Modern mentoring: A new spin on an age-old practice

Mentorship has been around for a long time. But times have changed and mentorship is adapting to respond.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

August 26, 2022

Updated on 

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With more millennials (and soon Gen Z) joining the workforce, companies are looking for new ways to engage and retain young talent while also upskilling and reskilling established generations. One way to do this is by rethinking how we build mentoring programs. Modern mentoring programs include more than just the traditional one-on-one relationships and embrace new ways to connect employees to learning and growth opportunities. 

The compass of mentoring has shifted; it's no longer solely focused on getting a few people ready for leadership roles and instead focuses on four key areas:

  1. Helping an organization be more competitive
  2. Encouraging leadership development at all levels
  3. Fostering a culture of mentorship within the organization
  4. Providing employees with opportunities for career growth and development

This article discusses modern mentoring and its examples. It covers the demands of newer generations and how mentorship fulfills them. Similarly, we shed light on how to engage Millennials and Gen Z through modern mentoring approaches. 

By the end of this article, you'll understand how to use modern mentoring to connect a multi-generational workforce and implement mentorship programs that drive impact.

Lots to unpack — let’s first dive into what we mean by ‘Modern Mentoring.’

What is modern mentoring?

At Together, we’ve helped hundreds of organizations — large and small — start mentoring programs. When companies first approach us to learn about our mentoring platform, they most often have the goal of starting a 1-on-1 mentoring program that helps employees grow their careers. Many of these programs are successful but never consider different ways to use mentorship to achieve their goals (whether it be increasing retention rates, engagement, or developing leaders). 

That’s where modern mentoring comes in.

Modern mentoring uses different approaches to meet the needs of millennials, GenZ and their older colleagues (Gen X, Boomers) using non-traditional mentoring tactics such as reverse mentoring, peer mentoring, group mentoring, and more. 

This system is about being open to new ways of embedding mentorship in your organization to meet the changing needs of today's workforce. 

Modern mentoring allows mentors and mentees to connect in different ways, thus expanding what’s possible with professional mentoring programs.

What mentorship used to be

Mentorship has come a long way since the apprenticeship days when young people would learn a trade by working alongside a more experienced professional. Today, mentorship takes many forms, from formal business programs to one-on-one relationships between coworkers or colleagues. 

Despite all of these changes, the fundamental goal of mentorship remains the same: providing guidance and support to help someone reach their full potential. Modern mentoring is providing different avenues to achieve this goal.

  • The old mentorship model was often based on authority and hierarchical relationships. The mentor was typically older and more experienced, and they would take on the role of teacher or advisor. 
  • The mentee, meanwhile, would be expected to listen and learn from their mentor. 

The traditional model of mentorship still exists, but it is no longer the only way to do things.

In many cases, mentorship is now more collaborative, diverse and asynchronous. It’s what the newer generations want. 

Newer generations demand more than traditional mentorships

Today, you have more in your employee development toolbox than the traditional mentorship model, where a more experienced individual imparts wisdom and guidance to a less experienced protégé. Today's employees want mentors (often more than one) who can provide them with opportunities for growth, connections, focused training, and expert insights  — not just advice.

Mentors need to offer mentees access to resources and networking opportunities and introduce them to people who help further their careers.

The newer generations emphasize finding work that's personally fulfilling and offers upward mobility. They want to be able to make new friends, learn skills and participate in something bigger than themselves. This sense of purpose leads them toward satisfaction in their jobs.

Therefore, newer generations are more likely to seek mentors who share their values and give them an authentic glimpse into what it takes to succeed in their chosen field. 

What the newer generation wants from their boss:

  • help navigate their career paths
  • be supportive
  • provide challenges and opportunities for growth
  • give honest feedback

What they want from their organization:

  • a clear career path,
  • opportunities for advancement
  • mentorship, and coaching
  • a collaborative environment
  • flexible work hours/location

In summary, newer generations demand a different kind of mentorship that would:

  • focus on all areas of their development, 
  • offers a variety of mentoring relationships,
  • provide a more personalized approach, and 
  • uses technology to make connecting mentor and mentee more flexible

Examples of modern mentoring in today's organizations

The following shows and explains examples of mentoring in today's workplace.

One on one (traditional) mentoring

In one on one mentoring relationships, a more experienced mentor provides guidance, advice, and support to a less experienced mentee. Traditional mentoring, with its one-on-one structure and focus on long-term career development, can be valuable for connecting with these employees.

Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring involves a junior employee mentoring a more senior employee on how to use and stay up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and digital media topics. It also helps older generations to understand the culture of the younger generation. And it's a two-way relationship where the mentor and mentee learn from each other, but the focus is on giving leaders new perspectives.

