Do workplace mentoring programs still add value?

Is your organisation’s mentoring program hitting the mark with your people? There’s a fair chance it may not be, according to recent research: The Practice of Mentoring, Benchmarking Companies 2017, Art of Mentoring, May 2018.


The survey of 41 companies found more than two-thirds think mentoring programs are important – but of those that have one, satisfaction is declining among employees. In fact, 45% said they were either dissatisfied or ambivalent about their organisation’s mentoring programs.


The research also revealed three reasons why companies haven’t implemented mentoring programs: a lack of clarity on where to start, other initiatives have taken precedence or insufficient funding.


For organisations to succeed, they need to manage and engage their people to achieve great things. So, investing in their people to develop their skills and experience is critical. An effective mentoring program can be a vital part of that, especially when it comes to retaining key talent, developing new leaders and creating more diverse thought.


So, what are the ingredients to establishing a successful program? In our experience, there are four rules of thumb.


1. Formalise your mentoring program

If a program remains informal, how can you make sure it helps to retain and develop an organisation’s key talent? Mentoring programs need structure to succeed. Key talent should be identified and matched to the right mentor. Leadership endorsement and support is crucial, and that needs to flow down to all people managers.


2. Clearly define roles and expectations

A successful mentoring program is built on establishing a formal relationship, one in which people’s roles are clear and expectations are agreed. To do that, consider these key questions: What type of mentoring is required? Does the employee need an internal or external mentor? How will the mentor be trained and supported? At what point does the mentoring relationship end? Of course, these questions are just scratching the surface.


3. Remember mentors and coaches are different

Too often the roles of a mentor and a coach are blurred. They are different. Coaching often focuses on improving skills, while mentoring aims to help people build their profiles, establish their internal and external networks, and work towards achieving their next role. Be clear on this!


4. Embed mentoring into the performance management and recognition programs

A mentor plays a vital role and needs to be recognised for that within an organisation. Being a mentor is a significant commitment. Think about how you acknowledge and reward their contribution to building and retaining your organisation’s future talent. Link mentoring to organisational performance and embed it in your performance management system to ensure it gets the attention it needs.


So, is time up on mentoring programs or do they still serve a valuable purpose if they’re well established and supported from the outset?


We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on effective workplace mentoring.