7 Types of Mentoring + Tips on How To Use Each

Learn about the different mentoring types and how to choose the best one for your organization, considering goals, culture, DEI, and more in our comprehensive guide.

Kinjal Dagli

Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

December 22, 2023

Updated on 

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We may be in 2024 but some practices from 1990s are still relevant today.

In the late 1990s, Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), recognized the need for his employees to learn about emerging technologies and digital trends. He initiated a program where senior GE executives were paired with younger employees who could educate them about the internet and new technology developments. This initiative was groundbreaking at the time and showcased the value of leveraging the unique insights and skills of younger generations within a corporate setting.

While he may not have invented it, his implementation of reverse mentoring at GE brought significant attention to the practice. Reverse mentoring is just one type of mentoring. There are seven types, and we will discuss each in detail in this article.

Uses and benefits of mentoring

Before we dive into the types of mentoring, let’s look at why you should dedicate resources to mentoring.

1. Professional development

There are many approaches to professional development that organizations use to upskill and reskill their employees. These approaches include workshops, seminars, formal education, e-learning, and mentoring. All of these approaches have their advantages and often complement each other, but mentoring stands out due to its personalized nature. Unlike more structured and generalized methods, mentoring provides:

2. Onboarding new employees

Onboarding with mentoring helps new employees navigate workplace culture and expectations. Employee onboarding approaches range from structured orientations, training modules, and handbooks to interactive workshops and social integration activities. Mentoring during onboarding enhances the onboarding experience because:

  • Mentors provide tailored guidance, helping new employees navigate the specific culture and dynamics of the organization.
  • Direct mentorship facilitates faster understanding of role-specific duties and expectations.
  • Regular mentor interactions boost confidence, making new hires feel valued and supported.
  • Mentors introduce new employees to critical contacts, aiding in quicker network building.
  • Unlike one-off training sessions, mentoring offers continuous support and adjustment assistance.

3. Leadership development

Leadership development through mentoring shapes future organizational leaders. This proactive approach pairs emerging leaders with seasoned executives. Organizations often use formal training programs, leadership workshops, e-learning courses, and practical experience assignments for leadership development. Mentoring uniquely enhances leadership development because:

  • Mentors provide personalized advice and strategies based on the mentee's specific leadership challenges and aspirations.
  • Mentees learn from the mentor's real-life leadership experiences, including successes and failures, which is more nuanced than generic training scenarios.
  • Mentors offer ongoing development, allowing leaders to evolve over time.
eBook Develop your high-potential employees with mentors

4. Diversity and inclusion initiatives

Mentoring drives diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) by bridging gaps across different employee groups. It creates a platform for sharing unique perspectives and cultural insights, enriching the workplace environment. Organizations use training programs, policy revisions, inclusive recruitment strategies, and employee resource groups (ERGs) for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Mentoring enhances DEIB initiatives by:

  • Creating meaningful, one-on-one relationships across diverse groups, breaking down barriers and stereotypes.
  • Providing direct support and guidance to each individual, enhancing their career progression.
  • Sharing of experiences between mentors and mentees, enriching mutual understanding and cultural awareness.

With the help of mentoring programs, DEIB initiatives support career advancement for underrepresented groups and build a culture of belonging and respect.

5. Succession planning

Succession planning through mentoring ensures the readiness of employees for future leadership roles. By pairing high-potential employees with current leaders, organizations facilitate a transfer of critical knowledge and skills. Besides mentoring, organizations use succession planning approaches such as leadership training programs, rotational assignments, talent pools, and performance assessments. Mentoring adds unique benefits to this process:

  • Mentors pass on specific organizational knowledge and insights, crucial for preparing successors.
  • Mentors focus on developing personal attributes essential for future leaders.
  • Mentoring provides tailored guidance based on the unique strengths and areas for improvement of the potential successor.

Employees mentored through a succession plan are groomed for advanced responsibilities, ensuring a seamless leadership transition.

6. Skill-specific acquisition

Skill-specific mentoring focuses on developing particular competencies relevant to an employee's role or career aspirations. For example, in tech companies, junior developers might be mentored by senior developers to master new programming languages. This focused approach allows for customized learning paths, meeting specific career development needs.

Different approaches to skill-specific acquisition in organizations include structured training programs, workshops, online courses, and practical, on-the-job training through shadowing. Mentoring programs uniquely enhance this process because:

7. Community and non-profit initiatives

In community and non-profit initiatives, mentoring plays a key role in capacity building. Experienced professionals volunteer as mentors to guide individuals or small organizations in developing strategic, operational, or technical skills. For instance, retired executives might mentor non-profit leaders, imparting knowledge on governance, fundraising, and community engagement. Mentors can also help at-risk youth and individuals re-entering the workforce, encouraging growth. This form of mentoring strengthens the overall impact of community and non-profit sectors.

