Group mentorship

8 steps to start a group mentoring program [comprehensive guide]

It can be hard to get a one-to-one ratio of mentors to mentees in a workplace mentoring program. A mentoring group is an effective way for organizations to solve this problem and make sure every employee has access to career-changing guidance and growth. Here's everything you need to know about how group mentoring is different from other types of mentoring, the benefits of group mentoring, and how to start a group mentoring program.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

April 24, 2023

Updated on 

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You’re likely familiar with one-on-one mentoring and its benefits. A senior leader or expert takes a more junior employee under their wing and treats them as their protégé. 

But that isn’t the only form of mentorship. There are several ways to structure your mentoring program, one of which is group mentorship

This article will outline how group mentoring differs from other types of mentoring, its advantages, the best use cases for group mentoring, and how to start your own group mentoring program.

Let’s dive in!

What is a mentoring group?

Group mentoring is when one or more mentors, also called facilitators, guide a discussion among several mentees. Rather than discussing the individual goals of a single mentee, like you would in a one-on-one relationship, the discussions are usually collaborative and focus on the common goals among all mentees. 

Specifically, there are three ways to organize a group mentoring program:

  • One mentor; multiple mentees
  • Multiple mentors; mentees
  • Peer mentoring

Let’s explore each of these individually to get a well-rounded idea of the nuances of group mentoring. 

The three different types of group mentoring.
Within group mentoring there are three general formats.

One mentor with multiple mentees

In this form of group mentorship, one mentor leads mentoring sessions with multiple mentees. 

The mentor can organize the discussions in a couple of ways. 

  • The first way is to discuss particular topics in a lecture-style format. The mentor can share their expertise on a particular topic and then answer questions from the mentees.
  • The second way one mentor can lead to multiple mentees is by organizing the session to be a Q/A format where mentees bring their ideas, goals, or challenges to the group, and the mentor guides a group discussion around finding a solution. In this sense, they don’t lead the discussion but act as an emcee who supports and encourages the group to help each other. 

When to choose this format:

You may choose one mentor with multiple mentees because there aren’t enough mentors to have a one-to-one ratio. Despite the constraints of not having enough mentors, this model is just as effective as one-on-one mentoring (more on that later.)

Multiple mentors and mentees

With several mentors and mentees, the sessions can look similar to a mentorship networking event. The groups are typically larger with looser guardrails on the discussion. 

It may be an opportunity to get several leaders and employees in the same space (virtually or in-person) to discuss higher-level goals, like the organization’s 5-year plan and share ideas with executives. Both leaders and employees can gain a fresh perspective on how they view certain things in the organization.

When to choose this format:

Companies may choose this form of group mentoring as an introductory event. It’s a place for everyone to make connections with one another. During onboarding, this is a great way for leaders to meet new hires and encourage them. Likewise, it may be an opportunity for leaders to meet high-potential employees and consider them for succession plans.

Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring is when there are no mentors. Instead, team members at similar career levels mentor each other. Rather than a “master-student” approach, peer mentoring is all about accountability

When to choose this format:

Peer mentoring is commonly used when companies want to encourage knowledge sharing between different teams or departments. It’s common in remote work environments where someone from sales, for example, may not have a good reason to speak to an engineer.

What are the benefits of group mentoring?

Group mentoring holds similar benefits to traditional mentoring. They include:

  • Developing leadership skills. For a mentor, guiding other employees is a great way to practice key leadership skills and gain confidence. For mentees, they have the opportunity to learn what makes a good leader and what skills they need to gain to be one.
  • Cultivating communication skills. Mentors and mentees will cultivate stronger communication skills as they work collaboratively and contribute to group discussions.
  • Gaining an appreciation for diverse perspectives. By actively listening and seeking to understand, mentees and mentors can learn from these different viewpoints and develop an appreciation for new perspectives.
  • Growing participant networks. Participants will benefit from gaining access to their mentors and meeting their peers in the group.
  • Enabling knowledge sharing across the organization. Knowledge sharing in a group setting is not limited to a single mentor imparting what they know, but each participant will have something to offer.
The benefits of group mentorship.

With all of these benefits, you may be wondering whether or not you should have a group or one-on-one program. This is a common question our Customer Success team loves to address. We asked them for their thoughts and consolidated them in the next section.

Group mentoring vs Individual mentoring

Group mentoring and one-on-one mentoring are both great, but for different reasons. The main benefit of group mentoring is that it mitigates a lot of the challenges to a one-on-one program. We’ll provide more details below.

