30 Mentorship Program Ideas + Tips for Success

Building up trust and rapport with a mentor or mentee takes time. Having a structure for meetings is an excellent way to guarantee meaningful conversations. Here are over a dozen activities to build a strong mentoring relationship.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

May 18, 2021

Updated on 

November 7, 2023

Time to Read

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There’s no denying that mentorship programs produce results, but the path from inspiration to successful execution is long, and it traverses a thick forest of challenges and obstacles. 

From setting up the right program to reinvigorating an existing program with new ideas, this guide will help you keep your mentoring program on the right track.

Why your organization needs a mentorship program

Yesterday’s onboarding and training strategies aren’t enough to keep today’s top talent. Employees want to work for companies that offer professional development and upskilling and reskilling opportunities — 60% of the workforce say it’s a top concern. 

Employers that invest in professional development and growth also retain their top talent for longer. The message is clear: people want to work for companies that genuinely care about their careers. 

Mentoring is an effective way to ensure everyone in your organization succeeds. In fact, formal mentorship programs can be a tool for:

  • Improving employee retention
  • Increasing engagement and productivity
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace
  • Building a culture of learning
  • Developing future leaders
👉 Check out: Building a business case for a mentoring program 

Improving employee retention

Employees leave their jobs at a rate of nearly 25% — and that number is climbing. Mentorship programs improve retention rates by providing employees with a supportive network, ongoing professional development opportunities, and a sense of belonging within the organization. 

People walk away from jobs for a variety of reasons, but employees who advance are more likely to stick around, according to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report. A key factor for advancement? Mentors. Workers who have one are more likely to be promoted and be paid more.

Increasing engagement and productivity 

Mentoring programs create a collaborative work environment where team members encourage each other’s personal growth and improvement. In turn, they feel more accomplished and supported.

Job satisfaction has a direct correlation to employee engagement and productivity. A study out of Stanford University found that collaborating on tasks makes people 50% more effective. Working as a team will also make employees more motivated and engaged.

Kate Doyle, a career development expert at the UN, says mentoring is a highly engaging way to learn.

"It's learning through a relationship with someone else, so it's totally different than being in a classroom for a one-time learning event or learning from online self-paced programs. You know, those things are good, but I don't think they can compare in some ways to building a relationship with someone in your organization… and we know that organizations with mentoring programs have higher engagement levels."

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace

A McKinsey study shows diverse organizations are more likely to outperform their competitors and be more profitable over time. Diverse teams are also more productive

Apart from the business case for diversity, many companies have created DEI initiatives to foster a sense of belonging. But DEI programs work best when employees build relationships across all levels, departments, and backgrounds. 

Adding mentorships to the mix will create more opportunities for these relationships, fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace. According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, mentors can shape the behavior of their mentees through the development of a supportive and collaborative friendship. 

Mentorships also help employees from underrepresented groups to advance. Research shows that women and minorities benefit from formal mentorship pairings because it makes it easier for them to find mentors.

Building a culture of learning  

Mentoring programs are a key feature of companies that have built a culture of learning.

Social Learning Theory suggests that people learn from watching other people. As mentors, senior employees not only guide their mentees. They also model skills and knowledge that junior employees can learn from.    

Mentorships have a profound impact on learning and development — both for individual employees and the organization as a whole. Successful programs are the most sustainable, which will create a company-wide culture of learning over time.

Developing future leaders

This dedication to lifelong learning also helps to develop future company leaders. By nurturing those with high leadership potential, organizations can retain valuable company knowledge as employees advance. 

Forward-thinking organizations recognize this, investing in development programs, such as leadership mentoring programs. In mentoring relationships, it’s not just mentees who benefit. Mentors also see myriad benefits, including higher salaries and more advancement opportunities.

Furthermore, mentors learn leadership skills as part of the mentoring program and pass those skills on to others.

📚 Related reading: Level Up Your Sales Team with Leadership Training 

Who should participate in a mentoring program?

Mentoring programs impact workers across all experience levels, roles, and responsibilities: young adults starting their careers, experienced workers transitioning into new roles, future leaders climbing the career ladder, and even mentors who share their knowledge and expertise with others. 

But if you can’t include everyone at the company in your mentorship program, your short list should definitely include employees in these five categories:

High potential employees 

High potential employees, often referred to as "high-potentials" or "HiPos," have the potential to advance in their careers and assume leadership roles within organizations. These individuals often possess a strong work ethic, high levels of competence, and a willingness to learn and grow.

But without guidance from someone more experienced, HiPos may struggle in their career path. Mentoring helps assure them there's someone to guide them at various career stages — improving their self-esteem. Mentoring programs for HiPo employees will lead to long-term benefits for the organization, including building a deep talent pool for leadership roles.

