Mentorship

Mentoring Programs: Purpose, Benefits + How to Get Started

The purpose of mentoring is to grow by tapping into the knowledge and experience of someone further along than yourself. It's the best way to accelerate your development.

Matthew Reeves, CEO of Together

Published on 

May 1, 2023

Updated on 

October 11, 2023

Time to Read

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Mentorship is the #1 area of focus for L&D pros in 2023. 

Ranking above hybrid and flexible work, and even digital fluency transformation, mentoring programs are taking center stage for good reason. 

Mentoring programs greatly benefit both mentors and mentees. But they also align with organizational goals - from hiring and retention to improving the outcomes of DEIB initiatives.

And if you’re worried about what implementing a structured mentorship program will do to your L&D budget, don’t be. 

The return on investment of mentoring more than pays itself back in turnover cost savings. That’s because retention rates for both mentors and mentees are significantly higher. In fact, a 5-year study by Gartner (conducted at Sun Microsystems) found that retention rates were much higher — 22% more for mentees and 20% more for mentors who participated in the mentoring program vs. those who didn’t. 

These results are supported by a more recent 2019 survey by CNBC and SurveyMonkey. 40% of employees without a mentor considered quitting their jobs. And yet, a 2022 Mentoring in the Workplace 2022 report from HR.com found that 36% of organizations still don’t have a mentoring program in place. Clearly, there is room for improvement. 

If you're looking for ways to foster meaningful relationships, develop talent within your organization, and get the most out of every member of your team—it's time to dive into what mentoring programs can do for you.

A quick shout out 👉 If you're trying to start a mentoring program and are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of manually matching, managing hundreds of registrants, reporting on impact, and somehow doing your day job, you need to learn more about Together’s mentorship platform. 

  • Use our intelligent pairing algorithm to match up hundreds of mentoring relationships in minutes. No spreadsheets required.
  • Our straightforward registration process makes it easy to promote your program and keep on top of it all.
  • The reporting suite gives you insight into how mentoring relationships are progressing and their impact on your organization. 

What is the purpose of mentoring programs?

According to the Mentoring in the Workplace 2022 report by HR.com, the primary purposes of mentoring programs, as identified by respondents, are:

  • To develop leadership capability: Two-thirds of the respondents cited this as a purpose, emphasizing the significance of mentoring in cultivating leaders within organizations.
  • To increase the skill levels of employees: An equal number of respondents (two-thirds) viewed mentoring as a means to enhance employee skills, indicating that beyond leadership, the general upskilling of employees is a central focus of mentoring initiatives.
  • To increase employee engagement: Over half of the participants (63%) stated that a major goal of mentoring is to bolster employee engagement, suggesting that mentoring not only aims at skill and leadership development but also plays a vital role in influencing the attitudes and work approaches of employees, making them more invested in their roles.

When comparing organizational size, the report found:

  • Smaller companies place a high emphasis on mentoring to increase employee skill levels (75%).
  • Larger companies are more inclined towards mentoring to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, with 48% prioritizing this compared to 40% of mid-size and just 21% of small organizations.

While many organizations focus primarily on leadership development and enhancing employees' skills through mentoring, the potential of mentoring programs extends beyond these areas and can yield benefits across multiple dimensions when utilized effectively.

What is mentorship? An evolving definition

The concept of mentorship has been around for ages. The earliest nod to mentoring was probably in Homer’s Odyssey

In the workplace, mentoring started to take off in the 70s. At that time, it was all about helping junior employees learn the ropes quickly. Since then, mentorship has evolved. It doesn’t always have to be a one-on-one scenario, and mentors don’t have to be senior employees — peer mentoring is just as valid and effective.

And so it’s important we redefine mentorship before we dive into the nitty-gritty of what comprises a mentorship program.

Here’s how a couple different sources view mentorship. 

  • ATD: “Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative at-will relationship that most often occurs between a senior and junior employee for the purpose of the mentee’s growth, learning, and career development.”
  • NIH: “Mentorship is a professional, working alliance in which individuals work together over time to support the personal and professional growth, development, and success of the relational partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support.“

Let's streamline our definition of mentorship to something easier to digest and remember:

Mentorship is a relationship between two people where the mentor provides advice and guidance to their mentee to help them grow, learn, and develop professionally.