Group mentoring mitigates the risk of a wrong match

One risk to 1-to-1 mentoring is that the success of the experience can largely depend on how well the participants get along. If there’s a mismatch and it’s not resolved quickly, it can leave a bad impression on both mentor and mentee and tarnish your program's reputation. 

For that reason, group mentoring doesn’t limit a mentor or mentee to a specific person. With group mentoring, participants have the flexibility to learn from and give advice to various individuals. This opens up more possibilities for learning and growth.

Group mentoring solves the problem of not having enough mentors

If an organization has a limited number of mentors, many employees may miss the opportunity to grow through the advice and guidance of a mentor. With group mentoring, it removes the risk of needing a perfect one-to-one ratio.

Organizations may choose group mentoring when:

  • There aren’t enough mentors for mentees. 
  • You believe it’s a better user experience based on your program’s goals. 

Employees may want to join group mentoring because:

  • They want to learn in a group with others that provides the opportunity to gain new perspectives and different ways of approaching work situations. 
  • They’d rather have a low-pressure environment, particularly introverts, as a traditional mentorship can put a lot of pressure on the mentee when it comes to discussions. One-on-one mentorships can be awkward at the beginning, but in a group setting, the onus is not just on a single participant to break the ice. 

Now that we’ve covered the distinction between one-on-one and group mentoring, let’s look at what you should ask yourself before starting your group program.

11 Important questions to ask before starting a group mentoring program

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of starting a mentoring program and don’t know where to start, these questions can be a helpful way to refocus your thoughts. 

Here are 11 questions to ask yourself when beginning to plan your mentoring program:

  1. Why do you want to start a mentorship program?
  2. Who will benefit from it?
  3. Is group or one-on-one mentoring the better fit for my organization?  
  4. What is your overarching goal and vision?
  5. Do you have an existing mentorship program?
  6. What business problems and challenges is your program going to solve?
  7. How many people take part in the program and be mentors and mentees?
  8. Are you starting from scratch or building or improving on existing programs? 
  9. Who manages the existing program? Is it an initiative of a group or department?
  10. Are there resources, capacity and budget to effect changes?
  11. Do you need the support of others to bring mentoring to your organization or change how things are done?

If you skimmed these questions, it might be worth going through them again, jotting down your thoughts on a spare sheet of paper. 

Once you’ve done that, you’ll now be in the correct headspace to move through the following section on how to start a group mentoring program.

How to start a group mentoring program

If you’re interested in building a group mentoring program at your organization, here’s how you can get started:

Step 1: Define your purpose and goals

Begin by considering what you want to achieve with the program. How will your employees benefit from participating? 

To help you choose the goal of your program, we’ve put together this helpful article on the most common goals we see among Together customers. 

Once you have your objectives defined, think about the details, such as how many mentees will be in each group. 

How will you manage the pairing process? Registration and mentor matching are key to building a successful group mentoring program. Together makes the pairing process uncomplicated and scalable. Our algorithm can be customized to fit the objectives of your organization’s program. 

With Together, employees can register online, and you can even track the success of each group by monitoring feedback after each session. Admins will be able to compile analytics and report faster and with more reliable data. 

For a successful mentoring program, keep these questions in mind when setting your goals. 

  • What results do you hope to get from the mentorship program?
  • What organizational goal does it address?
  • What challenges does the organization have, and how can mentorship solve them?
  • What stages of professional development are the mentors and mentees in?
  • What developmental needs will the program address?
  • What do your employees need?
  • How do you measure success and what are the indicators?
  • What is the organizational definition of success?

Step 2: Get leadership buy-in

Company leadership will need to help promote and advocate for your group mentoring program. 

Having some senior employees on board makes finding qualified mentors easier. It can also be beneficial in unlocking company resources that may be required for your group mentoring program. 

If you’re not sure how to get leadership involved, Together has a white paper to help you build a business case for your program. 

Step 3: Design your mentoring program

There are different ways to conduct a mentoring program, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself: 

  • For how long will the group mentoring program last?
  • How will participants register their interests?
  • What are the criteria participants should have to join?
  • How many mentors and mentees will you have?
  • What mentoring type will you choose?
  • How will you sell the program?
  • What are your expectations of mentors and mentees?
  • Is your mentoring program tied to any organizational goals?
  • How will you measure success on the program?
  • Do you need specific policies and procedures to aid the program?
  • Who will be in charge of the program?

