Why Mentorship Programs Fail

Mentorship Failure

According to poll results conducted in respect to mentorship organizations in 2016, 2017, and again in 2022, it was discovered that just slightly more than half were truly pleased with the outcomes their mentoring programs were producing. In 2022, it was discovered through examination of those who were satisfied (leaders) and those who weren’t (laggards) that a lack of program structure, training, support, and resources is strongly connected with program failure. Yet, when planned and carried out properly, mentoring can generate a significant return on investment. 

According to Professor David Clutterbuck, part of what highly efficient mentorship programs ensure include:

  • Deliver meaningful education to at least 80% of mentors and 95% of mentees.
  • Lead to at least a third greater retention among those being mentored than among their non-mentored peers.
  • Show measurable changes in the mentees’ engagement, commitment, and relationships with their coworkers and superiors.
  • Strengthen and boost mentors’ self-assurance and capacity for mentoring their own direct reports.
  • Give insightful information about broader issues affecting people management, which may help to strengthen HR procedures and policies.
  • Increase the leaders’ faith in succession plans.
  • Have a demonstrable influence on cultural awareness and make a clear and significant contribution to the attainment of absolutely equal targets in the scope of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Here are some straightforward design principles and pitfalls you may avoid if your existing program isn’t producing results like these or you’re going to start one:

Have the end goal in mind:


The aim of the program is unquestionably the most crucial aspect to do right. If you can’t provide a compelling argument for why your company needs a mentorship program, you should probably give up now. Everything else follows from this, including the program’s structure, quantifiable goals, eligibility requirements, a matching and training method, and an enticing incentive for mentors to register. We believe that the finest programs are the ones that are well-targeted and created with a clear goal in mind. Here are a few instances:


  • A mentoring program offered by a professional association helps recent graduates during their first year, during which they are most vulnerable to burnout, mental health problems, and quitting the field.
  • A government initiative to support the formation of ties between mentors from various generations in order to promote the sharing of knowledge and experience across generations and to promote a cooperative culture.
  • A company-wide mentorship program to promote career mobility and give employees who don’t get the chance to take other training programs alternative options for their professional development.
  • Mentoring to help women advance into more senior positions and achieve diversity goals.


When mentoring programs lack a defined goal, they turn into a “tick-a-box” activity that no one in your organization will really commit to. To thrive, they require guidance, dedication, and a modest amount of love.

Therefore, the optimal place to begin is to consider what your organization hopes to accomplish in the next three to five years and how mentoring can help.

Organize your affairs:


Programs with weak commitment, particularly from top leaders, suffer from subpar program management. When top leaders sign up for a mentorship program, they are telling others that the program is important to the organization. Genuinely devoted individuals actively participate as mentors by setting an example for others to follow and subtly encouraging them to take the lead. Find supporters of mentorship who are passionate about your company and involve them.

Locate the proper size glove:


It can be difficult to determine the proper degree of structure. Disengagement is a result of excessive organization (templates, tools, forms, reporting, guidelines). Keep in mind that mentoring is a highly human activity! On the other hand, lack of structure might make people feel unsupported, particularly new mentors. Different sectors and occupations require different amounts of structure; some enjoy more, while others prefer less. 

Lack of organization is easily the most typical mistake we encounter. It is just untrue that prospective mentees will check out and select the ideal mentor if given accessibility to a repertoire of mentor profiles. Furthermore, if left to their own devices, inexperienced mentors may feel out of their depth and turn to “telling” rather than “leading”. 


  • Authentic connection, which is at the heart of excellent mentoring, is hindered by their lack of confidence in their abilities as mentors. Instead of providing actual developmental mentoring, completely unsupported, unorganized mentoring initiatives frequently produce what we refer to as “rapid information transfer.” A mentor must possess a certain level of competence, which can be learned. The same goes for mentees; they must be ready to participate. Therefore, make sure you provide mentors, mentees, program managers, and sponsors with what they need to achieve mentoring success. Don’t just pair people up and then pull away. For them to support the time given to mentoring, even the line staff of mentees and mentors may have to be informed.


  • Smart organizations build their mentoring programs carefully and thoughtfully, beginning by deciding if mentoring is the best methodology to achieve the organizational goal. The program is steered once it is initiated by involving important stakeholders early on. The execution is likewise carried out slowly. Just like any development program, it may take some time to assemble the necessary support, advertise the program internally, and then extend an application invitation. When a task is completed quickly to meet a deadline, something nearly always suffers; often, the application and pairing times are shortened, leading to matches of poor quality.

Measure twice, once, and again:


This relates to the first issue since it is difficult to determine whether mentoring is successful if there are no defined goals. This puts a mentorship program vulnerable to termination on the whim of a leader who is unaware of the advantages for the organization. Be able to show the ROI if you desire your mentoring program to be long-lasting.


Most frequently, mentoring partners who are not well-matched or who have not come to a consensus over their obligations to one another fail to engage effectively or cease interacting entirely. Making sure mentors and mentees can clearly express what they each desire and have to offer while also assisting them in discussing this once matched can make a significant difference.

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