Peer to peer mentoring

Employees of similar rank and experience levels pair to help each other grow and develop in their roles. Peer to peer mentoring is effective when wanting to build a peer coaching culture and when an organization doesn't have enough senior employees to act as mentors. 

Group mentoring

Group mentoring occurs between a group of mentors and mentees, rather than just one mentor and one mentee. It allows for a more diverse range of perspectives and experiences to be shared.

Mentoring constellations

In this model, junior employees form a web of supportive relationships rather than just having one mentor. Employees participate in various mentoring relationships that could include their peers and senior members within the organization.

Mentors of the moment

In this model, the senior employees, usually from middle rank upwards, mentor junior employees by tapping on their daily interactions. It's a way of operating where mentoring is a natural practice everyone engages in. The mentor-of-the-moment model makes it easier for people to mentor others. This is because it is more informal and happens in shorter exchanges. 

This is less about a format for a formal mentorship program and more about building a culture of mentorship within your company.

Flash or speed mentoring

Newer generations don’t always want to start long-term mentoring relationships. They want to upskill quickly and be exposed to new perspectives that will help them explore possible career paths or skills. 

For this reason, flash mentoring is when employees connect with a mentor for only one or two sessions. They discuss specific topics or download specific skills from their mentor. It’s less about general career advice and more about quick and deep learning. 

Although flash mentoring may seem more shallow, it actually provides a lower barrier to entry. Often, committing to a 6-12 month mentoring relationship is daunting. “Coffee chats” or quick development sessions are often easier to commit to. With this said, many flash mentoring sessions develop into longer-term mentoring relationships because both mentors and mentees get so much value from them.

eBook Not Sure Where To Start? Pick The Best Mentorship Model For Your Organization

Modern mentoring engages millennials and Gen Z

Traditional mentorship, which relies on one-on-one and in-person interactions, is no longer sufficient. These generations are digital natives accustomed to getting their information from the internet and social media. As a result, they expect mentors to be readily available. 

Μodern mentoring is particularly well-suited for engaging millennials, who comprise the largest percentage of the workforce and will soon take on leadership roles.

These generations have become used to receiving information instantaneously and sharing their thoughts and experiences with a wide audience. In light of this shift, organizations need to modernize their mentorship programs to engage millennials and Generation Z effectively.

In addition, they benefit from having a more diverse group of mentors who can provide a range of perspectives. By leveraging technology and mentoring platforms, organizations create mentor networks that are both accessible and impactful. By doing so, they will be better able to engage with the millennial and Gen Z workforce.

Connecting multi-generational workforces through modern mentoring cultures

There are now four generations in the workforce working side-by-side: Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Millennials (born 1981-1997) and Generation Z (born 1995 upward). Each generation has different values, motivations, and expectations. And when these generations do not understand each other, it leads to different stereotypes and misunderstandings in the workplace. 

Job performance and productivity often get affected negatively when these differences cause friction. So instead of working together to understand their differences, each generation plays the blame game. 

Creating a modern mentoring culture that considers each group's strengths and taps them will lead to a more engaged and productive workforce. Leveraging new mentoring techniques breaks down barriers between generations and nurtures empathetic communication.

By doing so, companies can not only improve inter-generational communication and understanding but also position themselves to meet the ever-changing needs of the marketplace. The workforce is a living, breathing entity that changes with each new generation. These conditions have shaped our sense of purpose and preferences for success, and how we approach work. 

By connecting employees of different generations, backgrounds, and experiences, modern mentoring helps build future leaders while bridging the divide between older and younger workers. 

Build your modern mentorship program with Together

Organizations looking to develop modern mentoring programs will find mentoring software a great place to begin. Programs on Together have been designed to help start, manage and maintain workplace mentoring programs. Together, features assist with the registration, pairing and reporting process that makes running a workplace mentoring program simple and more effective. 

Whether you are using a modern mentoring type of program or a more traditional style of mentorship, software such as Together is beneficial. It has been developed to handle the registration and pairing of participants. By getting a good match within minutes, mentors and mentees can begin their mentorship faster. 

Moreover, the scheduling feature helps mentors and mentees communicate and set meetings more efficiently. It can also be used to track the progress of the relationship by tracking whether meetings are being moved or missed, which can be an indicator that the mentor-mentee match needs to be adjusted.

In addition, Together has a customizable reporting feature that helps organizations assess whether their workplace mentoring program is meeting expectations or if there need to be some adjustments.

If you’re ready to take your mentorship program to the next level and experiment with modern mentoring approaches, connect with our team to learn more about our platform.

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