Group mentorship

What is group mentoring & how do you do it well?

Learn about group mentorship and how you can use it to give everyone in your organization a leg up. We'll cover the basics of group mentorship and how to set up your own group.

Nick Saraev

July 15, 2022

In 2019, LeanIn.org released groundbreaking research into the relationships between men and women in the workplace. The organization had been working with Survey Monkey for two years to understand one question in particular: what are men and women experiencing in the #MeToo era?

One particularly interesting arm of the study found that,

"60% of managers who are men in the US and 40% of managers who are men in the UK are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together."

In the context of mentorship, attitudes like this pose a significant challenge to activities like one on one mentoring. Where can women turn for mentorship in male-dominated industries? 

Group mentorship may be the answer.

Learn more about group mentorship and how you can use it to give everyone in your organization a leg up. We'll cover the basics of group mentorship and how to set up your own group.

What is group mentoring at work?

As you're likely aware, the traditional mentorship setup is a one on one arrangement. This can partially be traced back to the days of apprenticeship when an experienced craftsman would take on a young, eager learner and teach them the ropes of the trade.

Fast forward to 2022, and mentorship has become far more flexible:

  • Reverse mentorship encourages younger employees to share their knowledge and expertise with more senior employees.
  • Peer mentorship allows employees of all levels to share their knowledge and skills, regardless of rank or position.
  • Team mentorship brings together multiple mentors and mentees to achieve a common goal.

Group mentorship, like team mentorship, brings together multiple mentees. However, the group is led by one or more mentor(s) who is responsible for steering the group in the right direction and helping everyone get the most out of the experience.

The definition of group mentoring: Group mentorship brings together one or more mentors and multiple mentees. Unlike one on one relationships, where the mentee drives the relationship, mentors steer the agenda of each session.

Examples of group mentoring use cases

You may be wondering, in what contexts, and for what reasons, could group mentorship be useful? 

Let's take a look at some examples.

1. Preparing future leaders

Did you know that external hires cost significantly more than internal ones? What's more, they perform worse in the long run. That's why it is better both financially and strategically to develop your future leaders from within.

Group mentorship is an excellent way to do this. By giving employees the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with their peers, you're preparing them for leadership roles in the future; they can learn not only from their mentor, but also from their fellow mentees.

2. Helping new hires ramp up

In some alarming research by Gallup, it was discovered that only 29 percent of new hires feel adequately prepared for their jobs. This is a huge waste of time and money for companies, as new hires who feel unprepared often leave within the first year – and even if they stick around, they're not productive until they catch up.

Some argue that group mentorship is a necessity for all new hires, not just those in leadership positions. Pairing new hires with a more experienced employee helps them to assimilate quickly and feel like a valuable part of the team right from the start.

3. Propelling employee development

If you choose to develop employees through traditional corporate training (think glitchy eLearning modules and PowerPoint presentations), research shows that only 12 percent of your employees will actually learn and retain the new information.

Group learning presents a far more engaging and effective alternative to corporate training. For a start, peer-to-peer interaction keeps things energetic. Employees can encourage one another and learn from each other's mistakes. 

How is group mentoring different from one on one?

As we've already touched on, there are key differences between one on one and group mentorship. The main difference is the number of mentors and mentees involved:

  • One on one mentorship involves a single mentor and a single mentee
  • Group mentoring involves several mentors and mentees working together 

Let's zoom in on a few more key differences between the two. 

The goals of each mentorship are different

Perhaps the biggest difference to note – aside from numbers, of course – is that each type of mentorship is used for a slightly different purpose. 

  • One on one mentorship is often used for more personal or professional development, providing a safe space for the mentor and mentee to explore their relationship and exchange feedback. It allows for a much more personalized learning experience.
  • Group mentorship is often used for team development or training. The focus here is on teamwork, collaboration, and transferring skills to a group of mentees with shared learning needs.

