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Peer Mentorship

Peer mentoring guide: activities, benefits, and programs

Here's the ultimate guide to starting a peer mentoring program. We outline when peer mentoring is better than senior-junior mentorship, 12 ideas for activities, and how you can quickly pair peers together.

Ryan Carruthers

March 28, 2022

According to a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 9 in 10 workers who have a career mentor say they are happy in their jobs. But when employees come together to support and empower each other, your organization builds strong teams and a solid foundation. But how do you cultivate this experience in a hassle-free and efficient way? 

Peer mentorship programs.

Workplace mentoring improves employee well-being and job satisfaction. That’s where office communities and career support continue to prove valuable. Let’s dive into why your business should consider peer mentoring along with the benefits, activities, and ways to run such a program. 

What is peer mentorship?

Peer mentoring is a form of mentorship where colleagues coach and guide one another. This is especially useful in workplaces where there aren’t enough senior leaders or employees to coach junior team members. For that reason, matching peers to mentor one another is a convenient solution. 

The purpose of mentorship is to help employees build non-judgemental relationships where they support and encourage each other. Peers have a lot they can offer one another through mentorship. They can accelerate each other's growth by sharing best practices, providing support and advice, and being alongside them while navigating through challenging circumstances. 

Why a peer mentor instead of a more senior one? They're at similar career stages, so their advice may be more relevant. They might be experiencing similar issues at the same time. So it would be helpful for them to: 

  • Discuss their shared experiences;
  • Figure out why these things might be happening;
  • Determine what the best solutions might be;
  • Work through ideas to overcome the issue; and,
  • Support eachother as they work out those solutions.

Peer mentorship can take two forms:

  • 1-on-1 mentorship: Employees build a partnership and hold one another accountable by working together.
  • Group mentoring: Multiple employees come together where 1 or more are mentors. Group mentoring is great for large groups where the goal is to encourage community building and collaboration. 

Regardless of which model you choose, peers should have certain mindsets and expectations when engaging in a peer mentoring relationship.

What peer mentoring is not

Think of a peer mentor as a friend, coach, and companion. And since peer mentors are close in age, they can be someone to depend on and talk to. They provide support and advice and function as a resource for inspiration and new opportunities. 

But this close working relationship shouldn’t become a codependent one, where mentors act as therapists or social workers. Similarly, mentors should also not be considered disciplinarians or avenues to a promotion. This won’t help employees grow individually, which is the main goal of the mentorship program.

So, as you plan your peer mentoring program, determine how to create a positive and constructive atmosphere for participants. To do this, start with the skills that they need.

Skills of peer mentors

Peer mentors can help each other identify goals, nurture talents, and make progress towards becoming a better version of themselves. But all this depends on finding the right person to mentor others. 

So, what makes a great peer mentor? Here are the top skills to look for in peer mentors:

  1. Helps set big-picture goals and smaller goals to get 
  2. Focuses on developing a relationship through trust and respect
  3. Maintains accountability and pushes the other toward progress
  4. Coaches the other by sharing experiences and perspectives
  5. Offers and accepts constructive, actionable feedback
  6. Maintains boundaries and confidentiality
  7. Meets consistently and follows up
  8. Practices active listening

You can also use your peer mentoring program as a platform to train mentors to nurture and expand on these skills. This way, you prepare them to be good mentors to each other while maintaining boundaries.

What are the benefits of peer mentoring?

Peer mentorship programs give your employees a space to learn and grow from each other. 

This incentivizes newcomers to do well while also providing a place of reflection for existing employees. Mentoring creates a community where skills are nurtured, concerns are heard, and growth is achieved. 

Let’s look at some of the key benefits of peer mentoring:

1. Increases camaraderie

A peer mentorship program runs on a “coach them as they coach you” philosophy. 

Here, employees in similar stages of their careers get together to share experiences, perspectives, and advice. This helps employees develop strong connections while you develop a stronger workforce in your business.

2. Improves the onboarding process

Peer mentors can be onboarding buddies helping each other smoothly transition into new roles and responsibilities. 

Having others at the same level as you can help increase knowledge sharing and community-building – all of which will improve employees’ morale and their investment in your organization.

3. Attracts skilled talent

A peer mentoring program – where mentors also get to be onboarding buddies – is a great asset for new people joining your company. 