The 5 stages of mentorship

Every mentoring bond undergoes a series of evolutionary stages, often termed as the mentoring cycle. David Clutterbuck, author and thought leader on the subject of coaching and mentoring identifies these transitions as: building rapport, setting direction, making progress, winding down, and finally, moving on.

Stage 1: Building rapport

The mentoring journey begins with the mentor and mentee gauging compatibility. Key elements, as highlighted by Megginson and colleagues in "Mentoring in Action" (2006), include:

  • Shared values and alignment.
  • Mutual respect.
  • Clarity on the relationship's objectives.
  • Consensus on expected roles and behaviors.

A strong rapport forms the bedrock of a successful mentoring bond.

Stage 2: Setting direction

This phase is about goal-setting, defining the relationship's trajectory, and understanding its immediate and future course. Often, this stage, along with the rapport building, can be established in the initial meetings.

Stage 3: Making progress

The most intense learning occurs here for both participants. Efficient mentors will:

  • Create a structured yet comfortable environment.
  • Agree on the meeting's objective.
  • Understand issues from the mentee's viewpoint.
  • Promote analytical thinking and draw from personal experiences.
  • Boost the mentee's confidence.
  • Discuss various possibilities.
  • Recap and agree on mutual actions.
  • Propose topics for the next meet.

Here, mentees gain self-awareness, and their skillset matures.

Stage 4: Winding down

This phase involves reflection, where the mentor and mentee review their journey and celebrate their achievements.

Stage 5: Moving on

The formal mentor-mentee bond concludes, transitioning to a more casual relationship, possibly as friends or professional peers.

The 4 C’s of mentorship

Mentoring, often undervalued, is inherently mutual, with both mentor and mentee working together to enhance the latter's competencies. Organizations that embrace mentoring bolster four cornerstones of social capital: conversation, connection, community, and culture.

Conversation: Quality mentoring promotes meaningful dialogue. Beyond standard workplace interactions, these conversations entail deep listening, mutual problem-solving, and shared goals. Enhancing these conversations involves:

  • Building trust from the start.
  • Taking joint responsibility for fruitful discussion.

Connection: Workplace engagement often hinges on meaningful relationships. Through mentoring, unlikely connections are forged, broadening organizational understanding. For instance, mentors can gain insights to effect changes, while mentees can explore more career pathways and grow their networks. To foster connections:

  • Embrace and understand differing perspectives.
  • Share lessons and knowledge.
  • Prioritize consistent feedback.

Community: Belonging is key to employee engagement. Through mentoring, individuals feel more connected to their workplaces. In particular, global or remote companies benefit immensely from mentoring's relationship-focused approach, even in virtual formats. Building this sense of community involves:

  • Training leaders in mentoring.
  • Creating mentor-mentee cohorts.
  • Ensuring accountability through shared goals.

Culture: A mentoring culture thrives on rich dialogue, diverse connections, and a united community. It reflects an organization's commitment to growth and development. Building this culture requires:

  • Linking mentoring to organizational values.
  • Championing mentoring from top leadership.
  • Tracking the impact of mentoring initiatives.

What is a mentorship program?

A mentorship program is a structured and organized initiative that facilitates the pairing of experienced individuals (mentors) with less experienced ones (mentees) to provide guidance, support, and knowledge transfer.

And that’s in an ideal world. The HR.com report revealed that informal mentoring programs are still around. 

However, structured programs are catching on. In fact, having a formal component to mentoring is associated with greater success. According to HR.com’s research, 82% of top-performing ("leader") organizations have a structured (formal) component in their mentoring programs.
So if you have to choose between informal and structured, choose structured or at least have some mentoring programs that are structured. 

Key components of a mentorship program include:

  • Matching Process: This is where mentors and mentees are paired together. Some programs have a formal matching process managed by an administrator, while others might be more informal, allowing mentees and mentors to self-select each other.
  • Training: Many programs offer training sessions for both mentors and mentees to equip them with the necessary skills and set clear expectations for the mentorship relationship.
  • Feedback and evaluation: Regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and evaluations help assess the effectiveness of the mentorship and make necessary adjustments.
  • Goals and objectives: Setting clear objectives at the outset helps guide the mentorship process and provides a framework for the mentee's growth and development.
  • Duration: Mentorship programs can vary in length, from short-term initiatives (like a few months) to long-term partnerships that last several years.
  • Support structures: This might include resources, regular meetings, workshops, and other support mechanisms to facilitate the mentorship process.

