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Mentorship

Mentor and Mentee: Roles and Expectations

Mentor and mentee relationships need to have clear roles and expectations. Here are several expectations to agree upon in your mentoring relationship.

Ryan Carruthers

February 23, 2022

Mentoring programs have been around for many years. Although they used to be very informal, companies are beginning to understand that formal mentorships are a way to keep employees engaged and growing within the company. 

There are certain characteristics that mentors and mentees should have when getting into a mentorship. Most importantly, communication is key for the mentee and the mentor.


The importance of mentors and mentees in the workplace

Previously, mentorships were much more informal than they are nowadays. In the past, many of the people who were at the top of their industries were mentored by experts at the time. 

The most successful people have mentors

For instance, back in the 70s, Oprah Winfrey met Maya Angelou. At the beginning of her career, Winfrey looked up to Angelou’s advice as someone already established in her career. 

You might know about another mentor and mentee relationship, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Upon meeting Gates, Buffett challenged him with questions that made him think differently about his business. Additionally, Buffett also mentored Gates in philanthropy. Buffett helped Gates as he began building solutions that helped the world, which led to the Gates Foundation.

Mentorship spurs learning and development

Mentorships are important because they allow employees to learn and grow within the company. Not only does the mentee learn new skills, but the mentor also discovers a new perspective, such as how to better communicate with junior employees.

Employees with mentors stay at companies longer 

The impact of mentors in the workplace can be tremendous. Mentorship programs can lead to higher retention rates among employees. For instance, Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm in the Netherlands, has run several mentoring programs using the Together mentorship platform

They found that employees in a mentorship program were 49 percent less likely to leave the company. 

Mentors increase engagement

Mentorships also propels employee engagement. This is because mentoring programs are a hyper-relevant form of employee development. Every employee has a leader focused on identifying their goals and overcoming barriers that are holding them back.

Mentoring programs also:

  • Allow for training and development opportunities, 
  • Break down communication barriers, 
  • Encourage employees to take on new challenges, 
  • Strengthens social ties between employees, and 
  • Hold mentors and mentees accountable.

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor is not just someone who knows a lot about the company because of their experience throughout the years of working there. 

A mentor needs to have a variety of other qualities to help the mentee truly learn and grow. A mentor must be passionate about teaching younger employees. Without that passion, the experience will be poor and the mentorship program will be seen as ineffective. Passion cannot be taught, but other qualities needed in a mentor can. 

Here are 5 qualities that mentors should bring to their relationship.

Listen to understand their mentee’s goals

The most important characteristic to have when mentoring is to be a good listener. The mentee needs to be able to talk through their issues and doubts, and the mentor needs to be able to ask questions to understand the issues further and offer advice on how to fix them. 

A good rule of thumb is to listen 80 percent of the time, spend 10 percent of the time asking questions, and the other 10 percent offering advice. The mentee must be the main focus in the mentorship program since they are the one who needs to learn.

Consider how to be most helpful for their mentee

Each employee may learn best through specific methods. A good mentor can scan the mentee and ask the right questions to understand the best way to guide them through the learning process. 

When listening to your mentee, it is important that you can understand between the lines of what they are facing and guide them to the best solution.

Communicate advice and guidance to their mentees

Good mentorships happen because of good communication. A mentee needs to understand what the mentor is saying, which allows them to learn the topic at hand. Additionally, the mentor needs to be able to scan for any issues that the mentee may have and work around them. 

A mentor needs to be able to understand the best way for a mentee to learn and understand the topic. These communication skills are also important when a mentor needs to communicate that a mentee is not performing well. 

A great communicator can find the right words and timing to give bad news while also developing a solution that will help the mentee stay engaged and productive.

Take note of progress and follow up

The mentor must build a relationship with the mentee that allows for constructive criticism. 

The mentee needs to feel comfortable to understand that any feedback that the mentor gives them is coming from a good place that is aiming at their professional growth. 