Underrepresented talent

Many companies use DEI programs in their organization, but research from PwC shows only about 4% succeed at creating meaningful change. Yet nearly 80% of Black workers say workplace DEIB programs are valuable. And we know mentoring programs are effective in supporting underrepresented talent. 

Workers who have mentors are more likely to advance and experience job satisfaction — a key factor for retaining diverse talent. This is especially true among women and minorities, who frequently struggle to find mentors informally. 

Through mentoring underrepresented workers, you’ll also increase the diversity of your organization’s leadership. Additionally, increased diversity will make your organization more productive, increase revenue, and bolster innovation. 

New hires

Even with a great onboarding program, only 29% of employees feel prepared for their new roles. Mentoring programs for new hires help close the skills gap. 

Onboarding mentors not only introduce new employees to the company's work culture, but they become valuable coaches as they ramp up. These relationships help your new team members form powerful bonds with their coworkers and set them up for success from day one.

📚Related Reading: 11 Essential Tips to Facilitate Onboarding Mentorship 

New managers

When employees transition into a leadership role, they face similar challenges to new hires. New managers may need guidance and support to achieve organizational goals and lead others effectively. But only 20% of employees believe they have the skills needed for their future jobs.

Mentorship is a powerful way to upskill or reskill your new leaders. New managers can be paired with tenured managers for one-on-one mentoring. The mentor provides new managers guidance and support to the challenges and opportunities the new manager might face.

Remote teams

For remote teams, mentors ensure workers still benefit from on-the-job learning, cultural integration, face-to-face communication, shared knowledge, and professional development opportunities. 

Virtual mentoring addresses these challenges by providing a structured and intentional way for team members to communicate and collaborate effectively, align their work styles, access resources, support, and develop their skills and careers.

🎓 Keep Learning: Tips to create an engaging employee experience for your remote teams  

6 types of mentoring programs

When we think of mentorship, we usually think of an experienced employee guiding a younger employee or new hire. But from helping over 150 organizations and professional associations launch mentoring programs, our team at Together has seen a variety of program types, including the six most common: 

1. One-on-one mentoring

In this format, a mentee is paired with a single mentor for a set period. This mentorship program can be highly personalized and tailored to meet the specific needs and goals of the mentee.

2. Group mentoring

Group mentoring programs pair multiple mentees with one or more mentors. This arrangement is great for collaboration and diversity across departments and peer groups.

3. Peer mentoring

For peer mentoring, you’ll pair two employees at the same point in their career or who have similar experiences. Both employees serve as mentors to support, collaborate, and learn from each other in a less formal setting.

4. Reverse mentoring

This type of program flips the script for mentorships. A junior employee is paired with a more experienced employee to mentor the senior employee, usually about the latest technology or industry trends. Reverse mentoring also helps close the intergenerational knowledge gap in the workforce.

5. Flash mentoring

Flash mentoring arrangements only span one or a handful of sessions and are beneficial if you want to provide an employee with quick, focused support and guidance on a particular issue.

6. Mentoring circles

Mentoring circles offer a group learning experience through guided discussions around shared interests. A facilitator encourages interaction between participants who help each other achieve their learning objectives.

🧠 Learn more: How to Structure a Mentorship Program

30 mentoring activities for engagement and collaboration

A successful mentorship program will have long-term positive implications for your employees and the organization. In a study out of the UK, 87 percent of mentors and mentees said their mentorship made them feel more empowered in their careers. 

To achieve those milestones, your program needs an impactful, well-structured plan. Here are some creative activities you can suggest to mentors and mentees to encourage meaningful employee connections.

💡Get Inspired: 21 Mentoring Trends for L&D Leaders to Follow in 2023 and Beyond 

1. Job shadowing

Job shadowing helps mentees to learn from experienced employees by observing them during a typical workday. Mentees gain insights into the company, different positions, and may discover a new career path. 

This process also works in reverse, with mentors shadowing mentees to understand their world.

2. Conferences

Mentoring should go beyond talking to each other. Conferences offer discussions and workshops that serve as powerful learning opportunities, while the shared experience strengthens the mentor-mentee bond. 

3. Book discussions

Books that offer career and life advice make for great discussion starters. Busy teams can even use alternative formats, like ebooks or audiobooks. And apps like Blinkist summarize key points. 

You may want to create a recommended reading list with discussion questions focused on skills or qualities needed in a specific role. Pairs can discuss the author's viewpoint, the positives and negatives of their perspective, and whether their advice will work in a practical setting.

4. Volunteering

Working together on a common cause can cultivate a deeper connection between a mentor and a mentee. If your company hosts a volunteer day, make it part of your mentorship program. Or pairs can choose a charity or event on their own. 

