectives of the program, guidelines of communication, and commitment required.

Continue communicating and supporting participants throughout the program. Offer resources to help manage and foster relationships, build confidence and accomplish program goals. If you think you’ve been communicating too much, you likely have hit the sweet spot! Encourage radical candor between mentors and mentees to support the progress of their connection, as well as reflection on their progress throughout the program.

Preparation for meetings, continuous reflection and accountability of action items leads to success. A successful program results in long term relationships and measurable results that last well beyond the mentorship program.

Mistake #4: Doing it all yourself

Mentorship programs can create sustained impact when they are planned and executed properly. When we look at the big picture, the most fatal mistake you can make is doing it all yourself and missing an opportunity to create a scalable mentorship program by not leveraging tools and supports created for this very purpose.

Did you know that software exists to replace the administrative burden of manual mentorship programs? EnPoint's software provides a platform for opt-in forms, tools to automate mentor / mentee matching, email notifications, reporting and analytics. EnPoint software will expedite the implementation, maintenance and evaluation of the program while allowing participants to focus on building relationships and accomplishing program goals. Support can also include credible research, reviewing case studies of similar organizations, and/or gaining insight from someone external to your organization.

Ultimately, help is available and the success of your program does not rely solely on you. Planned, implemented and reviewed properly, mentorship programs are proven to, among other things, improve employee engagement and retention. Creating meaningful relationships is key to a successful mentorship program. Like anything worthwhile, this takes time and energy. We are here to help!

For the full in depth guide on how to combat the 4 most common and avoidable mistakes in implementing a mentorship program click here:

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