Group mentoring is structured; one on one is fluid

In a one on one mentorship, the mentor and mentee will typically meet on a regular basis to discuss goals, progress, and challenges. The relationship is more fluid, with both parties having a say in how it progresses.

Group mentorship is a lot more structured. The focus is on teaching and transferring skills, rather than developing a personal relationship. The mentor will typically have a set agenda for each meeting, and mentees will be expected to come prepared with questions or ideas to discuss.

Who drives the relationship

The mentee in a one on one mentorship needs to play a more active role. For someone that’s shy and isn’t as comfortable speaking up or having the spotlight, this can be nerve-wracking and take some getting used to. 

Group mentorship doesn't have this problem; there are multiple mentors and mentees involved. This makes it a great choice for those who are shy or uncomfortable speaking up in a group setting.

There's no one model that's better than the other, per se. It really depends on what you're hoping to achieve with your mentorship program.

Download our guide to starting a group mentoring program

What are the benefits of group mentoring?

For those looking to start a group mentoring program, you're in luck. There are a wealth of benefits to enjoy when you take this approach to help people grow. Let's take a look!

1. Knowledge sharing

In the workplace, knowledge sharing is simply exchanging important skills between employees. There are two types of knowledge in this context: 

  • Explicit. Knowledge from documents and procedures
  • Tacit. Knowledge from experience and intuition

In group mentoring, explicit knowledge is transferred when mentors share their documents, resources, and advice with protégés. 

Tacit knowledge sharing takes place when the group discusses problems and solutions together, prompting mentors to share their insights and observations. 

The combination of these two types of knowledge sharing is incredibly powerful, and it's one of the key benefits of group mentoring. You get the best of both worlds when employees are being mentored as a group. They can learn from the resources and advice of their mentors and each other.

2. Building a learning culture

A learning culture exists in a company where employee development is the norm, resources are abundant, and people are encouraged to learn from their mistakes. Group mentoring can build this type of culture.

When employees are given the opportunity to learn and grow in a supportive environment, they're more likely to take advantage of it. They'll also be more likely to encourage their colleagues to do the same, creating a company-wide culture of learning.

3. Juniors learning from seniors

Similar to one on one mentoring, group mentoring allows juniors to learn from the experience of their seniors. They can ask questions, get advice, and learn from the mistakes and successes of those around them.

Cruise Automation is a great example of this. As the builder of advanced self-driving vehicles, Cruise wanted to develop the skills of junior engineers as quickly as possible. They did this by pairing them with experienced senior mentors and allowing them to learn from their seniors in a group setting.

The results were impressive – junior engineers developed their skills much faster than if they'd been working on their own.

As you can see, the benefits of group mentoring are plenty. If you're looking for a way to help your employees learn and grow, this is a great approach to consider.

Group mentoring topics of discussion

You've decided to run a group mentoring program – congratulations! But now you need to decide on the topics of discussion. What should your mentors and protégés be talking about?

Here are some ideas for mentoring topics to get you started:

  • How to handle conflict in the workplace
  • How to give and receive feedback effectively
  • How to stay motivated and productive
  • How to manage stress and anxiety in the workplace
  • Leadership skills for managers
  • Time management tips
  • How to stay up-to-date with industry changes

The trick with group mentoring is to keep the topics relevant and interesting for all participants. This will help to ensure that everyone gets the most out of the program.

How to start a group mentoring program

Running a group mentoring program can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both mentors and protégés alike. However, it isn't always easy to get started. That's where our platform can help.

At Together, we're incredibly proud of the pairing algorithm we've developed. This algorithm considers the needs and interests of mentors and protégés, ensuring that everyone is paired with a compatible partner or group.

Not only that, but we help with the entire process – from planning your program, to onboarding participants, to providing support and resources throughout the mentoring journey. We're with you from start to finish.

If you're interested in starting a group mentoring program, get in touch with us today. We'd be happy to help. Here's a full guide to starting your group mentoring program in the meantime!

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