Building a successful workplace mentoring program takes time, planning, and commitment. But it doesn’t have to be all work and no fun. Some of the most engaging activities for mentors and mentees can be excellent teaching opportunities.
Why mentorship is important
Research has found that today’s employees are looking for career paths that help them develop their skills and expand their networks. They also want to work for companies that genuinely care about employee satisfaction. Mentoring is an effective way to make coming to work a more rewarding experience. Nine out of 10 workers with mentors have higher levels of job satisfaction.
Moreover, nearly 40 percent of employees who don’t have mentoring relationships have thought about leaving their position in the last few months. The benefits of mentoring can't be ignored. Formal mentorship programs can be a tool that:
- Improves diversity or inclusivity in the company culture
- Supports leadership development and leadership skills among employees
- Trains employees with both hard skills and career skills
- Enhance employee engagement
- Increase employee retention
- And much more
There is more than just one type of mentor program
Just as there are different types of mentors there are also more types of mentorship programs. For example:
- 1-on-1 mentorship between leaders and more junior employees (high potential programs, leadership development, succession planning).
- Peer mentorship between employees at similar career stages (new hire buddy programs, connecting remote teams).
- Group mentoring where a senior leader mentors several mentees (new manager training, onboarding, employee resource groups).
The goals behind mentoring programs can also vary. At Together, we see mentoring programs designed to:
- Develop high potential employees to take on leadership roles
- Support diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives like ERGs
- Train new managers to take on their new role
- Set up new hires for success with onboarding buddy programs
- Build more connected cultures in remote or hybrid workplaces
All successful mentoring programs have an intense focus on creating meaningful mentoring pairs that lead to stronger corporate culture. Successful pairings are based on the compatibility of the mentor and mentee, but the topics they discuss during each session are equally important. Let's explore what successful mentoring relationships cover in their sessions together:
What are good mentoring topics?
Being prepared is one of the best ways to make the most of your time with your mentor or mentee and ensure a the effects of mentorship leave a positive impact. Knowing what you want to talk about and how to express yourself will make meetings go smoothly.
Consider listing out some topics that you want to discuss with your mentor before the meeting. A structured mentoring plan will ensure that you both feel productive about your time together.
Some topic areas you may decide to cover include:
- Skill development
- Career guidance
- Employee development
- Engagement and motivation
- Leadership issues/challenges
- Long or short-term goals
- Business objectives behind the program
What do you talk about in a mentoring meeting?
Meeting someone for the first time in a one-on-one situation can be nerve-racking. Building up trust and rapport with a mentor or mentee takes time. Setting up some structure for meetings is an excellent way to keep the conversation going. Prepare some questions for the session that fits into one of the mentoring topic categories, such as:
- How can I improve my public speaking skills?
- How did you get to your position in the company?
- What changes would you suggest I make in my memo?
- How do I ask my boss for a raise?
- What is the promotion process at this company?
Approach your meetings like you would in any situation where you are meeting someone new; Ask questions to get to know them better. Having a list of questions for your mentor or mentee in mind will help you avoid the first meeting jitters. It can also be a great starting point for some productive discussions between both of you.
Using Together's mentoring platform organizations can pair hundreds (even thousands) with ease using our pairing algorithm. After they're paired each mentoring pair has access to all kinds of different sessions agendas like goal setting, job shadowing, problems solving, and more. Check out our platform to learn more.
15 activity ideas that lead to effective mentoring meetings
Getting to know your mentor or mentee can be a fun process. Here are some creative activities that you can do together to build on your connection.
1. Job shadowing
Job shadowing in workplace mentorships can be a great opportunity to learn from an experienced employee. Mentees following mentors around for a day can help them gain insight into the company, senior positions and responsibilities in the company, and help them set career goals. This mentoring process can also work both ways. Reverse mentoring is where a mentor shadows their mentee to gain an understanding of their world.
2. Attend a conference
Going to a conference together, even if virtually, can be a bonding and learning experience. Mentors and mentees can attend presentations and discuss it afterwards. Spending time together doing more than talking but learning together will enhance the mentor relationship.
3. Read a book
There is no shortage of books offering career and life advice that a mentor and mentee could read together. Then discuss the author’s viewpoint, the positives and negatives of their perspective, and whether their advice will work in a practical setting.
Working together on a common cause can cultivate a deeper connection between a mentor and mentee. Select a charity that you both support and spend some time volunteering at the organization.
5. Attend a networking event
One advantage of workplace mentoring experiences is that they can expand a mentee’s network. Consider attending a networking event together such as a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. These experiences can be beneficial to both a mentor and mentee.
6. Go to an art exhibit
Even though a workplace mentorship focuses largely on career topics, a mentor and mentee can spend time outside of work bonding. Taking in a show together or attending a local art exhibit can be a great way to create a deeper connection.
7. Complete a project together
Consider a project that allows a mentor and mentee to work alongside each other. It could be researching or writing an article together or even a company committee that they could join together.
8. Enjoy a coffee
Not every mentoring meeting needs to take place at the office. Slip away for a lunch out or grab a coffee and chat about non-work-related things.
9. Share information and news
Mentors can share interesting articles, blogs, or information that they feel a mentee might appreciate or learn from.
10. Remember important dates
The connection between a mentor and mentee is often a strong one. Celebrating milestones and achievements is a great way to cultivate a positive connection.
11. Attend presentations
Mentors should make an effort to attend a presentation where they can see their mentee in action. However, save the critique for a less public space.
12. Double date
Go out for lunch with another mentor-mentee to learn from each other and expand your networks. Ask them what activities they do together and see if you get any new ideas.
13. Provide feedback on each other's work
Mentors and mentees should be given an opportunity to see each other in action. A mentee can learn presentation skills by watching their mentor deliver one. A mentor can offer some pointers after they see how their mentee handles public speaking situations.
14. Attend a class
Learning is a life-long skill. Mentors can teach mentees to adopt the attitude of perpetual learning by attending a class or workshop together.
15. Say goodbye in style
Most mentorships end within a year or two. When it is time for it to end, plan a celebration to mark the occasion. It is a great time for a mentor to tell a mentee how far they’ve come.
There may be many more activity ideas that can build rapport between a mentor and mentee as well as serve as a learning experience. It is important to understand the goals of the mentorship and the program so that you can create a list of appropriate activities for mentoring matches.