Mentoring relationships can work well from day one, while others need a push in the right direction. As employees deal with busy schedules or unclear goals, mentoring relationships can falter without the right support.
According to HR Magazine, 30% of mentees said that their mentoring relationship failed because the programme lost its momentum. In this article we’ll explore why mentoring programmes lose momentum and what programme managers can do to solve or prevent this.
There are a wide range of reasons mentoring programmes lose momentum, including:
Programme managers must ensure the right amount of support is available for mentors and mentees to prevent the above from happening. Here are some tips for those responsible for mentoring in the organisation:
One of the first things to do when building your mentoring programme is outline a clear objective that reflects the business or team goals and values. This gives both you and the participants a guide to follow, and shows stakeholders why they should care. For example, is the programme all about graduate career development? Or is it to drive change in diversity and inclusion and create upward mobility for under-represented employees? Having a clear purpose gives your mentors and mentees perspective over the wider impact of their sessions, leading to greater investment.
💡 Make these objectives visible and easy to access to remind participants what they're working towards and why its important. For example, host them on the mentoring landing page when people sign up.
You want a mentoring programme to emphasise the relationship between the mentor and mentee. Creating a rigid programme removes the human connection, and can put too much pressure on the individuals. But a too loosely structured programme means participants lose interest due to confusion, lack of direction, and not knowing who to turn to.
The right amount of structure depends on the individuals. E.g a more experienced senior mentor may already have experience mentoring junior employees. In that case, a great way to show that you support and trust them is to let them have more say in where to steer their sessions. However, in many cases employees are new to mentoring, and will therefore need more guidance and support:
You’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. So encourage participants to make use of frameworks such as SMARTER, GROW and PDP. This helps them to be proactive, while giving them the freedom to set their own goals.
One of the biggest indicators of a successful mentoring relationship is a compatible match. You can match mentors and mentees manually, or using a mentoring software, such as Guider, to save you time. Either way, it's important to give mentees an element of choice in who they match with, as they are more likely to be invested in the relationship.
We’ve written a guide on how to match mentors and mentees, but it's also important to let participants know what help and guidance is available if there is a personality clash. People tend to drop off without communicating if they feel too embarrassed to speak up.
You can also learn a lot from existing relationships. Assess what is working well and not so well in the current mentoring pairs and learn from them. Collecting confidential feedback from mentors and mentees can teach you a huge amount as to what makes a successful mentoring match.
You many have leaders in the business advocating for mentorship and supporting your programme, but have you tried recruiting them as mentors?
Encouraging senior leaders to become mentors creates a ripple effect throughout the company, giving the programme more weight and legitimacy. They also help to promote the programme through word-of-mouth when speaking to colleagues about mentoring successes, encouraging others to mentor.
If you feel your programme is losing momentum you can do a recruitment push for more mentors, targeting the people with the most influence in the organisation.
And finally, create a community buzz. When participants feel like a part of a wider community, they’re more likely to feel engaged.
This also acts as a reminder for employees to sign up or check in.
Mentoring benefits not only the mentee but the mentor as well. Mentoring develops a whole host of leadership and communication skills, and mentors are even more likely to get promoted than those who do not mentor. Read up on the benefits of mentoring for mentors for more detail.
It's important for mentors to really understand why they got involved with mentoring and what they'd like to get from the experience. This way they have a personal stake in the relationship besides their mentee's development.
Think of mentoring as a personal learning and development experience, with the opportunity for mentors to develop their coaching and leadership skills.
As a programme leader you should encourage mentors to engage with learning resources and training, particularly if they are a first time mentor. Encourage them to identify areas they want to work on, and to set goals for themselves.
Effective mentoring requires participants to feel comfortable with being open and vulnerable with each other. Momentum can be lost when they don’t feel comfortable sharing what they’ve learnt, or what they struggle with.
Mentors' stories of personal development can inspire mentees, and encourage them to open up. They should also establish confidentiality and boundaries, ensure that mentoring sessions are a safe space, with no hidden agenda. A space where they can be open and honest with each other. The more open, the easier it is to get to the root of an issue and make progress.
Mentoring is a two way relationship, and it's a common misconception that the mentor does all the work. At Guider we believe in mentee led mentoring, and so the mentees select a relevant mentor for them and drive the relationship, such as leading on booking sessions and setting an agenda. This instils the responsibility in the mentee from the onset of the mentoring relationship, setting a precedent for them to keep up the momentum.
Similar to 'managing up' (anticipating a manager's needs and taking initiative), a mentee should be encouraged to be independent and hold themselves accountable.
For example, this could be by taking a proactive approach and being the first to communicate with their mentor. They should be encouraged to understand their mentor's priorities and pressures, creating less tension and allowing the pair to focus on building a positive mentoring relationship. It acts as a form of personal development for the mentee, improving their emotional intelligence, communication skills, leadership, and confidence.