Mentorship

10 challenges of mentoring programs and how to solve them

We've had the opportunity to see a lot of mentoring programs grow. Here are common pitfalls we've seen and how to avoid them.

Matthew Reeves

April 8, 2022

Over two-thirds of people surveyed say they believe that mentorships are important and yet many do not have one. If you’re looking to help those in your organization benefit from a mentorship, it’s vital to understand the challenges you may face creating a mentoring program. And know how to overcome them. 

What are the impacts of mentoring?

Learning should be a life-long goal, and research shows that mental stimulation keeps the brain young.  Developing a skill, learning new things, and overcoming challenges in our work and life can help keep your brain active and youthful. 

Mentors provide these learning opportunities and challenge us to grow. Is it too much to say mentors keep us young? Maybe, but the point is mentors are the catalyst for our development, personally and professionally. 

For that reason many companies start mentoring programs. Workplace mentoring programs offer many benefits for participants and the organization, including:

It’s also important to note that over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have workplace mentorship programs for their employees. This could be a coincidence, but we don’t think so. 

How does a lack of mentoring in an organization affect employees?

Statistics show that just 37 percent of people have a mentor. This means people and organizations are missing out on the benefits of mentoring. Organizations that do not have a mentoring program will not only miss out on the benefits, but there could be some detrimental impacts as well, such as:

  • Employee learning can stagnate. Unless employees have a good reason and are encouraged to develop professionally, they may not. Given the amount of time that people spend at work, if there are no learning opportunities present in that environment, they may not be able to engage in learning outside of work. If this happens, their professional development will stagnate. 
  • Turnover may increase. A study by Deloitte found that Millennial employees with a mentor were twice as likely to stay at their jobs than those without a mentor. 
  • Employer branding is tarnished. If your organization has a high turnover rate, unengaged employees, and does not encourage staff to stay up-to-date with industry developments, how will people view your brand? Over time, top candidates will stop applying to work with you and will find jobs with companies who value learning and provide mentoring opportunities. Moreover, without a learning culture, you’ll be less competitive than other companies in your industry as your employees won’t be interested in improving operations or productivity. 
  • Company cultures can become unwelcoming. A workplace where employees are not engaged or interested in their jobs and they don’t feel valued will cultivate an unhappy workplace. You’ll recognize this through signs like absenteeism, co-workers arguing, employees complaining, etc. 

What are the barriers to running a great mentoring program for employees?

Starting up your mentoring program can be exciting, but there may be some challenges you’ll need to overcome, such as:

Getting buy-in for the program from leadership

If employees see company leadership getting behind the mentoring program, they are more likely to see value in it. When senior members of your organization support mentorships it demonstrates that your company values learning opportunities. Getting leadership involved requires that you build a business case for mentorship

Having someone dedicated to managing the program

It’s key to find someone who is dedicated to managing your workplace mentoring prorgram. It can be to challenging for an HR member to take on the day-to-day responsibilities of a mentorship program on top of their regular work duties. This means, your program may not get the support it needs. However, if you have an individual dedicated to ensuring the program runs smoothly, you’ll be better positioned to build a robust mentoring program at your organization. 

Finding the right balance of mentors and mentees

Another challenge to starting a workplace mentoring program is finding enough mentors and mentees to have sufficient matches. It’s understandable that many employees want the experience of being a mentee. However, it will be up to the program administrator to ask senior employees to take on the role of mentor to provide an equal balance of participants. Alternatively, you could opt to start a mentoring group that would see one mentor paired with several mentees. 

Pairing mentors and mentees

Matching your mentors and mentees is one of the most important tasks for a mentoring program. It can feel stressful as you try and get the pairings right. Depending on the goals and style of your mentoring program, there are different ways to efficiently and effectively pair mentors and mentees. Don’t forget that even after you’ve made the match, as the program admin, you still have a role to play to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Reporting on the mentoring program

It may seem daunting to think about tracking the development of mentorships as well as how the program is doing at achieving its goals. However, reporting on the mentoring progam is essential. It can help everyone understand the value and importance of workplace mentoring. Recording metrics for your KPIs can also clue you in to how well the program is working and you’ll be able to respond quickly if there’s a problem. 

Challenges for mentors and mentees

Participating in a workplace mentoring program is a great opportunity, but there may be some hurdles that mentors and mentees will need to overcome, including: 

Getting a relevant match

Mentorships are driven by the mentee’s goals and the journey to achieving them. Understanding what you want to achieve is vital to finding the right person to be paired with for mentorship. Mentors may also have things they want to achieve through the experience, such as strengthening their communication or leadership skills. It’s vital that mentorship goals are decided on before participants are matched. 

Knowing what to discuss

Sometimes meeting a person for the first - or even the second- time can feel a bit awkward. In mentorship, you may know what you want to accomplish but are not sure how to get there. It can help to have some resources like mentoring topic agendas to guide you. 

Understanding where support is needed

It can take a while to get to know your mentee and to understand where they need support and encouragement. If you’re not sure how to help, you can talk to your program admin or ask the mentee where they feel their shortcomings are. Then you’ll have a better understanding of how to best support them. 

Communicating effectively with one another

We all have different communication styles. Some people are more outgoing and eager to talk while others need to have the conversation drawn out of them. It may be difficult to find some common ground in the beginning, but as you get to know your mentor or mentee, you’ll find ways to adjust your styles. 

Committing to the relationship

For a mentorship to be successful, the participants need to be committed to the process. Consider creating a mentoring contract at the outset of the relationship. This contract will set out the expectations and roles of the mentorship. For example, you can define a meeting schedule and what to do if you’re unable to attend one of the sessions. 

Together: Making mentorship programs easy to manage

Starting a mentoring program for your organization doesn’t need to be hard work. With mentoring software like Together’s, you’ll have a digital mentoring partner to streamline the process. Our platform has been developed to assist you with all the essential elements for a successful mentoring program, such as:

  • Registration and matching - our algorithm is customizable so you can create mentoring pairs based on the needs of your program. 
  • Participant guidance - we have a variety of resources that you and your mentoring pairs can draw in to help facilitate discussions.
  • Reporting - let others in your organization know how successful your mentoring program has been by creating customizable reports with Together. 
  • Support - our customer care team is ready to help you get the most from your mentoring program and our software. 
  • Integrations - we’ve made getting started easier by ensuring that our program integrates seamlessly with software you’re already accustomed to, such as Workday, Success Factors, Ultipro, Cerdan, Oracle PeopleSoft and more. 

Why not see what Together can offer your organization’s mentoring program, contact us for a free demo.

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Want incredible results from your mentorship program? Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.