Challenges with Managing a Traditional Mentoring Program

Gregg Nelson
Written by
Gregg Nelson

Mentoring Software Saves the Day


Most organizations today have some form of a mentoring program and initiative. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many companies to assist in the organization and development of an effective mentoring program. However, I hear repeatedly how difficult it is to create, implement, and scale a traditional program that is run through spreadsheets and hand-matching.

Traditional mentoring programs typically involve one person (an administrator) tasked with gathering data about prospective mentees and mentors, analyzing the data, and matching the mentor with the mentee. The process usually involves people filling out an application, securing a recommendation from a manager or supervisor, or some other form of nomination activity that gets submitted to the program administrator. The administrator must transfer the data gathered from each application and insert it into a spreadsheet. Finally, he or she goes through the process of accepting participants, analyzing development goals, and matching or pairing the “right” mentor with the “right” mentee. Essentially, one person is responsible for the bulk of the process, which when combined with his/her other primary job responsibilities, can be understandably overwhelming.

Frustrated with old mentoring stylesAnd that’s just the primary challenge. There are additional challenges people can face, such as:

  • Time Commitment and Conflicts. We all have good intentions. Most people want to help others, but we are all busy. It’s often difficult to schedule a time to meet and discuss the appropriate issues leading to a proper fit in a traditional mentoring program. Many times meetings are rushed over lunch or during a brief break in the day. Due to a lack of time, and sometimes even a decreased priority, the meetings tend to be pushed to a different day and time from week to week or month to month. Momentum and enthusiasm systematically wear off, leaving neither the mentor nor the mentee with a positive experience.
  • Scalability (or Lack Thereof). When a program is managed by a spreadsheet, scaling to accommodate growth is too difficult to manage. As a result, most programs end up staying small and having to turn away would-be mentees and mentors. But this is the last thing companies should be doing! Employees what the opportunity to be challenged in their work, and they want opportunities to grow in their skills and knowledge. They look to their employers to provide those opportunities, so when organizations limit their mentoring program to just a handful of people (because that is all the administrator can handle), they are also cutting off a prime opportunity for extended employee growth and development.

Benefits of Using Mentoring Software

The challenges with paper-based mentoring programs can seem dire, but fortunately, there are a number of technology-related solutions to make the mentor/mentee program more effective and easier to manage. Below are a few benefits that technology can offer when it comes to your mentoring program.

More Efficient Matching

Mentoring software

Using mentoring software to help run your program allows you to have faster and more efficient matching of numerous mentors and mentees based upon their skills and competencies. You can even allow people to find their own matches! For example, a mentee may be looking to develop in a particular area and see a potential mentor who is available and who is willing and able to provide developmental assistance. The mentee is able to either contact the potential mentor via email/the software, or contact the program administrator for and introduction and/or approval. This not only allows the matching process to be expedited, but it also helps it be more targeted and personalized. Some systems even make smart recommendations to users based upon their skills and competencies.

Better Use of Time

When using mentoring software, time commitment can be established early when the mentor and mentee connect. They have the opportunity to determine if they will be engaged for a shorter period of time or if a longer time-frame is preferred. Scheduling future meetings is also easier, since most mentoring platforms have built-in calendars and scheduling tools. The program administrator can use the mentoring software to run reports to see if the mentor and mentee have kept their commitments and met with one another per their scheduled appointments. This gives a level of accountability and responsibility to the participants, which can potentially strengthen the engagement.

Unfettered Growth

Mentoring group

With technology-based solutions, it is much easier to scale a mentoring program. In fact, an entire organization can have access to mentors and mentees through the ease of technology. The administrative burden is significantly reduced when technology is used throughout the mentoring process. For example, people can easily create a profile in a mentoring platform and include all of the critical information an administrator would have previously had to collect and enter into a spreadsheet. Once the heavy lifting of hand-matching is removed from the equation, mentoring quickly becomes an opportunity that companies can offer to all of their employees, not just to the select few.

Tracking and Reporting

Using mentoring software and technology allows for various types of tracking and reporting capabilities. For example, you can track who your popular mentors are, or which participants are more active than others. You can also track such things as how long it takes people to find a mentee or mentor, or what their feelings are on effectiveness of the relationship and progress made. You could even track and report on where you have a gap in mentors for a particular skill and/or competency, where the demand is high but the number of experts is limited. This could help you (the administrator) then find other mentors to address the gap and ensure that your workforce is getting their developmental needs met.

It’s clear why we are long past the days of managing traditional mentoring programs by spreadsheet and limiting the numbers of participants. There are affordable technology solutions out there that are capable of growing and scaling with you—even if you start small.

Want to learn more? Check out our eBook on Building Your Mentoring Roadmap.

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