Mentorship programs can be found in various settings apart from corporations. Educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and community groups also incorporate mentoring. They can focus on various objectives, from career development and skill enhancement to personal growth and specific life challenges. The success of these programs often hinges on the commitment and compatibility of the mentor-mentee pairing, as well as the support and resources provided by the organization.

5 steps to building a successful mentorship program

If you are in HR, especially Learning and Development, and looking to start or scale your company’s mentoring program, you’re in the right place. Mentoring programs can be a lot of work, especially if you are doing it manually.

🧠 By the way, check out what experts said about how to structure a mentoring program.

Determine the goals of the mentorship program

A good mentoring program aligns with overarching business goals. Traditional mentoring programs usually pair senior leaders with more junior ones to support and help them grow within the organization. The goal for this type of mentoring may be to increase promotion rates within the organization. 

There are other types of mentoring programs with different objectives. The table below outlines different objectives for mentoring programs and their corresponding key result:

 Objective How Mentoring helps Key Result
Develop emerging leaders  Helping high performing employees develop their abilities 

Increase promotion rate by 10% within 12 months 

Onboard faster

Teaching new hires about the company and the expectations of management  Decrease time to hit full sales quota of a new rep by 3 weeks 
Promote diversity  Mentorship programs encourage and empower employees from minority groups who may not currently be reaching the next level of career development  20% of junior VPs are from racial minorities 
Career development   Assisting employees in meeting their career goals by honing new capabilities 80% of employees have a positive outlook on their career trajectory 
Improving culture  Building productive relationships among co-workers can lead to a healthier workplace culture Achieve  Glassdoor rating of 4.3
Employee retention   Employees who perceive that the company cares about their career prospects and their future are more likely to stay with the organization longer. Decrease annual turnover rate from 20% to 15% 
Reputation building Organizations that show a commitment to their employees' development will gain a reputation as a desirable place to work. Increase conversion of new hire offers from 50% to 75%

Promote your mentoring program

To promote your mentoring program focus on getting leadership on board first. If leaders promote the program and speak to its benefits and importance there will be a trickle-down effect on the rest of the organization. 

Leveraging the enthusiasm of early adopters or popular mentors will drive word of mouth and excitement about the program. Many mentorship programs start with a kick-off party (whether virtual or in-person) where participants can see everyone else in the program. 

Mentees can scope out potential mentors and see that they are part of a larger company wide initiative which will encourage them to maintain the relationship.

Pair mentors and mentees

Finding mentors and mentees is the most exciting part of the process, but can also be stressful. It can become a logistical nightmare to manually pair up mentors and mentees when your program grows beyond 10 mentors and 10 mentees. 

For this reason, many companies use Together’s mentoring software to efficiently create pairings using an algorithm that takes into consideration the answers provided by participants in a registration questionnaire (click the link for a templated registration questionnaire). There are many advantages to using mentoring software.

To create meaningful pairings between mentors and mentees identify qualities of good mentees and mentors and encourage them in all participants. 

Some qualities of good mentees and mentors include:

  • Drive to succeed
  • A positive attitude 
  • Good time management skills
  • Open to learning and new perspectives
  • Clear communication
  • Shows initiative
  • Leadership skills or capabilities

Mentors and mentees with these qualities will easily build a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

Support a successful mentoring relationship

To build a successful mentoring relationship you have to focus on each individual's goals for what they want to get out the experience. If a mentee wants to transition into a new department, say for example from marketing to sales, you may pair up the mentee with the head of sales and then support their relationship by encouraging them to talk through how to make that transition.

The first meeting can be awkward if there isn’t a blueprint or agenda to help get things started. For that reason, providing questions that the mentee can ask their mentor is very helpful in shaping the types of discussions they have. 

Encourage them to ask questions like:

  • Why did you decide to be a mentor? 
  • What are your goals for the relationship?
  • How did you move into X role?
  • What were some challenges you faced in X position?
  • What skills would be beneficial for me to work on?

Successful workplace mentoring programs are built on the backs of successful mentoring relationships. More importantly, participants and the organization will get the most benefits from a mentorship that has a strong relationship at its core.

Report on the progress of the program

Reporting on your mentoring program is essential because you want to capture the results of the relationships you helped develop and present that to stakeholders like leadership or other employees who are considering if a mentoring relationship is worth it. 

To track feedback and measure your workplace mentoring program Together provides feedback forms at the end of each session for both the mentor and mentee to fill out. This gives meaningful qualitative feedback for administrators to understand if the program is working and what to change if necessary.

