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Mentoring Circles: what they are and how to start one

Mentoring Circles are a great way to encourage knowledge sharing and community building with your mentorship program. We explore the ins and outs of Mentorship Circles in this article and how you can introduce one into your organization.

Ryan Carruthers

November 15, 2021

Mentoring has proven to be an effective way to improve company culture, employee productivity and boost your bottom line. 

Nearly 70 percent of organizations stated that mentoring helped improve productivity at their workplace. Likewise, mentees are five times more likely to be promoted than non-mentored staff. And over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies use mentoring in their organizations. 

But to experience the benefits of mentoring, you don’t need to rely on traditional one-on-one matches. Many organizations are finding that Mentoring Circles hold the secret to success for their employees.

What are Mentoring Circles?

Mentoring circles are similar to group mentoring, and employees from all levels in the organization can get involved. There are many mentees and mentors in Mentoring Circles, unlike traditional mentoring that pairs together one mentor and one mentee.  Here are the main characteristics of mentorship circles:


There is usually a facilitator in the mentoring circle that is in charge of the administrative duties for the group. Facilitators will schedule the sessions, make sure everyone knows what they need to prepare, answer questions, and generally make sure that logistics are sorted out. Doing so takes the pressure off the mentor, who is often a busy executive. It allows the mentor to focus on mentoring and not get bogged down with the details of administration.  Facilitators may also l lead the discussion if mentees don’t have immediate questions for the mentor.

Mentees are similar

Mentees in Mentoring Circles usually have something in common. They may be new hires going through onboarding. In this case, it’s a great opportunity to connect them with one another and an executive who can introduce them to the culture. 

Additionally, Mentoring Circles may be made up of high potential employees who are all being prepared for leadership positions. Connecting with each other and leaders will signal that they’re part of the next generation of leaders. 

Members of the group share their knowledge and experience collectively, benefiting everyone in the mentoring circle. Similar to group mentoring, employees may have the experience of being a mentor and mentee within the same circle. 

Mentoring Circles vs traditional mentoring programs: What are the benefits?

Starting a mentoring circle has a number of benefits. They are best suited to mentoring programs that want to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. Here are some other important reasons that organizations should encourage Mentoring Circles: 

Encourages networking and collaboration

In a mentoring circle, employees will come into contact with a variety of other people. All those involved in the circle will have something in common. This common ground can be the basis for connection. These connections expand professional networks and can put employees in touch with valuable individuals inside their mentor or mentee’s network. A wider network means more opportunities for collaboration. 

Less pressure on shy employees

Not all employees are extroverts, and that can be a challenge for traditional mentoring relationships. It can be intimidating for introverts to be thrust into a one-on-one conversation. Being responsible for half of the discussion puts a lot of pressure on your shy employees. However, in a mentoring circle, your shy employees can still learn from mentors without feeling the pressure. 

Group members (not just the mentor) hold each other accountable

The more people involved in the mentoring circle, the more individuals that members are accountable to. Having this kind of positive pressure can motivate employees to do their best. It also puts people in touch with a number of others that can encourage and inspire them. 

Examples of Mentoring Circles

A mentoring circle can be a successful way of integrating new hires, developing your high potential employees and even supporting inclusivity and belonging in your organization. 

New hires

Training up new employees can be time-consuming. However, with a good mentoring circle, these individuals can learn the ins and outs of your company culture together. They can also share their expertise with others in the group. Having a mentoring circle also helps new hires build relationships and connections at your company. Mentoring Circles are great for onboarding programs.

High potential talent development

Engaging and developing your high potential talent can require some significant effort. These individuals love to learn and are always up for the next challenge. Mentoring circles can give them an opportunity to share with other high-potential employees. It also offers them a chance to learn from other key players at your organization. Mentorship Circles are a great way to develop HiPo talent.

Strengthening inclusion and belonging with ERGs

Mentoring circles are similar to employee resource groups or ERGs as they bring together people from similar backgrounds or demographics. This type of belonging can encourage minority groups in your organization. Employees can find connections and support through their mentoring circle. These groups can also lead the way on diversity and inclusivity for your organization. Consider a Mentorship Circle when designing your DEIB program.

How to introduce Mentoring Circles into your organization

Developing Mentoring Circles within your organization requires some planning, but it is well worth the effort. Here are the steps you can take to introduce Mentoring Circles into your workplace. 

Choose discussion topics 

Mentors and mentees will be drawn to groups that cover issues relevant to them. So, it is important to choose discussion topics carefully. Be as specific as you can when deciding on topics to cover. Think over what challenges employees face in your organization or industry. Do any of your leaders have unique skills that they would be willing to share with the group? For example, what concerns will your new hires have and need help navigating? 

Choose a facilitator to assist the mentor

There must be one individual who takes on the administrative role for the mentoring circle. This person can help decide the topics, organize the meeting logistics, and keep everyone up-to-date on happenings. While it is not as time-consuming as managing a formal workplace mentoring program, mentoring software like Together can help the facilitator stay organized.  The software can also help everyone in the circle to get the most out of the experience. 

Monitor the program

It’s key to measure your program so you can find out what works and what doesn’t. You can do this in a number of ways, such as surveys sent out to mentoring circle members or by requesting qualitative feedback. Invite employees to share their experience and input about what could be done better in the future. You should also monitor the outcome of Mentoring Circles to track whether they are having the right impact. 

To find out more about how Together’s mentoring software can streamline your mentoring circle facilitation, chat with us for 30 minutes. We’ll show you how to build a mentoring program that runs itself.

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