Common problems in almost any mentoring program

mentor_mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Jay Morrison at Flickr.com

Mentoring is an employee training system under which a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee. Mentoring can take many shapes and forms when it comes to companies and enterprises training their younger staff. There are different types of mentoring that can achieve the company´s goals of passing the right information to the correct trainee. Some types of mentoring programs are the One-On-One Mentoring program, the Resource-Based Mentoring program, Group Mentoring, the Training-Based Mentoring and the Executive Mentoring program. Many things and articles have been written and published around the World Wide Web about the benefits and advantages of mentoring programs within companies, but there is not so many information about the common problems and obstacles that mentoring programs face when companies want to implement such programs. Here are some problems that can help people and companies understand what to avoid   and not waste time, money and efforts.   

The first problem that can be seen in many mentoring programs in many companies is the lack of planning. Too many companies understand the benefits of having their older staff train the younger staff that has the potential to be somebody within the company, but they don’t understand exactly how to do it. Yes, information can be passed from person to person, but it also requires a planning stage to have clear objectives and measurable outcomes. Companies just jump into mentoring programs without asking themselves questions like How will you determine if mentoring is viable for your organization? What are the organizational goals and objectives that will support the implementation of a mentoring program? How will you tie mentoring to company’s goals and objectives? How will you measure results? Do you have support and commitment from all appropriate levels? Can you link mentoring to your overall talent development strategy and process? These are questions that companies should answer before entering or starting a mentoring program for their younger staff.

mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Amanda Woodward at Flickr.com

The second most common problem in mentoring approaches in companies is that the chosen mentors are either not interested in mentoring or have no idea on how to do it.  Very often companies want their VPs to become mentors because they think that if they are in this senior level they should have the skills and expertise to be good teachers or mentors to their young colleagues. It is so very wrong. When somebody is good at something, it doesn’t mean that automatically they become good teachers or can teach their skill to others. Being a teacher or a mentor is a whole different thing from being good at something. You can be very good at your job but extremely horrible at teaching. Companies should be careful who they accept in their mentoring programs because there are certain skills that mentors need to have and companies need to nurture before having people apply for their mentoring programs as mentors and as mentees. Assuming that all executives want to or have the skills to be good mentors can be detrimental to mentoring programs and to the mentee assigned to the unprepared and uninterested mentor.

The third most common problem in mentoring programs is the loss of funding after the program has started. Many companies find that their mentoring programs cannot be properly measured and that many mentees leave the programs because they don’t know what is expected from them, thus the program becomes irrelevant and loses economic support form the company. Many mentoring programs are very successful in companies but are not long lasting because there aren’t any defined measurements, managers do not have access to information to understand the progress of the program and thus can´t make the proper corrections on time and there is no hard data to present to decision makers in order to ensure funding for the near future. Also, mentees think that mentoring programs do not give them a clear path to follow and the roles for mentors and mentees are not clear, causing frustration among mentees and making them give up on the entire mentoring program.

And the last problem that arises in mentoring programs is that sometimes mentees do not learn what they need to learn but learn what mentors think they should learn. It is a very thin line because mentors are the ones that have the information and the experience that took them where they are now. However, times and companies change very quickly and something that could have worked many years ago, today, cannot be very useful. Mentors may assume they know what mentees need to learn rather than be guided by the mentee’s goals within the organization. Mentors should understand the mentee´s goals in order to guide them through the corporate world and not to shape them as they please.

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