Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Your Mentoring Program Has Problems

There are a lot of mentoring problems you'll face as you're starting up your program, but you're not in the clear once it's been started. Here are a few examples of mentoring problems you'll encounter after you start your mentoring program.

Mentoring Problem: The initial hoopla won’t last forever.

Whenever any type of an initiative is rolled out in an organization, there's usually a big kickoff. There may be mentoring training, webinars, all kinds of mentoring communication and generally a big hoopla - but then it kind of goes silent.

While performance management or career development initiatives are often required by organizations, mentoring isn’t: it's voluntary. So what happens is that when program participants get really busy, the mentoring is liable to go by the wayside, and they forget about it. After you buy into the mentoring program, here has to be continual reinforcement to evaluate the program, make sure everybody's on track, and make sure there are no problems interfering with instilling the new habit and culture successfully – and all of that takes reinforcement.

Mentoring Problem: Your mentors and mentees want reminders!

In fact, whenever we're asked to go back and do the evaluations at the end of the program, one of the things that I usually hear from participants is that it's good to get those reminders, because it helps keep them on track.

In one organization I worked with, the program coordinator thought everything was running fine for the first several months. At the six month mark, she did an evaluation, and found out that there were an awful lot of the pairs that had only met once – or at the most, twice.

That’s a big mentoring problem.

Organizations that are new to mentoring programs have a tendency to say "Well, we'll do a six month survey, or a nine-month survey, or a one-year survey,” and that's just too late. You ought to be doing your first check-ins in a max of six to eight weeks after the program kickoff, because if anything's going wrong, you want to find out about it now, not in six to twelve months, when you’re moving into the final phase of the mentoring program, which is separation and redefinition.

Don't wait to discover your mentoring problems.

There are several things that “separation and redefinition” could mean. One option is separation from the learning plan and the goals and objectives set at the beginning in the planning stage, and redefinition of new goals and objectives for Round 2 of the mentoring program. Another option is separation from the formal program defined by organizational objectives, and redefinition as a more informal program for networking purposes.

Whatever separation and redefinition means for your organization, you should not be finding out problems you didn’t know you had at that time.

We usually suggest reinforcement at the six week, twelve week, and seven month marks. Everyone knows it takes a certain amount of time doing the same thing over and over to create a new habit, which is why there needs to be more frequent check-ins and reports run at the beginning of the program, after the initial hoopla dies down, to build up those good habits, reminding people why the program is running, and keeping everyone on the same track.

So start reinforcement early: your program needs it, and your participants want it.

Judy Corner is an expert in mentoring training and program planning. Her other posts in this series include:

Part I: Corporate Mentoring: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Part II: Mentoring Training (and Why You Need It)
Part IV: How to Measure Mentoring ROI: Qualitative and Quantitative


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