5. Networking events

Mentors help mentees expand their professional network and open up new opportunities. Attending networking events in your community or industry can benefit both the mentor and the mentee. In fact, ABC News discovered that 80% of jobs are landed as a result of networking

Networking is also a great way to expand and evolve your mentoring program. For instance, ask senior mentors to sponsor mentees for new roles. They’ll go beyond guidance and coaching and become advocates for mentees’ careers.

6. Cultural activities

Informal activities are great for relationship building. Pairs should engage in activities outside of work, such as art exhibits or music events. These “field trips” can also stimulate workplace creativity.

7. Special projects

Projects like research, report writing, or leading a company committee are the ideal environment for collaboration and learning. For new pairings, short-term projects (a couple of weeks or a month) work best. While larger, more intense projects end a mentor-mentee relationship on a high note. 

8. Informal conversations

Not every mentoring meeting needs to take place at the office. Slip away for lunch or grab a coffee and chat about non-work interests or personal topics.

9. Sharing articles for discussion

Mentors can share interesting articles, blogs, or information from which they feel a mentee might appreciate or learn. They can also be a launch point for a discussion.

10. Sharing career stories

Humans love stories. Mentors can share stories about their career experiences, including challenges and successes. Both the mentor and mentee should talk about their careers in depth and discuss the impact previous mentors have had. 

11. Offering feedback on a presentation

Mentors should attend a presentation where they can see their mentees in action. Afterward, they can provide feedback and coaching. This is a great opportunity for the mentor to see how their mentee operates daily. For sponsorship pairings, the adviser may recommend their protege for a presentation.

12. Meeting with another mentor-mentee pair

Match up pairs to have lunch with another mentor-mentee pair so they can learn from them and form new relationships. This activity can also help mentor pairs to get ideas from their peers in other departments.

13. Mutual feedback sessions

Mentors and mentees can observe each other in action to improve certain skills, such as presentation skills and public speaking. The mentor can provide guidance and feedback after observing the mentee and vice versa.

14. Professional development classes 

Mentors can help mentees develop the habit of continuous learning and foster bonds between the two by participating in classes or workshops together, whether related to work or recreational events. This can also foster stronger bond between the two.

15. Mock interviews

Mentees gain powerful real-world experience that prepares them for success through mock interviews. The goal is to mimic the job interview process and provide actionable advice to help prepare mentees for advancement. In fact, one study found that 96% of people who completed a mock interview went on to eventually land their dream job.

16. Field trips

Give mentees unique opportunities to witness the inner workings of different industries through learning-focused field trips. Let them explore the ins and outs of various organizations up close, inspiring their career aspirations.

17. Case studies

Reviewing specific examples in case studies lets mentees explore the intricacies of real-world business challenges. To make the most of this activity, mentors should pose thought-provoking questions — and encourage mentees to consider all the relevant perspectives before coming up with a proposed solution. Then the pair can compare it with the real-world outcome.

18. Reflective journaling

This activity asks mentees to write their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. This will help them process their experiences and gain new insights.

19. Leadership training

Give your mentees the skills they need to succeed as emerging leaders through a comprehensive leadership training program. Cover topics like effective communication, decisive decision-making, and creative problem-solving that will be helpful to their career.

20. Group discussion

Mentees develop teamwork, speaking, and listening skills by engaging in group discussions on pertinent topics. These interactive conversations allow mentees to gain perspectives from one another while furthering the development of important social dynamics.

21. Skillsharing workshops

Participants can teach mini workshops virtually or in person to help one another learn  about emerging technology, hobbies, leadership skills, and more. Sessions can be led by anyone and used in conjunction with group mentoring or as part of a larger workshop or conference. 

22. Resume review

Mentors check their mentee’s resume to ensure it reflects their current skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Their mentorship program may have provided new items that can be added to the resume which will make this session even more fruitful. Mentees are better equipped to apply for promotions or new roles.

23. TED Talks 

TED Talks are one of the most useful free resources online. They are typically short and, yet, provide fantastic insight from some of the world’s leading scholars, professionals, and thought experts. This also supplies a springboard for your mentors and mentees to have larger discussions about their industry, passions, and aspirations.

24. Professional introductions

The mentorship program itself is a networking opportunity. To limit your participants to their paired partners is counter-intuitive. Each person has their own network and network-sharing is a great way to create a continual culture of learning and connection. Consider hosting a networking session in house for mentors to introduce mentees to company leadership.

25. Employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a key component of modern L&D programs. Encourage mentors to lead ERGs or affinity groups that center on shared interests, demographics, or professional goals. You’ll not only support your DEIB program, but you’ll also help mentors to develop leadership skills. Mentees benefit from shared experiences and peer connections.

26. Mentor speed dating

Whether you conduct mentorship matching in a digital platform like Together or use a manual method, your program may benefit from non-traditional pairing methods, like a “speed-dating. In this format, mentees chat with mentors individually for 5-minute sessions. They might find a mentor they hadn't considered. Mentors get to know potential mentees better.