Important factors to keep in mind when evaluating the feedback from participants and monitoring your program include: 

  • Engagement levels of participants - are they enthusiastic about the program?
  • Goal achievement - are mentees and mentors getting out of the program what they hoped?
  • Qualitative feedback - how do they describe the program to others?

A mentoring program doesn’t start and end at pairing. To ensure a successful workplace mentoring program administrators should keep their finger on the pulse of all pairings and make adjustments as needed.

Why is mentorship important?

Mentorship is important because it provides employees with the opportunity to develop and become more competent in their roles as well as prepare for growth opportunities in the future. 

Benefits of being a mentor

The word mentorship may bring to mind images of Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi or Luke Skywalker and Yoda. These images can make mentors feel like they have large shoes to fill (or small ones, in Yoda’s case.)

If you’re a mentor, you may feel like you have to open up about all your challenges and failures. The point is mentorship can feel intimidating. But it doesn’t have to feel that way.

In a mentoring relationship, both the mentee and the mentors stand to experience a myriad of benefits. In fact, a majority of HR professionals surveyed in our State of Mentorship and Coaching Report view coaching and mentoring as a key enabler of performance.

The benefits of being a mentor far outweigh the possible cons of having to navigate tricky generational gaps. Teaching others is the best way to learn. Mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.

Here are the benefits of being a mentor:

The Benefits Of Being A Mentor

Validate the mentor’s leadership skills

Being put in the position of a role model can help mentors become better leaders and instill confidence in their leadership ability. The responsibility of helping guide someone’s career and goals requires the senior employee to teach, motivate, and offer honest feedback in difficult conversations. 

Be recognized as an advisor

Similar to developing leadership skills, mentors will become recognized for their communication skills and the ability to help young employees with their career advancement and personal development. 

Learn to clearly communicate

Albert Einstein once said that “if you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” Likewise, if you’ve ever had to explain something to somebody, you probably noticed that you had to think it through and clean up your explanation to make it easy for another person to understand. 

Gain new perspectives

While the mentor is usually in the position of imparting knowledge to the mentee, a mentoring relationship can also help the more experienced employee learn new skills. It’s common that younger employees can take on the role of mentor through a reverse mentoring model to share technological advances, trends, or sharpen their digital skills. 

Give back and find new talent

Mentorship provides the opportunity for the mentor to give back to the company by helping train new and upcoming employees, making those around them more competent and satisfied. It’s also a great opportunity to find up-and-coming talent for promotions or special projects. 

Benefits to mentees

There are a lot of benefits to being mentored by someone more experienced and senior than you. Rather than learning from your own experience alone, a mentor can accelerate your learning and development and help you stand out from those who don’t have a mentor. 

In fact, a study conducted by CNBC/SurveyMonkey revealed that 89% of employees who had mentors felt their colleagues valued their work, compared with only 75% without mentors. 

The Benefits Of Being A Mentee

Learn the workplace culture

One of the advantages of having a mentor at a new job is that they can help you adapt to the office culture more quickly. Employees who are involved in a mentorship program are more aware of workplace routines, policies, and expectations than those who do not participate. And that is important for building inclusive workplaces.

Enhance skill development

Most mentees are looking for someone to help them advance their career prospects. Through advice and guidance, the mentor can help the employee develop their full potential or entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace.

Find networking opportunities

A workplace mentoring program is a great way for new hires to expand their network. For many new hires, it can take months to get to know key co-workers. Through a mentoring program, a mentee can gain access to important career contacts sooner. This is especially true in remote work environments.

Get promoted more

Most mentoring programs require the mentee to consider their future direction or goals they hope to accomplish through the process. By asking younger workers to consider how they can grow through the experience, a mentoring program gives them more control over the direction of their careers. 

Research has shown that employees who are mentored have a better career track than those who don’t. This includes receiving higher compensation and more promotions, as well as higher career satisfaction.

Why is mentorship important?

Benefits for organizations

Mentoring helps organizations attract, retain, and engage their top talent.‍ It also helps companies trying to implement new DEIB initiatives or recruit diverse talent.

Attract the right talent

In a study by the University of Southern California, “Attracting and Retaining Talent: Improving the Impact of Workplace Mentorship” they identified several solutions to employee turnover. There were solutions you’d expect, like salary and opportunities for promotion, but there were more intangible solutions, like “job embeddedness” and career and professional development. 

