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Mentorship

How To Start A Group Mentoring Program

It can be hard to get a one-to-one ratio of mentors to mentees in a workplace mentoring program. Group mentoring 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

August 24, 2021

Workplace mentoring is becoming increasingly important for organizations to remain competitive and retain their top talent. Leading companies recognize the value of pairing senior leaders with more junior employees who have the potential to be leaders. That’s why 70% of fortune 500 companies run internal mentoring programs to develop their best and brightest. 

Most people are familiar with the one-on-one mentoring approach and its benefits. A senior leader or expert takes a more junior employee under their wing and treats them as their protege. They share advice and guidance to help them with their career. 

But that isn’t the only form of mentorship. There are other types of mentorship including:

Three types of mentoring programs.
There are different types of mentoring programs, but generally they fall into these three formats.

This article will outline how group mentoring is different from other types of mentoring, its advantages, when to use group mentoring, and how to start a group mentoring program.

Let’s dive in!

What Is A Group Mentoring Program?

Group mentoring is a process where peers and leaders are brought together to engage in discussion around common challenges, goals, and ideas. Their combined knowledge and different areas of expertise help each member solve problems and come up with new ideas. Instead of two heads being better than one, there are several.

That’s the essence of group mentorship. But there are three ways to organize a group mentoring program:

  • One mentor; multiple mentees
  • Multiple mentors and 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 (who is a senior employee or executive with a wealth of experience) 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 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 MC who supports and encourages the group to help each other. 

When to choose this format

Workplace mentoring programs may choose to pair one mentor with several 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

In a group mentoring format with several mentors and mentees, the sessions can look similar to a 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 goals for the organization or run ideas past 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 closely related to peer-to-peer learning. It’s an opportunity for colleagues from different teams to come together and help each other grow. This is in contrast to a group of colleagues being led by a senior executive. Instead, they coach and mentor members from different teams. 

Different departments can also come together and explore different perspectives or challenges. In this way, employees step out of their immediate context and get a sense of how other teams think about things. It’s an effective way to enable knowledge sharing. Many of these discussions will splinter off into mini one-on-one’s which can be considered flash mentoring.

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. 

By creating structured programs that make the connection serendipitous ideas can come out of it. It’s a great way to build more connected teams and encourage new ideas.

Now that we’ve explored the different types of group mentoring, let’s outline the differences between group mentoring and individual mentoring:

Group Mentoring vs Individual Mentoring

The difference between group mentoring and traditional mentoring is how many participants are involved in the mentorship. Individual mentoring is a pairing of two employees, usually a leader and junior employee. In contrast, group mentoring can include one or two mentors and two or more mentees as we discussed above.

Multiple pairings

One risk to individual mentoring is that the success of the experience can largely depend on how well the participants get along. Unfortunately, this differs from pairing to pairing and is difficult to predict. But, if the match is not right, participants may have a lack of trust in each other, inhibiting their ability to work together. We have helpful articles on how to pair mentors and mentees and what matches should have in common to encourage a successful mentoring relationship. There is always a risk, however, of an unsuccessful pairing.

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

Participation

Another challenge individual mentorships can face is a lack of participation. 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. Group mentoring allows one mentor to guide several mentees. 
  • Admins believe it’s a better user experience. The opportunity for growth and learning is expanded in a group setting as additional perspectives will be presented. 

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. 

What Are The Benefits Of Group Mentoring?

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

  • Developing leadership skills
  • Cultivating communication skills
  • Gaining and appreciation for diverse perspectives
  • Growing participants networks
  • Enabling knowledge sharing across the organization

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

The benefits of group mentorship.

Develop leadership skills

Both a mentor and mentee have an opportunity to develop their leadership skills through group mentoring experiences. For a mentor, being put in a position of guiding the training or learning experience of other employees is a lot of responsibility. The experience will help them hone their skills and gain confidence. Group mentoring can provide mentees with the opportunity to learn what makes a good leader and what skills they need to acquire to be one. 

Cultivate communication skills

To teach something to someone requires a strong understanding and an ability to communicate with the other person effectively. Mentors will cultivate stronger communication skills as they work to impart their knowledge to mentees in their group. 

Appreciation for different perspectives

In a group mentoring situation, each participant will share their own ideas and perspectives. By actively listening and seeking to understand, mentees and mentors can learn from these different viewpoints and develop an appreciation for new perspectives. 

Networking

While a traditional mentoring experience allows a mentee to gain access to their mentor’s connections, a group mentoring experience offers more opportunities to expand their professional network. Participants will benefit from gaining access to their mentor and meeting their peers in the group.

Knowledge sharing

One of the biggest reasons that mentees seek a mentor is to learn skills. Knowledge sharing in a group setting is not limited to a mentor imparting what they know, but it offers much more. Each participant in the group will have something to offer in the way of knowledge, experience, or skills. Group mentoring encourages knowledge-sharing between participants.

If you’re on board with starting a group mentoring program let’s outline the 5 steps to starting one.


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:

How To Start A Group Mentoring Program

1. Define A Purpose

Begin by considering what you want to achieve with the program. How will your employees benefit from participating? Refine your objectives and determine KPIs to measure. Tracking the success of your program by monitoring the KPIs is vital to proving its effectiveness to your organization. 

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 has been designed to make the pairing process simple and scalable. Our algorithm can be customized to fit the objectives of your organization’s program. 

Additionally, having mentoring software can alleviate the burden on the program administrator. 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 reports faster and with more reliable data. 

2. Have Leadership Advocate For The Program

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. 

3. Promote Your Program

The next step to developing a successful group mentoring experience is by attracting participants. Let employees know about the program, and share the benefits they’ll get by being involved. 

Consider the various channels your company has that you can use to promote your program, including email, intranet, posters, launch events, etc. The aim is to generate interest and excitement for your program.

4. Support The Program While It’s Running

As you start attracting attention from participants, you’ll need to register and match them to groups. The matching process can be one of the most time-consuming components of a mentoring 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. 

5. Measure Your KPIs

As groups start to meet together, you’ll want to track their progress and see if you are getting closer to accomplishing your KPIs. Through Together, program administrators can see essential details and easily create reports so you can track the success of your group mentoring program. 

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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