Most mentoring programs fail because companies fail to take into account the clarity around matching mentor and mentee in terms of what the goals are and how to track outcomes.
For any good mentoring program to work, there really needs to be buy-in from the top leadership and adoption at all levels. Philosophically, a culture that supports learning and development and the sharing of information within that organization is the best platform to work with. What we talk about regularly is the fact that we often think that mentees are the ones who are the sole benefactors in any mentoring relationship. But the reality is, a formalized mentoring program actually builds leadership capacity at all levels by teaching people the very art of how to be effective as a mentor, which leads to developing leadership capacities further, such as empathy, communication skills and just understanding what it means to pour into others and care about their development.
The best adoption of a mentoring program (the best ones we’ve seen) have buy-in at the top with leaders who really care about seeing outcomes and giving people the space to really solidify their mentoring relationships. Manager involvement, in providing employees with clarity around what topics they should be seeking a mentor on, really help aide in that as well.
I have seen mentoring programs fail many times because the buy-in just was not strong enough within the company. Any time a mentoring program is deployed with the wrong approach to employee selection, it does not work. We once worked with an organization that had a really hard time recruiting participants for their mentoring program because leadership was not even aware or had not even been promoting the program. So, the program itself was in a silo within the organization and it did not have enough visibility for anybody to be interested in wanting to participate.
So, to deploy any mentoring program it’s important not only to have the leadership buy-in and the visibility that goes along with that, but also to be mindful in how you’re selecting participants. We have learned a lot in that process of seeing how mentoring programs can often go awry.