Approaches to supporting community and non-profit initiatives often involve training workshops, volunteer programs, and community partnerships. Mentoring in this context offers unique benefits:

  • Professionals volunteer as mentors, providing specialized knowledge that's crucial for non-profit success.
  • Mentoring strengthens the skills of non-profit teams, enhancing their effectiveness.

Types of mentoring

There are seven types of mentoring based on the diverse mentoring needs and settings in the modern workplace. These types encompass various relationships and structures, from one-on-one to group formats, catering to different goals like career growth, skill development, and inclusive leadership. This classification helps organizations choose the right approach, aligning with their specific objectives and workforce dynamics. Let’s dive in.

1. Career mentoring

In this type of mentoring, experienced professionals guide less experienced colleagues, offering insights into career advancement and navigating workplace challenges. This can be done in a one-on-one or one-to-many setting, as long as more experienced individuals are mentoring their less experienced counterparts.

Career mentoring leads to accelerated career development, improved job satisfaction, and enhanced professional networks. Mentees gain insights into strategic career moves with the help of their seniors, avoid making common mistakes, and achieve their goals quicker. All you need is to create the right mentor-mentee pairs and provide organizational support and clear objectives.

Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm, runs several mentoring programs with different objectives. One of these is the #ReloadYourStrengths program, designed to develop employees' leadership skills by pairing them with more senior employees. This program is a good example of career mentoring as it focuses on building strong relationships, securing and developing resources, leading change, and driving vision and purpose.

2. Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring, where colleagues at similar job levels or ages share experiences, is a dynamic form of professional growth. This approach pairs individuals in a collaborative environment, often as part of broader professional development initiatives. 

In Randstad's Insider Program, peer mentoring is integral to onboarding, ensuring new hires quickly assimilate into the company culture and workflow. Salesforce's online learning platform Trailhead has elements of peer-to-peer mentoring, where employees can learn from each other's experiences, share knowledge, and develop new skills in a collaborative environment.

Peer mentoring encourages shared learning, strengthens camaraderie, and enhances collaborative skills, allowing participants to gain diverse perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. As with career mentoring, finding compatible pairs is critical here.

3. One-on-one mentoring

One-on-one mentoring, a classic and highly personalized form of mentoring, involves a direct relationship between a mentor and a mentee. In this model, mentors, often more experienced professionals, provide guidance, advice, and support to their less experienced mentees. This one-on-one interaction ensures focused and in-depth development, tailored to the specific needs and goals of the mentee.

So how is this different from career mentoring?

Career mentoring focuses on a mentee's professional growth, covering career planning and workplace skills, and can vary in format. One-on-one mentoring, though it can include career guidance, is broader, offering personalized advice on various aspects like personal development and specific skills. While career mentoring often happens in one-on-one settings, the latter encompasses more than just career-related topics.

Through one-on-one mentoring, the mentee benefits from a dedicated advisor and gains insights that are often not accessible through general training programs or group learning environments.

The effectiveness of one-on-one mentoring relies heavily on the compatibility between the mentor and mentee, as well as their commitment to the process. It requires a significant investment of time and effort from both parties to establish a trusting and productive relationship.

A notable example of successful one-on-one mentoring is found in the programs implemented by companies like Deloitte. Their D-180 mentoring initiative focuses on individual career advancement, leadership development, and skill enhancement. Deloitte’s approach showcases how dedicated mentoring can significantly impact an individual’s professional journey, leading to greater job satisfaction and career progression.

🤝 Read our guide on How to Make Career-Changing Pairings

4. Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring turns the traditional mentoring model on its head, with younger or less experienced employees mentoring more senior staff. This approach is particularly valuable in today’s rapidly evolving workplace, where newer entrants often have a fresh perspective or specialized knowledge, especially in technology and current trends.

In reverse mentoring, senior employees gain insights into areas like digital literacy, emerging market trends, and new organizational perspectives. This fosters intergenerational communication, bridges knowledge gaps, and promotes a culture of continuous learning across all levels of the organization.

The key to successful reverse mentoring is open-mindedness and flexibility from senior participants, who must be willing to learn from younger colleagues. It requires a cultural shift in organizations where traditional hierarchies are less emphasized, and knowledge sharing is mutual.

Deloitte, Vodafone, and CitiGroup all have reverse mentoring programs where senior executives are paired with younger employees. This initiative helps seasoned leaders stay abreast of digital trends and innovative thinking, demonstrating the mutual benefits of knowledge exchange across different experience levels.

5. Group mentoring

Group mentoring brings together one mentor with several mentees, creating a collaborative learning environment. This approach is particularly effective in settings where peer interaction and collective learning are encouraged. It combines the benefits of mentorship with the dynamics of group discussions and shared experiences.

In a group setting, a single mentor guides the entire group, facilitating discussions and providing insights. The mentees learn from the mentor and each other, sharing diverse perspectives and challenges. This collective approach can foster a sense of community, enhance teamwork skills, and broaden the learning experience beyond individual mentorship.

