Overcoming Challenges to Implementing Mentoring Programs in Private and Public Sectors

When speaking about mentoring, the first thing that comes to mind is a one-on-one relationship between a younger protégé and an older mentor who meet regularly, electronically or in-person. However, modern mentoring occurs in a variety of forms in different types of organizations and environments.

Mentoring has been hailed as an important human resource management strategy, a career tool, and a workplace learning activity. Individuals may join the private sector with the expectation that significant funds exist to allow for training opportunities. Many groups use mentoring in organizational settings, including: hospitals, large corporations, schools, universities and government departments. Training decisions made by human resources managers reveal that the private sector is market-driven competitively, whereas government agencies tend to have legislated mandates. These factors influence the challenges the sectors face when deciding whether to use resources to mentor employees.

Mentoring Programs Face Different Challenges

The impact of resources in both the private and public sectors can affect the way a mentoring program is delivered. Some differences between public and private organizations that influence mentoring include how programs are funded, organizational structure, and employee demographics.

Mentoring Programs in the Public Sector

The public sector is composed of organizations which are owned and operated by the government.

  • Government agencies like the Department of Justice are awarding millions in grants to public sector mentoring programs.
  • The size, dollar value, and complexity of many government programs exceed that in the private sector, and are more likely to pay all project cost and/or cover indirect costs.


  • Often requires institutional cost-sharing and matching.
  • Changing political trends affect security and continuity of some programs and availability of funds can change rapidly.
  • It is sometimes difficult to sell new ideas to government leadership.

Mentoring Programs in the Private Sector

Private sector refers to companies and entities which are not part of government and are privately owned.


  • The smaller number of decision makers allows private companies, for the most part, to avoid time-consuming, bureaucratic requirements for administering grants and programs.
  • Leadership decisions in the private sector are not open to the public to scrutinize in the same way public agencies are. Therefore, the private sector tends to be more willing to take risks and add start-up or experimental funds to start a new mentoring program.


  • In more volatile markets, priorities can change rapidly and continuing support of a mentoring program can be difficult to predict.
  • Less likely to cover all project costs and most do not cover indirect costs.
  • A mentoring program has a harder time competing for funds when the private company is in a market-driven, highly competitive, rapidly changing business landscape.

Overcoming Challenges

Depending on the environment, whether public or private, there are several different approaches that can be used to overcome these challenges. If working in the private sector, remain flexible to shifting priorities that can shape the direction of a growing organization. In the public sector, patience and resilience is key since many of the processes will require protocols and procedures to work through internal processes.

Most mentoring programs are implemented by training development specialists or human resource managers. See what Coley & Associates is doing to help professionals in private and public organizations to implement successful mentoring programs.
What other mentoring program challenges do you see in the Public Vs Private Sectors?

By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

12 replies on “Overcoming Challenges to Implementing Mentoring Programs in Private and Public Sectors”

Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to
everything. Do you have any tips and hints for newbie blog writers?
I’d certainly appreciate it.

First off, blogging should be fun, or it is not worth doing. Some of the techniques we use here at Coley, is to remember to share something enlightening with your readers, that may help them have an “ah ha” moment. I love sharing things that help people understand a process, such as steps to implementing and managing a mentoring program and then have them tie it back to some level of knowledge or expertise I can provide.
Your blog should always try to reach your readers, so make sure you take the time to research and stay up-to date with topics of interest. This approach not only helps you stay knowledgeable, but will foster a healthier engagement from your readers.

Your presentation at the NFBPA Conference was excellent. I looked up your blog. Thanks for giving us a new perspective and ideas regarding mentorship.

Thank you for the positive feedback. Coley is such a wonderful place to work, that presenting on the topic of mentoring is quite enjoyable. At Coley, we provide resources for mentoring and coaching including how to best to create a development plan highlighting strengths along with structured mentoring activities. Please feel free to reach out for further details.

Ms. Barnwell, our blog will continue to provide you information about mentoring, leadership, and management challenges that can be overcome. Please continue to take this journey with us, and visit our site at leisure, we appreciate the positive feedback, and look forward to connecting with you again.

One of the greatest challenges of a mentoring program is time. In the midst of our very busy lives urgent and important things are constantly in competition with that which is important but not urgent, e.g. mentoring. For the mentored it may be urgent but seldom for the mentor is it urgent. As a founding member of the Institution for Veteran Education and Training (IVET), I learned very quickly that as we trained veterans to transition from military to civilian careers mentoring was critical to the process. And it was our most difficult and expensive service. Mentors must find or carve out time in very busy lives. The mentors most desired are of course those already successful and therefore often very busy living productive lives. So, is there a lesson learned which could help with this? Yes, the value of contributing as a mentor must outweigh or contribute to the other important tasks the mentor already has. Organizations that have successful mentoring programs have all found ways, within their respective environments, to increase the value of contributing as a mentor. It varies in each organization.

Mr. Brown, first thank you for taking time to review our blog. You are correct in your statement that the return on investment (ROI) invested by the mentor must be evaluated closely, or there could be a bigger loss to the organizational goals. Some keys to helping the time challenge and motivation through research include:

• Developing an effective mentoring structure (structured mentoring program)
• Training for both the mentor and mentee prior to the mentoring relationship starting
• Sharing effective mentoring practices/best practices
• Providing recognition such as documenting mentoring, weighing it in personnel and merit
recommendations, and/or creating mentoring awards
• Reserving mentoring time (scheduled time devoted to mentoring)
• Practicing clear communication through requiring mentees to write a weekly or bi-weekly emails or
online log so their progress can be reviewed prior and have mentees writing summaries after meetings.
This ensure that both sides have the same understanding about their meetings.
• Engaging in group mentoring, the advantage is that there will a wealth of different experiences within the
group that can be drawn upon.

Again, please keep in mind that because mentoring is an issue at all career stages, the solution to this challenge requires a clear investment in strategies to maintain your program while sustaining the momentum for all participants.

My agency has developed a mentoring program for supervisors and managers but have never given any consideration to assigning a mentor to the new entry level employees. You have opened my mind to developing a mentoring program within my work site. The benefits could be immeasurable. Thank you!

Deirdre, at Coley our mentoring solution not only includes addressing all levels of employees, the system mentoring solution can be deployed, in several different approaches to include flash, traditional and peer to name a few. Coley & Associates, Inc. is an award-winning workforce development solutions company that has delivered mentoring, training and performance solutions to over 20 Government organizations during the past ten years. Please contact us for further details on our services. Again thank you so much for reviewing our blog.

What an incredible job!! Sounds like a great program you’re administering. The folks at Coley are lucky to have you.

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