If you’re considering a sponsorship program, speed meetups can be a great way to encourage diverse pairings as sponsors meet potential protégés they might not encounter otherwise. 

📚 Related Reading: Mentor vs. Sponsor: What’s the Difference? 

27. Brainstorming 

When you’re short on ideas or need to engage mentors and mentees in collaborative activities, you can opt for a brainstorming session. This can help you add to your list of topics for mentoring circles or used as part of a special project.

28. Circle discussions

These discussions are used as part of a circle mentoring program. They can be an amazing opportunity for collaborative learning and sharing diverse opinions. Participants engage in discussion around select topics guided by a facilitator.

🧠 Learn More: How to lead circle discussions at work [11 tips]

29. Virtual parties

Remote work needs remote solutions, and mentorship programs need social activities. Enter, the virtual party. You can set up a trivia game, escape room, pizza party, painting activity, and more. The choices are endless and employees love the chance to let loose and get to know their mentors and fellow program participants. 

30. Say goodbye in style

As you draw the curtain on a mentorship, it is a good idea to plan a celebration to mark the occasion. This can be a time for the mentor to reflect on the mentee's progress. 

You can also leverage other plans for both individuals to continue the relationship as a learning experience. You may also choose to conduct a survey or exit interview.

Expert tips for building your mentorship program

An effective mentorship program needs a fully realized plan. Like any program or project, you need goals and metrics to measure your success, but don’t limit yourself to the basics. 

Create new goals and objectives for each program

The goals and objectives for a mentoring program should adapt to the type of program and its participants. This will ensure that mentors and mentees get what they want and need while the organization gets its desired outcomes as well. Some factors to consider include:

  • Participants: Mentees and mentors will have different needs from a mentoring program. Departments and teams within your organizations will have differing needs as well.
  • Expected Outcomes: Your L&D team, company leadership, and individual employees will all come to a mentorship with different expectations — and you’ll need to take them into account. 
  • Program Type: A reverse mentorship will look a lot different than a group mentoring program or circle mentoring. Goals will look different too. 
  • Naming: When you're clear on the goals and objectives, it will help if you name your mentorship program. Aim for something that’s captivating and matches your company's value.

Tailor the program to your target audience 

Any mentorship program should be designed to meet the needs of participants and based on their desired outcomes and career ambitions. And you’ll  want to match a mentor with a mentee whose goals align. Poor matches have ruined many otherwise outstanding mentorships. 

According to Dr. Wendy Axelrod, an executive coach, former HR executive, author, speaker, and renowned mentorship guru, screening mentors and mentees needs to go beyond informal meet and greets. 

Mentor matching will help you make the best mentor-mentee matches for your employees.

Set clear expectations for mentors and mentees

To get the most out of the program, participants need to understand what is required of them. That will keep mentors coming back to us again and again and ensure the success of the mentorship program.

Sadly, most mentors and mentees don’t know what theyr’e getting into when signing up for a mentoring program. 

Dr. Wendy suggests laying the terms out for them so they know what they’re getting into.

"We tell them this is what is in the program. Do you agree with this? And we don't want them to feel surprised that things were not really laid out for them. We want them to understand we're going to be checking on their goals, and there are rules and boundaries."

Consider creating an agreement or manual that outlines these expectations, including:

  • Mentor matching criteria
  • Meeting frequency
  • Required activities
  • Suggested discussion topics
  • Post-mentorship assessments
  • FAQs

Set employees up for success with training and support

Mentors and mentees should be trained and supported to equip them for success in their roles. Onboarding should include topics similar to your manual or mentorship agreement, but you can also include workshops for mentors to learn from each other.  Mentees should be given resources that help them make the most of their program, such as important contacts, guidance for advancement, and steps for applying for new roles. 

Jacqueline Gilchrist, the mentoring program coordinator at The Forum, says mentors can help their mentees by sharing their own experiences.

"It's helpful to have somebody who's there along the way, and I always say, you know, family and friends can be super great as a support network, but sometimes it's just really nice to speak with somebody who has been in the position that you've been in and really understands the intricacies and the ups and downs." — Jacqueline Gilchrist, mentoring program coordinator at The Forum

🧠 Learn More: Mentor training programs: Setting mentors up for success 

Evaluate and adjust as needed 

Regular evaluation and adjustments to the mentorship program can be made based on feedback from participants and stakeholders. Surveys or post-mortem discussions can help you learn from previous successes and failures. Your participants will have valuable insight to guide future mentoring programs. 

Build and grow your mentorship program with Together

Your employees want opportunities to grow and advance within your organization. Junior and senior employees who participate in a mentoring program earn higher salaries and advance faster than their peers.

Together helps you manage every aspect of your mentoring program — from registration and pairing, to monitoring pairs and reporting on your success. 

Ready for a mentoring program that delivers results? Book a demo today

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