Critical Success Factors in the Introduction of a Mentoring Program

In order for your mentoring program to be successful the following factors are important for you to consider.

1. Defining a mission/purpose statement

As programs can cover a wide range of activities on the mentoring spectrum, from very loose, informal programs to prescriptive and rigorously assessed programs, it is important for an organization/ faculty/ division setting up a mentoring program to clearly define and articulate the purpose and intention of the program. This ensures a greater consistency and the ability to more effectively measure the outcomes and results of the mentoring program

2. Establishing agreed operating principles and processes

It is important for participants and mentors in a formal mentoring process to have a clear understanding of the expectations and processes of the mentoring framework. Given that the mentoring process is largely driven by the relationship between mentor and mentee, it is important to make the process simple, easy to follow with clearly defined processes and boundaries.

3. Developing an effective 'matching' process

This process needs to be seen as objective and fair. Some organizations leave it up to mentees to 'choose' their mentors, by arranging for them to meet at an organized function and for mentees to choose their mentors based on their first impressions of the mentor. Other programs use a 'selection committee' to match mentors and mentee, based on understanding the internal dynamics and 'politics' of the relationships, whilst others leave it to an expert or external consultant to determine the pairings based on objective pairing, or based on matching the mentee's development needs with the mentor's experience & skills.

Whichever method you use, it needs to be aligned to the mentee's development needs and be regarded as a transparent and open process. Ethical issues such as the relationship between mentor and mentee (i.e. supervisor and employee) also need to be considered.

4. Providing appropriate support/ training for mentees and mentors

As mentoring is often closely aligned with both coaching and counselling, it is important to clearly articulate what mentoring in your area will mean, and what the boundaries of it will be. It is also important to ensure that both mentees and mentors clearly understand the purpose, process and methodology of the mentoring process, and their roles within that process.

Although your mentors may be experienced mentors it is important to provide a short information/training sessions to clarify understanding/ expectations of the mentoring program and the role of the mentor in your particular program. Providing some additional skills development sessions for mentors would also be useful.

If the relationships do not work out, it is important that both mentors & mentees are aware that they have a choice about continuing the relationship. They need to be aware of the process for being able to choose not to continue, and that this process will be managed in a way that does not damage their confidence or credibility.

Some reasons why mentoring relationship can fail:
  • Lack of commitment of either mentor or mentee
  • Incompatibility of personalities
  • Ego of either party gets in the way
  • Lack of respect for mentor's ability
  • Mentee feels unable to 'live up to' expectations of mentor
  • Mentee challenges mentor's advice
  • Expectations of either party not met
  • Sense of a lot of effort for little reward

5. Developing a closure policy

The mentoring program needs to clearly articulate the timelines for the program as well as a clearly defined process for exiting the mentoring relationships so that mentors are not pressured to feel that they need to continue the mentoring relationship informally

6. Evaluation & assessment

The mentoring program needs to be assessed and evaluated to ensure that it has achieved the desired organisational and individual and objectives, and to ensure that any problems or issues are addressed before the program is continued.

Summary of the Key Principles and Strategies of the Critical Success Factors
and Outcomes
  • Identify needs & key stakeholders
  • Define intention and projected outcomes
  • Provides consistency and ability to measure results
Principles and
  • Manage expectations and boundaries
  • KISS principles
Mentor Matching
  • Objective and fair
  • Selection committee?
  • External or internal expert?
  • Aligned with purpose and mentee's objectives
Support and Training
  • Clear guidelines
  • Skills and knowledge development for mentors and mentees
Closure Strategy
  • Timelines
  • Formal/symbolic closure
Ongoing Evaluation
and Assessment
  • Address any issues/ problems
  • Continuous improvement
Resource Support
  • Internal or external
  • Administrative support