In theory, leaders, managers, and employees largely agree on the importance of a having a mentor program. Corporate mentor programs are often named as one of the Top 5 reasons people choose an employer. This moves into the Top 3 when you whittle down the list to Gen Y, Gen Z, and High-Potentials. More and more companies are acknowledging the weight and importance of a mentor program, but the programs often fall short of expectations from all sides.
When the urgency is cranked up within an organization, which it almost always is, mentor programs often don’t garner much attention from executive leaders. Who can blame them? What’s the ROI on a mentoring program? Not very high in most cases, but why?
To answer this question, we must examine the reason most mentoring programs are setup in the first place and how they are most often implemented.
Top 5 Reasons Mentoring Programs are Established
- Recruiting – demonstrates to the outside world that the organization values its employees
- Retention – studies show that employees who are mentored stay on the job longer
- Engagement – employees who have confidants at work stay longer and work harder
- Knowledge Transfer – quicker onboarding and higher productivity
- Cultural Management – improved communication and alignment
Beyond recruiting, most organizations actualize very little of these desired benefits. Often it’s not from a lack of energy, desire, or time. In fact, mid-level managers frequently spend a disproportionate amount of time engaging in activities they define as “mentoring” compared to the benefit to the mentee, mentor, and organization. The single biggest reason why corporate mentor programs fail to live up to expectations is simple; LACK of STRUCTURE. Let’s visit the difference between a structured and unstructured mentoring program.
- No link to business objectives
- Goals are nonspecific
- Results are not tracked
- Matching is based on proximity
- Program is limited and exclusive
- Meetings are infrequent and ad-hoc
- Best practices are not followed
- Tied to business objectives
- Success goals are established
- Results are measured
- Matching is based on individual and organizational needs
- Management is aligned
- Best practices are developed and shared
- Support resources are available
After a short review of these differences, which type of program do you think is more beneficial to all parties? If you answered “STRUCTURED” as most people do, then why do most programs contain very little structure. The simple reason is time. Structuring a mentoring program takes time and with urgent and important activities tugging at employees and organizations all day long there is very little time to structure a program that truly yields the desired benefits. So why should your organization spend the time and energy to structure its mentoring program? Because, if not, you’re just WASTING TIME.