One of the challenges of group mentoring is ensuring that all participants are actively engaged and receive personalized attention. It requires careful planning and facilitation to balance group dynamics and individual needs.

A real-world example of group mentoring can be seen in Google's Women Techmakers program. This program includes group mentoring sessions that are designed to support and empower women in technology through shared learning experiences and networking.

6. Flash mentoring

Flash mentoring, a dynamic and flexible form of mentoring, involves short, focused sessions between a mentor and mentee. This model is designed for quick knowledge transfer, problem-solving, or networking, without the commitment of a long-term mentoring relationship. It's particularly suited for fast-paced environments and for addressing specific, immediate challenges.

In flash mentoring, participants engage in brief, intense learning experiences, often focusing on a particular topic or skill. These sessions can be one-time meetings or part of a series, but they are always concise and goal-oriented. This format is ideal for busy professionals who may not have the time for extended mentorship but still seek valuable insights or advice.

The challenge with flash mentoring is ensuring that these brief interactions are impactful and meet the immediate needs of the mentee. Effective preparation and clear objectives are key to making the most of these sessions.

Examples of flash mentoring programs implemented by organizations are not widely publicized due to the informal and spontaneous nature of these initiatives. Groups like the Young Professionals Network often organize flash mentoring events where members have the opportunity to engage in short, focused conversations with more experienced professionals.

7. Virtual mentoring

Virtual mentoring, adapting to the digital age, connects mentors and mentees through online platforms, transcending geographical barriers. This form of mentoring is increasingly relevant today, as it offers flexibility and accessibility that traditional face-to-face mentoring can't always provide.

In virtual mentoring, interactions occur via video calls, emails, and messaging apps, allowing for a more diverse range of mentor-mentee pairings. It opens up opportunities for individuals to connect with mentors who possess specific expertise or experience, regardless of their location. This global reach is particularly beneficial for niche industries or specialized roles where local mentors may not be available.

A key advantage of virtual mentoring is its convenience and adaptability to various schedules. However, it requires strong digital communication skills and a level of self-motivation that might not be necessary in traditional mentoring settings.

Most companies embraced virtual mentoring during the lockdown of 2020, and those that continued to follow a remote or hybrid work model still use it. Adobe’s virtual mentoring initiatives gained a lot of popularity during that time, and have now expanded to a community level, where expert users of their product mentor newer users.

🧠 Follow our tips on best practices for virtual mentoring programs

Identifying the right mentoring type and addressing challenges

Now all types of mentoring are suited for all organizations. When choosing a mentoring type, consider the following factors:

  • Organizational Goals – The mentoring program must align with your company's overall objectives. Whether it's boosting leadership skills or improving retention, the chosen mentoring style should support these goals.
  • Development Needs – Different mentoring types meet different employee needs. It's vital to match the program with what employees need to grow, whether in their career, skills, or personal development.
  • Company Culture – The mentoring approach should fit well with your company's culture, whether it's collaborative, competitive, or innovative. It needs to feel right in your organizational setting.
  • Resource Availability – Consider what resources you have. Different mentoring styles require varying levels of time, mentors, and management. Choose a type that your resources can support.
  • DEI Goals – If diversity and inclusion are important to your company, pick a mentoring type that advances these values. Some styles are better suited for promoting DEI.
  • Work Models – The way your company works – remotely, in-office, or hybrid – influences the suitable mentoring approach. For example, virtual mentoring is great for remote teams.

Choosing with these factors in mind ensures the program is strategic, feasible, culturally appropriate, and meets your organization's and employees' needs.

How to implement mentoring programs

To implement a mentoring program, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  • Define what the mentoring program aims to achieve based on your selected mentoring type (create successors, upskill employees, promote inclusion etc.).
  • Determine the scale of the program (number of participants, departments involved).
  • Identify potential mentors and mentees based on the chosen type of mentoring.
  • Decide on the duration of the program and outline the frequency and format of mentoring sessions.
  • Create guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of mentors and mentees.
  • Use a systematic approach to match mentors and mentees, considering factors like skills, career goals, and personality.
  • Offer training sessions for mentors and mentees to understand the program’s goals and best practices.
  • Provide resources like reading materials, tools for setting goals, and tracking progress.
  • Officially start the program with an introductory event or meeting.
  • Regularly check in with participants to offer support and address any challenges.
  • Facilitate feedback sessions to ensure the program meets its objectives.

At the end of the program, evaluate its success based on predefined metrics. Gather feedback from participants to make improvements for future iterations, and celebrate and recognize the achievements and progress of all participants.

Ready to take your mentoring program to the next level? Explore Together Platform's comprehensive mentoring solutions. Our platform simplifies the implementation and management of your mentoring program, ensuring a seamless and impactful experience for both mentors and mentees. Sign up for a demo today.

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