Why Mentoring Programs Fail

1 minutes

We all want our mentoring programs to be successful, it’s why we set them up and why we invest in mentoring software to support them, but there are key problems that can turn a mentoring program from full of promise to a total flop.

That’s where we’re here to help. Because while some mentoring programs may fail, yours doesn’t have to!

If you want to reap the rewards of mentoring in your organisation, such as increased employee engagement, lower employee churn and higher employee satisfaction, then it’s important to anticipate challenges before they happen. By understanding some of the common mentoring mistakes that can lead to program failure, you can set your workplace mentoring program up for success.

Why mentoring programs fail (and what to do about it)

There are a number of reasons that workplace mentoring programs can fail, from lack of direction to loss of mentoring momentum. Thankfully there’s plenty that you can do to ensure your mentoring program is set up for success.

So, let’s look at the most common workplace mentoring mistakes and what to do about them:

1. Not setting clear goals

Starting a mentoring program without a clear goal in mind is a common mistake. A mentoring program that doesn’t properly outline what it wants to achieve will by default fail. We need to know where we are going in order to know when we get there!

So, by setting clear mentoring program goals, it’s much easier to measure your success.

Example goal: 

  • To run a 6-week cross-company reverse mentoring program to support BAME employees career progression. The program will reach X number of senior leaders to increase awareness, cultural competency and encourage action in tackling systemic barriers and bias in the organisation.

What’s the solution? ✅

Spend time outlining your program goal or goals. It’s best to do this in the design phase, but you can always retroactively define your goal if your mentoring program has already started.

Some key questions to ask:

  • Who is the program for?
  • Why do you need a mentoring program?
  • What will success look like?
  • Will I utilise mentoring software?

As with any goal, it’s important to make it SMART. This stands for, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Using the SMART framework to set your mentoring program goals will help you to measure progress and stay on track.

When you have a clear goal set out, it’s time to sense check that your plans align with the people that you’re aiming to help. This way you can be confident that your program will have impact and maintain momentum later on.

Find out more about designing a mentoring program for success in our guide

2. Low sign-ups

Another key problem that programs can face is low sign-ups. For many of us, mentoring sounds like a great idea in theory but this doesn’t always translate to people signing up for the program in practice.

There can be many reasons for low sign-ups. Whether it’s a lack of knowledge around what mentoring is, what the commitment of the program is or its potential benefits, there are many reasons people may be reluctant to commit.

What’s the solution? ✅

First up, it’s important to check the facts. Are the group or groups that you are aiming to help getting the information they need to understand what the program is?

When launching and maintaining a mentoring program, it’s important to be realistic about the amount of promotion you need to do to get people involved.

Here are our top tips for increasing sign-ups for your mentoring program:

  • Spread the word: Through your company intranet, internal comms, Employee Resource Groups and newsletters
  • Find your advocates: Get senior leadership on board and identify mentoring champions to help promote your program
  • Articulate the value: Through comms or events, it’s important that everyone understands what mentoring is and why they should join the program
  • Remove barriers to entry: Look at your program from the outside, is it easy to sign-up? If there are barriers to entry it’s important to identify and remove them where possible

Remember: When running your first program it’s better to have a small number of highly engaged participants over hundreds of less engaged people that don’t actively participate!

Focus on getting mentors and mentees that are enthusiastic and committed on board. These people will then become advocates of your program, spreading the word and helping your program to grow!‍

3. Disconnected mentors and mentees ❌

By disconnected, we mean mentors and mentees that are not engaging with the program or each other. They may have joined with good intentions but find themselves struggling to make time for mentoring – meaning fewer mentor matches and fewer sessions.

Sometimes mentoring can lose momentum. When this happens there are a number of ways you can revitalise your program.

What’s the solution? ✅

There are many reasons for program drop-off and fatigue. When this happens why not try:

In the planning stages, try to be realistic about what internal comms you’ll run to promote your program. If this is a brand new scheme, you may need to run several campaigns to build excitement and awareness around your program.

Pay attention to matching too! Reminding participants that they can screen several mentors through chemistry calls will help people find the right match for them. Disengagement can happen when mentors and mentees aren’t connecting despite having shared experiences.‍

4. Not enough feedback

A solid process for collecting feedback on your program and using it to improve is one of the keys to success. By not factoring feedback into your program design you’ll be missing vital opportunities to guide your program.

While asking for feedback can feel uncomfortable, not asking is a surefire way to miss out on important information on the health of your mentoring program.

What’s the solution? ✅

Factor feedback into the design of your program. Use short strategic surveys at the start, middle and end of your program or at regular intervals for an ongoing program. This way you can find out how your participants are getting on and find any potential problems.

By using feedback effectively, we can better anticipate issues. It’s also valuable data to have to prove success and ROI, as well as collecting valuable marketing materials such as quotes.

Provide support to your mentors and mentees to run a productive session with our guide.

5. Not building for scale

Manually matching participants on your kitchen table may have worked well when you had 20 participants. What do you do now that your program has grown?

Sometimes too much success can be the cause of failure! By not anticipating success, we can create problems later on when we want to scale. If you want to reach more people, grow your program and impact more lives, then you’ll need to build your program with this in mind.

What’s the solution? ✅

This is where mentoring software comes in. With a mentoring platform, you can take the stress out of running a mentoring program. Leaving you to focus on making plans to grow your program!

Here at Guider, our smart matching algorithm does the hard part for you. You can trust that mentors and mentees will find the right person for them with our smart mentor matching, without the headache of managing the matching process manually. On top of this, our software integrates with your core tech, making it simple for any user to participate in mentoring.

Once you have a mentoring software solution in place, it’s easy to add more programs or expand the ambitions of your scheme. With our data reporting functions, you’ll be able to show the effectiveness of your program with ease too.

Read our guide to how mentoring software works to find out more.

By paying attention to these mentoring mistakes in the design of your program, you can anticipate problems before they appear! Remember, building a successful mentoring program takes time. You’ll learn more and more with every program you try and you’ll build a bank of mentoring champions along the way.

Ready to start your mentoring program right? Book a chat with our team to find out more about how Guider can set you up for success.


The Complete Mentoring Toolkit

Everything you need to create and scale an effective workplace mentoring programme. Includes: setup checklist, matching guide, expert advice, proving ROI and much more.

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