We recently talked about the importance of mentors in onboarding. However, mentoring doesn’t have to stop once employees are good and onboarded. A good mentor can make or break a promising career, so there’s good sense in providing an ongoing mentorship program.
If your business is planning to implement or thinking about starting such a program, that’s great news! Just be aware of rookie mistakes that could bring your entire mentorship program crashing down.
Rookie mistake #1: Not communicating the program’s purpose and goals
Have you ever had a major change announced in your business, only for it to fail dramatically? Have you ever introduced an exciting new benefit that was hardly taken advantage of by any employees? If those scenarios sound familiar to you, then the common factor could be a lack of communication. Unless employees know how a change/program/benefit works, why it’s being introduced, and how it affects them, they’re unlikely to get on board or take full advantage.
In other words, communication is key to both launching and continuing a mentorship program. Says Training Industry, “…be sure to communicate the program’s development, progress, and successes.” According to Inc., it’s particularly important for potential participants to know that mentoring is extremely valuable and not a waste of time.
Rookie mistake #2: Not training mentors
You’ve communicated your program’s purpose. You’ve got everyone excited and on board. You’ve identified your chosen mentors, so you release them into the wilds of your company to do their mentoring magic!
What happens? Some spectacularly bad mentoring…some rather good mentoring…but mostly, a whole lot of nothing. See, you may have chosen employees with potential to be mentors, but chances are they don’t really know much about how to do so. Therefore, you’ll first need to train them.
Mentor training could cover a lot of things. Success proposes that mentors’ training needs to “define their basic roles” and “establish boundaries, including trust.” We recommend that at the very least, soft skills like listening and giving constructive feedback should be included.
Rookie mistake #3: Not matching participants well
Just because two people are great or have similar personalities doesn’t mean they’ll work well together. Unfortunately, it’s not well known exactly what does guarantee a successful match. Psychology professor Tammy Allen admits, “As a researcher, I can tell you that how you best match people is probably the issue where we know the least about.” However, she does note that mentor-mentee pairings tend to work better when the individuals have some input in the matching process.
Management-Mentors.com notes that when matching program participants, “You’re looking for compatibility as opposed to chemistry…chemistry is an intense, very personal feeling that consists of an initial connection or attraction between two individuals that may develop into a strong, emotional bond….Compatibility, on the other hand, occurs when individuals work together in harmony to achieve a common purpose.” The Higher Logic blog suggests that one way to ensure pairings are compatible is to match them by career “interest and direction”.
Rookie mistake #4: Not putting any responsibility on the mentees
The mentor shoulders a large amount of the success of the pairing. If the mentor is disinterested, poorly trained, or petty or abrasive, the mentorship pairing will not work. However, that doesn’t absolve the mentee from bearing responsibility, too.
Robert Half says, “…mentees often offer valuable insights and information to their mentors as well.” This may mean that the mentee provides the information that the mentor needs to best help them, such as information about their desired career trajectory. It could also mean that the mentee gives feedback and encouragement to the mentor as they start the mentorship program together.
A mentorship program would be a great asset to your business! Just remember to communicate the program’s purpose and goals, train mentors, match participants well, and put responsibility on the mentees. If you do those things, your program will be more, and you’ll feel like a pro instead of a rookie.