Navigating the Pitfalls of a Formal Mentoring Programme

By Natanya Rutstein

Having a successful mentorship programme is one of the most powerful ways to attract and retain much needed talent within your organisation. By including mentoring in your people development strategy, the message you are communicating to your employees is – “We value both your personal and professional development and are committed to helping you grow and realise your full potential.”

Building such a programme takes both time and effort and there are some fundamentals which can significantly impact the success or failure of your programme.

When setting up a mentoring programme some of the essential building blocks to consider are:

  1. Developing a strong business case

It is imperative that you know exactly what it is that you would like to achieve through the programme. Whether it is to onboard new recruits, fast track high potential candidates for defined positions, develop a leadership pipeline for critical positions or create a future talent pool through graduate development, the programme will require careful planning and allocation of time and financial resources to ensure its success. As such the programme objectives must be clearly linked to the business’s strategic goals and objectives.

  • Securing management buy-in and support

Management will not support an initiative which lacks a strong business case with clearly- defined objectives. If leadership does not buy-into the programme, programme participants will not be motivated to devote the required time and effort into making the programme a success.

  • Carefully select the programme manager and co-ordinator

The role of a strong programme manager cannot be underestimated in promoting the programme and providing support to both mentors and mentees. It is essential for the manager to continually assess progress and adjust course where necessary. According Penny Abbott and Peter Beck in their article, Why are Mentoring Programmes in South Africa not Delivering?  the role of the programme coordinator is also vital to ensure consistency in all communication with the participants and providing regular follow-up and support.

  • Participant selection

The mentoring relationship will fail if the mentor and mentee are not well matched. It is not always possible to predict a successful match but trying to combine compatible personalities and interests together with the skills required can significantly increase the chances of a more fruitful and productive relationship.

  • Pilot the programme first

Abbott and Beck recommend to start with a small pilot programme to be run over a period of 6-12 months and restricted to 10 mentoring pairs. At the end of the pilot the programme should be evaluated together with the input of the mentors and mentees and improvements and necessary adjustments must be implemented.

  • Mentor and mentee training

Both mentor and mentee must receive initial training and continued coaching and support to develop their mentoring skills. Mentors must be trained in the skills necessary to empower their mentee’s and the mentee’s must coached on how to take responsibility for the process and for their own growth and development.

Today’s blog is just a brief overview of some of the challenges you may encounter along the way to implementing your formal mentoring programme and hopefully it will help to raise your awareness and stimulate your thoughts on how to anticipate and creatively tackle such issues within your organisation. The Talent Hub International has extensive experience in helping organisations to deliver mentoring progammes that work. Feel free to contact us at for more information

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