Mentorship expert interviews

5 Mistakes to avoid when starting a mentorship program [an interview with Tiersa Hall]

Here are the 5 mistakes that can hurt your mentoring program. We interviewed mentoring expert, Tiersa Hall to understand what mentoring program managers can do instead.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

May 8, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

mins read time

The positive impact of a well-implemented mentoring program on a company is irrefutable: it can be an excellent way to develop and retain talent in an organization. 

However, despite the potential benefits, many mentoring programs fall short of their intended impact due to common mistakes.

We interviewed Tiersa Hall, an HR and Culture Consultant, who shared five common mistakes to avoid when starting a mentoring program.

To catch the full conversation, find it here: 5 Mistakes to avoid when starting a mentorship program.

Who is Tiersa Hall? 

Tiersa Hall is a certified senior HR professional, master trainer, coach, and speaker. She began a career in HR at 22, remaining in the field for 16+ years. 

She has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, focusing on coaching managers to build influential connections with their teams. Her focus is on L&D with the incorporation of mentorship.

What are the top mistakes mentorship program administrators make when starting programs? 

From our conversation with Tiersa Hall, here are the top five common mistakes mentorship program managers make when starting them.

Not getting buy-in from executive/senior management

A common mistake you can make when planning a mentoring program is not getting support from senior management. 

Before you start planning how you’ll implement your program, deciding how to pair mentors and mentees or what kind of format it should have, make sure executives understand how mentoring benefits the company's bottom line. Hall explains, 

What's critical to the success of a mentoring program is getting buy-in from the executive level. Ensuring that those senior persons see the value of the program that you're trying to put in place. That can be a really big challenge.” 

We know how important it is to get buy-in for your mentoring program. That’s why we’ve put together an extensive guide on everything you need to do to make a compelling business case for mentoring.

2. Failure to assess personality/workstyle prior to matching 

Pairing is a critical component of your mentoring program — you can do everything else right, but if the match isn’t a good fit, the whole program will be tarnished. It pays a lot to assess mentors' and mentees' personalities, workstyles, and goals before matching them. Failing to do so can lead to mismatched pairs that cannot collaborate effectively or progress toward their goals. Hall states, 

Many people aren't focused on the impact of [how a mentee’s personality] plays into the mentorship process. You want to know who my mentee is. [For example,] what is their personality type? I think that's so important to do.” 

We’re not recommending you make every mentor and mentee complete a personality quiz, but having them fill out their profile when registering with key details on who they are and their goals will make the matching process much easier.

For more details on how to match mentors and mentees, read our step-by-step guide on the mentor-matching process.

3. Not making your mentorship measurable 

Another mistake mentorship program managers often slip into is failing to establish the program's measurable goals. Setting measurable goals and objectives at the onset of the program is essential because it gives you a clear indicator of whether or not you’re succeeding.

Hall emphasizes the importance of having clear metrics for monitoring your program’s progress:

Make Mentorship Measurable. That is so important. It's the three M’s. Make it measurable because if you don't have a clear direction on what you are hoping to achieve for your mentorship program, then you can't achieve it, and you can't tell how well you are doing.” 

Hall recommends using mentoring software like Together, which has features to make launching and managing larger mentoring programs easy. Our mentoring platforms handles everything from registration to matching, and reporting on success. We also integrate with all the tools you already use, so there’s minimal leg work on your end. 

As Hall states, mentoring software is great for programs with a “large number [of participants] because it takes the head work out of everything and allows [you] to focus on what's important, which is fostering mentoring relationships.”

4. Failure to innovate your mentorship program (infuse recognition, keep the concept fresh and new) 

The fourth mistake mentoring program managers can is letting the program become boring and monotonous. This happens when the program has run for a while and it’s started to plateau. It lacks freshness and new concepts. 

Mentors and mentees can quickly lose motivation without an infusion of new mentors and learning formats.

Admittedly, keeping it innovative can be challenging. Hall believes there's always a way to keep things fresh. A key way to do this is through recognition:

"There are great ways to infuse some spark of creativity or something different to draw attention to [and promote] the program. Also, for those that are in the program, [it helps them] feel that the program is something of great worth to be a part of. [For example], I don't see it happen very often that mentors are recognized for the time they're sacrificing, and mentees are celebrated…highlight those persons that are serving as mentors in your program—celebrate them. Use social media, email blasts, etc., to highlight different mentors, what they do and the insights they bring to the table. This gives them even more fuel to come into your programs and give their all; all of which is going to be a great benefit to the mentee."