Additionally, the mentee needs to also feel comfortable giving the mentor feedback if they are having difficulties with a certain aspect of the teaching or if they are unhappy with something in the company.

Encourage reflection and highlight growth of the mentee

While a mentor needs to be prepared to give constructive criticism and possibly bad news to a mentee, the mentor must focus on the mentee’s growth.

 At the end of a program, for instance, the mentor must reflect with the mentee on how much they have grown. This will allow the mentee to actively understand what they have learned and how much they have grown throughout the mentorship.

This leads to a more engaged and encouraged employee who added new skills to their belt.  


What is the role of a mentee?

A mentorship program’s success depends a lot on the mentee. A good mentee needs to be willing to work with the mentor and communicate well what they want out of the program. Additionally, it is important that mentees ask questions to reap the benefits of the mentor’s expertise and knowledge.

Organize the meetings and prepare the agenda

The mentee must make time to work with the mentor. Therefore, a good mentee should be proactive and schedule meetings with the mentor when starting the mentorship program. 

Additionally, mentees should come prepared with questions they may have for the mentor. This will allow both to get working on what matters most to the mentee and continue to improve their skills.

Be clear about what they want to learn from their mentor

As mentioned, it is important that the mentee communicates what they want to get from the mentorship. This can change as time goes on since you will be learning a lot from your mentor. 

However, it is important that you can clearly explain what you want out of this partnership to your mentor. This will allow the mentor to gear their teachings and advice towards your final goal.

Be teachable

It is extremely important that you, as a mentee, want to learn from your mentor. Be respectful, proactive, and open to learning. While the mentor is supposed to teach you skills that they are experts in, a mentee who is unwilling to learn won’t get anything out of the relationship. 

A good way to show that you are willing to learn is to take the initiative and be proactive. The program needs to be something enjoyable for both the mentee and mentor so you can both build a trusting relationship at work.

Actively listen to their mentor and act on it when relevant

Not only is it important that a mentee be good communicators, but they also need to be good listeners. As a mentee, you should be able to listen to everything your mentor is telling you and communicate if you need clarification. Essentially, both parties need to be able to communicate and listen to each other effectively for this partnership to work.

Share their progress and reflect on learnings

At the end of the day, it is nice to work hard towards learning something new and seeing that you can do it. Therefore, it is important that you can meet with your mentor and talk through your progress after the program ends. This will allow you both to see that your goal was accomplished and that you have grown as a professional.


Should mentorship be informal or formal?

Mentorships have been around for many years. Nowadays, more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a formal mentorship program. This type of mentorship program is when the company starts a program where junior and senior employees can become a part. 

Once employees sign up for it, the program administrator pairs the best matches together. Informal mentorships occur when the leader and peer employees get together to share their experiences.

While you can have both types of mentorship programs in your company, the formal is much better organized. Informal mentorships, you can have one-on-one sessions, peer-to-peer, group mentorships, and even workshops where several leaders mentor a group of employees. 

With formal mentorship programs, everyone who chooses to do it is guaranteed a mentor. This allows for employees who tend to stay on the sidelines to feel more included, such as women and underrepresented employees.  

  • For instance, a study mentions that 76 percent of people believe mentorships are important; however, only 37 percent have a mentor. 
  • Additionally, mentorships help mentees find their strengths and work on their weaknesses, which leads to more productivity. 67 percent of businesses reported an increase in productivity because of a mentorship program.

Build a mentor and mentee program in the workplace

If you want to incorporate a formal mentorship program in your company, it is simple to start with Together. We have a guide that outlines how you can create a mentoring program. Following it will help your employees to grow and continue to be productive in the company. 

The bigger the scale of your mentorship program, the more important it is to consider Together. We can help you manage registrations, pairing, and the content of the programs. Together’s mentor matchmaking software makes it easier to pair participants, schedule meetings, track relationship progress, and generate reports.

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