There are three main factors that contribute to job embeddedness: 

  • Links - the extent to which one has strong links to people or groups in the workplace and in their community.
  • Fit - the degree of fit with their job (e.g. company culture, job duties) and community.
  • Sacrifice - the level of sacrifice one would willingly make to give up on things if they leave their job.

Listen to the full conversation with Jennifer Petrela on Inclusive mentorship.

Organizations that want to attract talent should build teams and organize projects that promote the social links that employees want. Providing professional mentors to these employees that facilitate coaching will give them rewards of growth and professional development while giving them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their role.

Help advance careers

Organizations that provide professionally supportive work environments can expect to attract talent and experience greater retention levels with those they attract. Providing career mentors to less experienced employees promotes their skill development and social ties with the organization in a way more meaningful than job training. 

Mentorship helps retain top talent.

Retain high performers

Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm in the Netherlands, runs their mentoring program with Together’s platform and found that the retention of their employees in the mentoring program went up significantly. 

Randstad case study screenshot

Randstad found that “employees participating in the mentoring program were 49% less likely to leave” and the costs saving associated with recruiting and training were ~$3,000 per employee per year. 

When reporting on their success, the program administrators at Randstad shared that:

“Our people are finding the program incredibly valuable and are excited to be learning from other employees through mentorship.”‍

Increase employee engagement

It’s widely cited that the majority of employees in the U.S. are disengaged with their work - 68% as found by Gallup who has been studying employee engagement since 2000. 

Employee engagement is critical to attaining company goals and success. They are the employees that drive the business forward and encourage others to do the same. 

Mentorship increases employee engagement.

There are 5 areas which mentorship helps with employee engagement programs:

  1. It provides more opportunities for training and development by tapping into the knowledge of your more senior employees.
  2. Mentorship gives employees a voice to speak with leadership, thus breaking down barriers to communication.
  3. Both mentors and mentees are given the opportunity to prove themselves by putting into practice what they discuss during their mentoring sessions. 
  4. Engagement is closely tied with working relationships. Mentorship builds the social ties that keep employees from getting discouraged and encourages a growth mindset. 
  5. Mentorship holds mentors and mentees accountable to the commitments they make to one another. Making a commitment to grow with a mentor makes it harder to procrastinate doing what needs to be done to improve.

Mentorship enhances employee engagement because it gives high performers personal and professional development. It satisfies their desire for career progression and the development of their knowledge and skillsets. 

For example, First Horizon, a bank in Tennessee has run several mentoring programs with Together with notable high potential mentoring programs that prepared exemplary employees for leadership positions. By hand-selecting their top performers to be mentored by leaders they gave them visibility for promotions.

Mentorship is the antidote for disengagement. To re-engage employees encourage them to meet regularly with a mentor in a one-on-one meeting who will provide them with feedback and act as a sounding board for them to discuss their goals and challenges to overcome to reach them.

Promote a diverse and inclusive workplace

Diversity and inclusion are vital to the growth, productivity, and strength of a company.

Several studies show that diverse workforces are connected to higher revenue. The studies revealed that organizations where women are given senior management roles have a 10 percent increase in cash flow returns on investment. 

McKinsey found that organizations that are more racial and ethical diverse are 35 percent more likely to see higher revenues.

If your organization wants to create a more diverse and inclusive workspace, having a workplace mentoring program is essential. Mentorship programs allows employees to interact, learn from each other, and grow from the experience.

The 9 types of mentoring models 

From traditional one-on-one guidance to innovative hybrid models, mentorship programs offers different avenues to achieve organizational goals while supporting mentors and mentees feel engaged and advance their careers. 

1. One-on-one mentoring: Often the first thing that springs to mind when discussing mentoring, this classic approach involves an experienced mentor guiding a singular mentee. They work together to aid the mentee's growth, both professionally and personally. It's a mutual relationship—while the mentee grows, the mentor refines leadership techniques and gleans new insights.

2. Peer Mentoring: Here, two individuals of similar professional standing or age join forces. Their interactions could involve alternating roles or a more mutual mentoring experience. By sharing knowledge and experiences, they aim to grow together and maintain mutual accountability.

3. Group mentoring: One mentor engages with multiple mentees simultaneously. By doing this, a mentor can reach more individuals in a shorter time span. This arrangement promotes shared learning, knowledge retention, and improved teamwork among participants.