Candidates entering the job market are looking for employers that will accelerate their career development, offer flexibility, and provide support. And a mentoring program designed to attract top talent by offering these things is an enticing offer. 

4. Increases employee wellbeing and engagement

When your employees feel nurtured and heard, they can build a strong support network. They are motivated to succeed in their careers and become loyal to each other and your organization. Employees who enjoy this community will not want to lose their peer network, helping you retain top talent.

Additionally, you can increase employee engagement by giving employees access to a community that prioritizes and thrives on learning and support. 

5. Support for remote employees

Remote work has many benefits, but the biggest downfall is fostering meaningful connections. According to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report, loneliness is one of the main struggles of remote work. 

For this reason, run a mentorship program for remote employees

You can get mentoring software that lets you run virtual mentorship programs. This way, you can give remote employees a space to intentionally connect with their colleagues. So, you can give employees working remotely the same resources and support as those working in-office.

Peer mentoring in the workplace - how is it different?

There are many ways to design your peer mentorship program. You can draw on the strengths of different types of mentors so they can complement each other while also encouraging growth. 

The way you set up a mentorship program depends on your goals and what you want to achieve. While peer mentoring seems similar to any other 1-on-1 or group mentorship program, it is quite different. 

With traditional mentoring, junior employees find new role models in senior mentors while preparing for high-level positions. And group mentoring helps new hires onboard more easily and take advantage of workplace communities.

Peer mentorship, on the other hand, focuses on matching peers who are at similar levels in the company or their career path. This way, they can use the mentoring software to coach each other, share feedback, and provide perspectives while also benefitting from knowledge sharing. 

New hires matched and included in the program also become onboarding buddies. And if you run group peer mentorship, you also create a community for these new hires. This gives them communal support so they can focus on growing in their role.

For inspiration, check out these examples of successful peer mentoring programs.

12 Ideas for peer mentoring activities

Here are 12 different ideas for peer mentoring activities to engage colleagues and spur conversations that lead to new insights, growth, and accountability.

1. Lunch and learn

In a lunch and learn, peers take turns presenting an interesting topic to their partner. For example, if one peer comes from sales and the other comes from engineering, they can each share insights from their day-to-day on how to best serve their customers. 

The sales mentor may run the engineer through the most common challenges that they hear from prospects. Likewise, the engineer may share how what they’re building addresses some of those challenges. 

The point is to encourage each participant to leverage their unique skills and insights to teach others.

2. Question prompts 

In this activity, pairs or groups can pull from a bank of questions to ask one another thoughtful questions that encourage conversation. For example, participants may ask one another, “tell me about a time you had to pitch something to a manager.” Answer the prompts and draw learning from each other's experiences.

3. “Show and Tell!” 

In this activity, participants both bring in photos or items that are important to them. They share the story behind the photo and why it’s meaningful to them. This is a great icebreaker activity to reveal what drives the different participants or what their values are.

4. Set SMART career goals

Setting long-term career goals are important for giving participants something to work towards. It also clarifies the whole point of mentorship: it’s to help them grow and reach their goals. Share career goals you have and reword them to be in the SMART goal framework. Work out an actionable plan to start making progress toward those career goals. 

When setting goals, use the SMART framework, which stands for: 

Specific - be as detailed as you can about your goals.

Measurable - have some way to measure your progress towards your goal.

Attainable - a goal needs to be something that you can reasonably attain. 

Relevant - career goals should be directly related to your career path.

Timely - set a deadline so you know when you will accomplish your goal.

5. Make a list of things you want to do or accomplish during your lifetime and share them

Similar to setting career goals, this activity encourages groups or pairs to share their life goals or aspirations. It’s a great activity to get to know one another more and talk about what’s important to you. Try to write down 10 different “bucket-list” items you have and share them. From there, you can try the next activity to plan how you will check off those experiences on your bucket list.

6. “What’s your plan?” 

Setting goals or sharing aspirations is an important part of mentoring, but equally important is mapping out a path to achieve them. In this activity, make a timeline of your life over the next 5‐10 years. What do you want to accomplish? After, discuss with one another what needs to happen to close the gap between here and reaching that goal. This should be a practical discussion. 

Expect barriers to come up in the conversation. When they do, don’t get stuck, but dig into what’s holding you or your partner back. Overcoming these challenges is where meaningful mentorship starts to happen.

