According to the American Society for Training and Development, over 75% of executives target mentoring as one of the key factors in their business success. As one mentor put it, “Powerful things happen when a respected, experienced person shows interest in and goes out of his or her way to help another individual develop, especially when that individual is open to being influenced.”

Most Programs Fail

But if mentoring programs are important elements to individual and organizational success, why do roughly 90 percent of these programs fail? The sad truth is most mentoring programs fail either because the company does not commit to the program in terms of time and money, or because of the implied simplicity in the core concept of what mentoring is all about.

Mentoring 101

“A trusted counselor or teacher” – that is the deceptively simple definition of a mentor that you will find in the dictionary. Companies that start mentoring programs don’t really make the commitment to them, because that “implied simplicity” makes people think they can do it on their own.” If your company plans to start a mentoring program, you’d be wise to hire an expert.

The Kentucky Experiment

About twelve years ago, the Brown Forman Company (makers of Jack Daniels whiskey), wanted to create a program that would increase the ranks of women and minorities in upper management. To get the program started on the right foot, Judy Lindenberger, of The Lindenberger Group, LLC, led the effort. What followed was six months of meetings with a committee made up of a diverse team of employees with different voices and views. Everything was discussed from how to train the mentors to who should be a protégé. Once the program was in effect it was monitored and measured for its effectiveness over several years.

The bottom line results were striking. Changes in career growth were measured over the years in both the group that was mentored (the “study” group) and a group of similar employees who were not in the mentoring program (the “control” group). There were significant positive changes in the way the people who were mentored not only felt about themselves and their jobs, but there were tangible, measurable benefits in terms of promotions and better job assignments, as well.

The New York Story

Another organization The Lindenberger Group, LLC helped is MDRC, a non-profit policy research organization in Manhattan. MDRC knew that there was some informal mentoring going on, but that it was uneven. The more assertive staff had no problem approaching others in the organization and asking for help. But other staff were not as confident and did not know how to ask for guidance. In addition, feedback from exit interviews indicated that some former employees experienced feelings of isolation and were unsure how to pursue their career interests. MDRC knew that it had a good business case for formalizing its mentoring program.

Mentors Benefit Too

A number of companies in which mentoring programs have been established report that mentors feel the program benefits themselves as well as their protégés. This certainly was the case at MDRC. Says Janis Porter, Human Resources Manager, “At MDRC, we were well aware of the benefits for the protégés, but what surprised us was the benefit to the mentors. They have expressed how rewarding it is to give back to the organization by mentoring less experienced staff.”

The New Jersey Case

Another client of The Lindenberger Group, LLC, Sarnoff Corporation, introduces its mentoring program to new hires during initial induction and orientation. New hires are eligible to apply after their initial three month review period. The company knows that their mentoring program is working because people are coming in to HR asking to get involved.

Reap the Rewards

Tell me what you think. How could finding a mentor help you network and build your expertise? How could creating a mentoring program strengthen your company?

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