A host of things can contribute to a company’s mentorship program going south, frustrating participating employees and wasting resources as well as precious time.
For one, said Judy Corner, director of mentoring at talent development software maker Insala, if an organization doesn’t have a process and methodology in place for the program before it’s rolled out, sooner or later its implementation team likely will have to start all over again.
CLOs should prioritize certain steps before implementing any formal mentorship program. For instance, learning leaders should set an objective, identify success measures as well as identify what qualifies mentors to help meet stated objectives.
Here are four ways a company’s mentorships can undermine its talent development goals and consequently, the business.
1. Have a one-mentor only policy. No one person’s experiences can be everything to an employee that needs development and could benefit from coaching in different areas of expressed need. Across an organization are talented leaders who have unique knowledge and skills to share. A network of mentors can impart a variety of learnings and perspectives valuable to employees. Having more than one mentor also encourages the development of leaders who have their own unique brand of leading and managing.
2. Put mentor choice squarely into somebody else’s hands. Who better to identify a mentor to help an employee reach key development goals than the employees themselves? A mismatch between mentor and mentee is quite often the source of mentorship failure, said Mimi Brent, global career development strategy leader at General Motors. The mentorship portal the company is piloting asks both mentees and mentors to respond to a survey about professional experiences, development needs and comfort mentoring in expressed areas of expertise. There’s also a personality assessment. The resulting data is transformed into a list of mentor matches, which mentees can dig into to learn more about the leaders and initiate contact.
3. Do zero check-ins. If there’s a problem in the mentor partnership, it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, Corner said. However, a souring relationship can’t be dealt with without some strategic follow-up from the program administrator.
“You’re using people’s time, the mentor’s time, the mentee’s time, the organization’s investment, dollar wise and time wise,” she said. “You need to follow up and make sure it’s going correctly.” She recommends a check-in no later than eight weeks after the start of a new partnership, and once isn’t enough. Check-ins with mentors and mentees on a fairly regular basis is a good idea.
4. The outcome is not about development. There are many misperceptions out there about mentorships, Corner said. That senior leaders automatically qualify to be mentors, that mentorships are all about what the mentee can get from the mentor, or that participation in a mentorship guarantees promotion. The intended outcome of an effective mentorship is development, she explained. If through a mentorship, an employee develops skills needed to later earn a promotion, that’s great but that shouldn’t be an assumption going into the relationship.
Misunderstandings like these make pre-mentorship education helpful. At the outset, both parties should have a clear understanding of their roles within the partnership. Ahead of developing the company’s mentoring strategy, Brent and her team at General Motors did their homework on things such as mentorship best practices. The team also created and shared resources with employees, including a one-hour webinar training for employees considering becoming mentors.
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.