7. Icebreaker questions using a deck of cards

If you’re still working on building a peer mentoring relationship, a great icebreaker activity to do is to draw from a deck of cards to ask certain questions. Number each question and then draw that question based on the number on the card you pull. 

You can make the questions ahead of time. Think of what you could ask one another that would help you learn about one another. They can be light-hearted or thoughtful. Anything that gets the conversation going is welcome. Hypercontext has a lot of great 1-on-1 questions to draw from.

8. Quadrants icebreaker

In this exercise, you’ll need a page, whether in person or digital. You’ll create four boxes. Fill out each as follows:

  • Family (Upper Left), 
  • Friends (Upper Right), 
  • Hobbies (Bottom Left), and
  • Life goals (Bottom Right). 

Fill out each quadrant to get to know one another. This exercise is a great way to encourage discussion around similar interests or goals.

9. Inside-out

This activity is great to encourage peer mentoring groups to open up. Start with a reversible bag. Whoever holds the bag will start by explaining to the group how they perceive themselves on the outside. After they have expressed themselves, they turn the bag inside out and discuss what they’re feeling on the inside. After they’ve gone, the group can discuss what was shared before moving to the next person.

This activity encourages groups to open up with one another. 

10. Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success Activity

In 1948 John Wooden, the basketball coach who led the UCLA men's basketball team to win 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years (1964-1975), created a framework for being a better person. What became an iconic diagram for success has helped athletes, corporations, and individuals chart a path to success and personal growth. 

The pyramid has 14 blocks of different character traits, with the 15th block at the top of the pyramid is competitive greatness. Wooden described it as “Be at your best when your best is needed. Enjoyment of a difficult challenge.”

In this activity, groups will each get the 15 character traits that make up Wooden’s pyramid of success. They’ll then arrange the character traits into the diagram, placing the most important traits at the top and the least important at the bottom. 

When everyone has arranged their pyramid, go around and answer the following questions:

  • Choose your top three traits. Why are these traits most important to you?
  • Did you learn something new about yourself?
  • Were you surprised to learn that you had a characteristic in common with someone else?

11. Consider a big decision together

One of the great reasons to have a peer mentor is they can help you make big decisions for your career. They can help you consider all the variables and make the best possible decision. In this activity, map out a decision together, weighing the pros and cons. After you’ve concluded, consider how you came to the decision you did. Did it reveal anything about your values, your fears, what drives you? This is a practical exercise but also a reflective one. 

12. Job shadowing

Job shadowing can be a great opportunity to learn from other employees and gain insight into their roles. Pairs can schedule a time to follow their peer mentor around for a day. The goal is to gain insight into the company, different positions and responsibilities, and help set career goals. 

Consider a project that allows a mentor and mentee to work alongside each other. It could be researching or writing an article together using the qualified help of the Essay Writer Pro service or even a company committee that they could join together. 

Starting a peer mentoring program

To start a peer mentorship program, you first need a plan and key goals. What is the purpose of your mentorship program and what do you want employees to get out of it? Then, you decide how you will establish the program and glean its result.

Make relevant pairings

First, identify the criteria to match employees. When you are considerate and intentional in your peer matching, you create a strong team of individuals who can work successfully beside each other. You can use your knowledge of the employees or peer matching software to connect employees based on their goals and skills.

Support mentoring relationships

You should also provide additional resources and guidance to help both mentors and mentees get the most out of the program. This means checking in on how employees are doing in the program and what can be done better.

Encourage pairs to connect with other mentoring pairs

Since adding new perspectives is the key goal of mentoring, you should recommend that pairs and groups connect with others participating in the mentoring program. This will further elevate their experience by giving them more exposure and community support.

Run a peer mentorship program with ease

It is easy to set up and run a peer mentorship program through Together’s mentoring platform. Our platform is easy to use and can be customized to meet your teams’ specific needs. From reporting to how-to guides, we’ve got you covered.

Our guide on how to start a mentoring program breaks down everything you need to know as an organization when starting a mentoring program. And we’ve compiled the best practices from the first-hand experience of program administrators and the expertise of the Together team.

If you’re ready to get started building a peer mentorship program for your organization, we can help. Find out how Together’s mentoring software can work with you to create a successful mentoring program.

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