4. Reverse mentoring: This model flips the traditional setup. A younger or less experienced individual mentors someone senior or more experienced. This acknowledges that learning can flow in both directions.

5. Flash mentoring: These are short, focused mentoring sessions designed for quick knowledge transfer or skill acquisition. They remove the need for long-term commitment and are particularly useful for addressing immediate learning needs.

6. Team mentoring: Unlike group mentoring, which has one mentor for many mentees, team mentoring involves several mentors guiding a group. It's beneficial when a group of individuals is working towards a common objective. This setup fosters a diverse learning environment as multiple mentors bring varied perspectives and knowledge.

7. Virtual mentoring: With the rise of remote work, virtual mentoring has gained prominence. Different mentorship styles can be executed remotely using various digital tools. This ensures that geographical barriers don't hinder mentorship, and those who prefer or need virtual connections aren't left out.

8. Mosaic mentoring: An emerging, hybrid style where mentees collaborate with multiple mentors or explore various mentoring frameworks. By diversifying their mentoring interactions, individuals can gain a holistic view of their area of interest, enriching their learning experience.

9. Functional mentoring: A more project-focused approach, where the mentoring revolves around a clear, predefined goal. Instead of broad developmental aims, the mentee seeks guidance on specific tasks or projects, tapping into the expertise of those seasoned in that particular area.

The 4 types of mentors

Just like mentoring programs come in all shapes and sizes, so do mentors. 

To learn more about the different types of mentors and their roles in the workplace, check out our blog post "8 Types of mentors and their role in the workplace". 

No matter which type is most suitable for you, it’s crucial to understand how each can help you reach your goals. 

Peer mentors 

Peer mentors can provide guidance, advice, and support to their peers. They are usually from similar backgrounds or groups of similar age and experience so that they can identify with each other’s struggles and goals. 

Career mentors 

Career mentors are those who have developed their professional experience and can provide guidance to help others achieve their career goals. They typically have advanced knowledge in the field. They can offer invaluable insights on navigating the job market and providing advice about choosing a specialty or industry. 

Reverse career mentors 

Reverse career mentors are less experienced employees who mentor a senior colleague. Reverse mentoring bridges the generational gap and help build workplace connections with senior management.

Reverse mentors can teach valuable digital skills and drive cultural change by helping older coworkers stay competitive. This type of mentorship builds a true learning culture within an organization and is a testament to the fact that learning can happen at any age and with anyone.

Life mentors 

Life mentors are individuals who provide guidance and advice to those seeking it. They help the mentee develop their life skills, confidence, knowledge, and expertise in a given area. This type of mentoring is especially beneficial for younger people or those who have recently stepped into an unfamiliar role or situation. 

Who can be a mentor? (+ qualities, responsibilities, and what sets great mentors apart)

Mentoring programs often involve leaders and managers, but anyone in the workplace can be a mentor. This could include seasoned professionals working for decades or even younger employees who may have fresh perspectives on handling specific tasks. It all depends on what skills and experience you are looking for. 

Mentors don’t need to be experts; they just need to offer support, advice, and guidance. While thinking of yourself as a mentor may be intimidating, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone has something to contribute, and everyone can learn from each other. 

How to spot a good mentor

Typically, a mentor will have the following:

  • Experience in the same field as their mentee
  • Good communication skills
  • A willingness to listen and support others, regardless of experience level
  • An understanding of different perspectives and cultures within the workplace
  • The ability to help their mentees develop new skills or refine existing ones
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Ability to provide constructive feedback
  • A positive outlook and a love for their profession

While this list isn't exhaustive, these qualities are great places to start when searching for a mentor or deciding if you are ready to step into a mentorship role.

Mentorstrat, a consultancy, provides helpful tips for choosing mentors for your program.

Listen to the full conversation with Mentorstrat.