These are vital questions, most of which can be solved effectively by mentoring software. You can set your goals, registration criteria and duration using a mentoring platform. Even matching of mentors and mentees can be done with the software. You can also get ideas for group mentoring activities. 

Step 4: Create strategies for attracting and onboarding participants

Interest in mentorship programs doesn’t automatically translate to high engagement and participation rates. 

To ensure a program that stands the test of time, attracting and onboarding participants is important. Potential participants need to see that mentorship is worth their time and effort. They need to see how it builds fruitful relationships that improve their personal and professional lives. For a smooth process from attracting participants to onboarding them, consider these 3 tips:

Training and resources

It is important to provide the relevant resources and training for new mentorship programs. It should be informative and easy to read and understand. 

Especially if it is the first time participants are involved in a formal mentoring relationship. Creating resources show helps mentors and mentees kick off the relationship, break the ice, and begin growing together. 

That’s why all the programs on Together’s platform have dozens of helpful handbooks, tips, and other resources.

Communicate the perks of participating in mentorship to employees

People are most interested in “what is in it for me?” Don’t assume they already know the benefits. Highlight the individual benefits, which include personal and professional growth. Touch on the benefits to the organization as well. This is key to getting leaders to advocate for the program. 

Rewarding and recognizing participants

The first cohort of the program is vital to getting more sign-ups. Recognizing the challenges participants face and addressing them will increase engagement and show participants that you’re open to feedback. It also helps you better attract and recruit future participants and plan for any shortcomings. Rewarding participants also shows you recognize and appreciate their efforts. 

Step 5: Promote your mentoring program

To get employees excited about mentorship, leverage all of your communication channels; newsletters, social media or other medium your employees engage well with. 

Sell the program, the benefits, ease of participation and several ways group mentoring promotes employee development.

Step 6: Support the program

Using mentoring software like Together, you can reduce the time matching takes and create more successful groups through our algorithm. Once you have groups matched, be sure to provide them with any learning resources they may need for their sessions. 

Group matchings on Together’s mentoring platform is similar to one-on-one except that you set the limit of group sizes. 

You can have restrictions on matching and recommendation rules to refine matching criteria. After setting matching rules and your desired group sizes, you can make and publish groups and then invite participants to sign up. 

There are mentee-led matching and admin-led matching, depending on your audience. For example, new hires need group mentoring and would benefit from admin-led pairing that lets you, as program manager, pair them with our algorithm based on their profile.

Step 7: Training participants

Training prepares mentors and mentees for their new roles. It is especially useful if both parties have little or no experience in mentoring. 

Even if they do, they would still benefit from understanding what is expected of them, the objectives of the program, and best practices to support each other. 

Together has extensive resources such as meeting templates and activities.

Step 8: Measure your KPIs

You’ll need to show the success of your mentorship program if you want it to grow over time. Below, we’ll share 4 tips to help you track and measure progress in your program:

Rates of engagement

This is a key indicator of the success of your program. When considering engagement rates, look at:

  • The quality and number of established relationships
  • Participants that engaged with the program
  • The amount of time spent mentoring
  • Assigned tasks and the exchange of correspondence

The above would be easiest to track using a mentoring software designed to track, measure and keep records of these metrics. 

Employee satisfaction

Survey participants. You can use the data to plan and improve on future programs. Additionally, check-in meetings with mentors and mentees can help you get valuable feedback and success stories. 

Participant achievement

Encourage mentors and mentees to have specific goals at the start of the program. Then, at the end, circle back and ask them to document progress toward those goals. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Keep track of the number of goals
  • Monitor the number of participants that have accomplished their goals
  • Collect participant feedback

Organizational goals

You should document what you want to achieve with your program and then report on that at the end. Do you want to retain employees or increase diversity? Whatever your goals, make sure to check the result after the program. Here are some KPIs that are related to organizational factors:

  • Employee engagement and retention
  • Rates of participation
  • Rates of promotion
  • Employee satisfaction

Group mentoring next steps

To build a successful mentoring program check out our guide on how to start a mentoring program. It breaks down everything you need to know as an organization when starting a mentoring program. 

Likewise, when beginning your mentoring program you’ll need our best practices guide. 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 group mentorship program for your organization, we can help. Find out how Together’ mentoring software can work with you to create a successful group mentoring program by booking a demo today.

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