The Case for Not Creating a Mentoring Program

“We will just create a mentoring program” says a company president. His comment is in response to criticism that his company fails to develop employees.

Sure, it takes some cash to send people to outside skill or behavioral development programs or to bring a consultant/trainer in to do the training – money that he doesn’t have. He figures he can skirt the money issue by assigning people to other people in his organization and let it all happen organically, after all isn’t that what a mentoring program is about?

Unfortunately, he is far off the mark. If it were that simple, everyone would be successfully doing it.

Creating Mentor Matches is like Dating

When you look at mentoring programs at the macro level, the process does involve matching mentors and mentees.

Think about when you looked for a mate or significant other. Most of us experience some level of trial and error when we attempt to find that special person. At some point, you might have even created a list of “must have’s” or “nice to have’s” which served as a guide for finding the right person. Success was the result each person’s needs being met.

Mentoring matches are similar, it takes skill and artistry to find the right people to work together and reap the benefits of the relationship. As a guest contributor on HRM Today, I share “One Reason Why Mentoring Programs Fail” focusing on mentoring matches.

Matching the mentor and mentee is just one element of a good program design, though terribly important. If the match is faulty, progress will not be made and in some cases, the fall out may leave the situation worse off.

Mentor Program Design is like Building a House

When you build a house, you don’t start to do it until you have a well thought out plan. One mistake at the beginning of construction can compromise the integrity of the house. If the foundation is poured incorrectly and you continue to build the house, eventually it will settle and create more problems with additional costs. The same holds true for building internal mentoring programs.

While you may not have a mentoring program template available (and if you do – customization will be necessary), use a model such as the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) to facilitate plan development. The HBDI is a thinking style preference and is useful to think through the implications of a decision before acting on it.

Using the HBDI model, develop a master plan. Here are some of the questions to ponder:

What do you want to accomplish?

  • What is the problem you are trying to correct?
  • What are the goals?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What are the program milestones?
  • What information do the participants need to be successful?
  • What is the role of the mentee’s manager?
  • What skills are lacking?
  • What skills need to be developed?
  • What kind of funding is available?
  • Do we have the expertise in house to develop and run a program?

How are you going to do it?

  • Is there a timetable?
  • How will participants be selected?
  • How will you communicate it to the participants and organization?
  • How is the training going to be done?
  • How often do you train?
  • How do you handle matches that are non-productive?
  • Will there be a manual or guide created for the participants?
  • How do you improve the process for the next time?
  • How long will the program last?
  • Is confidentiality important?

Who is going to do it?

  • Who are the mentors?
  • Who are the mentees?
  • What are the skills needed for success?
  • Who is going to do the training?
  • Who will do the follow up work with the participants?
  • Who will be the mentoring program champion?
  • How do we develop sensitivity to individual differences?
  • Is participant feedback important?
  • Are the mentors open to their own development as mentors?

Why are you doing it?

  • Does the mentoring program fit into our strategic people plan?
  • Will the mentoring program help employees with future career choices or upward movement?
  • Do you integrate the program into the succession planning or employee development programs?
  • How do you keep the program fresh, avoiding the flavor of the month syndrome?
  • Are the participants willing to take appropriate risks?

Perhaps as you think through some of these questions, you may realize that a mentoring program is not the quick answer to satisfying a training need. With the right focus and program development, mentoring can reap huge rewards.

Do you have what it takes to make it work? If not, send your employees to a training program or do something in house.

Author: Lynn Dessert

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.

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