5. Lacking proper guidance and helping mentors and mentees stay on track

In a recent expert panel on mentorship for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, Jai Chaggar, our Director of Customer Success at Together, shared that mentorship program admins should “invest in the relationship, and the rest will follow.”  

By that, Jai means that you should focus on finding ways to support mentors and mentees. Hall echoes this, recommending program admins provide tools to help mentors and mentees maximize their potential. 

"Make sure you provide guiding tools to keep people on track. Sometimes we put mentor programs together, but don't specify what actions mentors and mentees are supposed to leave each meeting with.”

Tiersa Hall is highlighting that you should provide mentoring agendas that help break the ice and spur conversation. These agendas should also highlight key actions for each conversation.

Hall feels people can come for a session without direction on what to achieve. "Because sometimes people come and they have a lovely conversation where they don't leave with any actionable items." she shares.

How do you get buy-in for your mentoring program? 

Getting senior management to support a workplace mentoring program is advantageous. Gina Scott, in this Chron article, rightly asserts, 

“In most companies, it's necessary to gain the support of upper management to move forward with any significant project. Along with supporting employees in the workplace, members of upper management have roles as decision-makers and gatekeepers for making changes.”  

This rings true for your mentoring program. C-suites executives often may not fully understand the benefits and how mentoring programs can contribute to a company's success.

Fortunately, Hall shares a simple, but actionable insight. When asked for advice on how program coordinators can gain support from senior management, she says,

“The first place to start is really connecting and allowing them to see the value firsthand.” 

How can you do this? Often, we see many mentoring programs happen informally before scaling. Therefore, you can capture some success stories that make the benefits of mentorship more tangible. 

Likewise, collect some compelling stats that show the benefits of mentorship. In this way, you’ll show the value mentoring can provide.

How do you match effectively? 

While we've already established the dangers of improper matching, Hall comments on how mentor matches should be done. Firstly, she believes program managers should assess the personality and workstyle before proceeding to match. She says,

“That gives me a clear view of the personality type, how that individual learns, how they connect with others, how they're motivated and inspired, and what particular groups are going to motivate them in the best way.” 

When asked to clarify whether all HR administrators should use personality types to match mentors with mentees or a different parameter, she responds,

“I don't think it should always be the same. I think you have to have consistency in whatever process you're doing to match individuals.” 

How do you measure success in a mentorship program? 

Mentoring programs, like other projects, need to be measured so you can tell whether you're meeting your goals. When it's not tracked, the participants have yet to learn whether they're making headway. 

Hall advises program directors to consider using mentoring software. She says, 

I recommend mentoring software for programs for companies that can afford it, that have that large number because it really takes the head work out of everything and allows everyone to be focused on what's important, which is fostering the mentor relationship.” 

She suggests companies unable to get mentoring software, 

Find a way to at least solidify what specifically you are measuring. So what is your goal in terms of what are you hoping to achieve through the mentorship program? You need to spell that out. And then how are you going to measure it over time? What are the results you're looking to see? What is important to the organization and to those that are involved in the program?” 

How to start an impactful mentorship program? 

According to this Jeffersontown Chamber article, a well-structured mentoring program “allows business leaders to capitalize on their greatest resource — their employees. Strategically developing new and existing talent contributes to company growth, innovation, and the bottom line.” 

If planned correctly, mentoring is a valuable resource that can make a difference in your workplace. 

Hall believes you should design your mentoring program with intentionality and ensure you set realistic goals. 

“You have all the tools you need and everything that is going to guide you; the success is already within you. Don't get overwhelmed by the process. Most mentorship programs grow better with time.”

Getting started with an impactful mentoring program can be tough, but it doesn't have to be that way. Our platform seamlessly connects employees with relevant mentors based on the skills and experiences they want to advance in their careers. With Together, you can take your mentorship program to the next level and provide tailored support to your employees.

Book a demo today.

About the Author

close button