6 qualities of a great mentor

Good mentors are made, not born. A great mentor will have acquired the necessary life skills to guide their mentees to success. There are some common traits seen in mentors who inspire results and loyalty. Let's explore our top 6: 

  1. Patience: A great mentor takes the time to understand their mentee’s unique challenges, motivations, and goals. They don’t rush or force them into decisions they aren’t ready for. Instead, they are patient with their mentees, employ active listening techniques, and provide support. 
  2. Empathy: A successful mentor must empathize with their mentee and understand where they are coming from regarding specific issues. This allows them to provide advice tailored specifically to their mentee's needs. 
  3. Knowledgeable: Good mentors have a wealth of knowledge on various topics, including career exploration, problem-solving strategies, and industry trends. They use their experience to provide helpful insights to benefit the mentee in the long run.
  4. Open-mindedness: Good mentors have an open mind when it comes to new ideas and approaches to problem-solving. They can think outside the box to help their mentees find creative solutions that work best for them.
  5. Communication: A good mentor should have excellent communication skills and be able to effectively listen, provide feedback, and explain complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand. They should also be patient when answering questions or explaining difficult topics. 
  6. Integrity: A good mentor has the highest level of integrity. They must be honest and fair in their dealings with the mentee and those around them. A strong sense of morality is a crucial characteristic for any mentor; they will strive to put the mentee’s best interests at heart over anything else.

What sets great mentors apart (+ a mentor’s responsibilities)

Great mentors can help guide you through difficult decisions or unexpected situations. They offer advice on navigating tricky conversations with superiors, colleagues, and clients; they may even open doors for networking opportunities that would have been impossible without their expertise and connections. 

To facilitate these positive changes, other responsibilities of truly great mentors include:

  • Being prepared for each meeting by being knowledgeable about the mentee’s progress and goals
  • Having a plan for how they will use their time with you and setting an agenda that can be revisited in future meetings
  • Striving to teach accountability by helping mentees set realistic goals and holding them accountable for achieving those objectives
  • Challenging their mentees to think critically about their career paths
  • Providing advice when needed or asked for it
  • Serving as references when requested
  • Sharing expertise on topics they are knowledgeable in and coach you as you learn new skills

Whether you’re already established or just starting out in your chosen profession, having a great mentor who takes their responsibilities seriously can help you reach your goals faster and more efficiently.

Who is a mentee? (+ qualities which help mentees thrive)

Mentees are typically individuals seeking guidance, advice, and support in achieving their goals. Mentees may be recent graduates looking to enter a new field or established professionals who want to move up in the ranks. A mentee aims to gain knowledge from an experienced individual through conversations, feedback sessions, and instruction. 

6 qualities of a successful mentee

If you’re participating in a mentorship program, you want to see growth and success for all your hard work. To guarantee you get the most out of your experience, certain qualities will help you make the most of it: 

  1. Openness: A successful mentee approaches their mentor with an open mind and heart. They come ready to learn and grow, taking full advantage of what their mentor has to offer. 
  2. Respect: Successful mentees respect themselves and their mentor’s expertise. This means listening intently, being willing to take advice, and implementing changes when necessary. 
  3. Communication skills: You can effectively communicate your goals and objectives to your mentor. You ensure their mentor understands what you are trying to accomplish so that they can provide you with the proper guidance.
  4. Flexibility: A successful mentee is flexible in how they approach the mentoring program. They understand that not every plan will work out as expected and are open to making adjustments when needed. 
  5. Self-awareness: To maximize your mentorship, you take personal responsibility for your actions and recognize areas where improvement is possible. This allows you to make better use of the advice given by your mentor. 
  6. Confidence: A successful mentee has faith in their abilities and the ability of those around them. This allows them to take risks, learn from mistakes, and grow with the help of their mentor. 

Together: Making mentorship easy

Mentoring allows mentees to rapidly acquire knowledge by leveraging the experience of seasoned individuals, expanding their connections beyond just peers. For mentors, it's a chance showcase their expertise and leadership, affirming their communication abilities and enjoying the rewards of guiding juniors. By teaching, they also refine their knowledge. 

Businesses that organize formal mentoring programs stand to benefit from building a strong culture that’s more connected, more engaged, and filled with employees who want to grow within the organization rather than leave. 

To start a mentoring program with ease consider using Together's mentoring platform. We've won awards for our easy-to-use tools that speed up the pairing process from weeks to minutes.

Companies with effective mentorship programs will be the ones attracting the top talent and generate new innovations that lead to more revenue and growth. 

Get started with Together today! Book a demo to see how you can build your own mentoring program

Mentorship FAQS

1. What are the types of mentoring relationships?

Mentoring relationships come in various formats. The most common are 1-to-1, where one mentor is matched with a single mentee; group mentoring, which involves one mentor and multiple mentees; and affinity groups or circles, which bring together people from similar backgrounds. No matter the format chosen, each type of relationship has the potential to be rewarding for both parties involved.

2. Are mentoring, coaching, and sponsoring different?

Yes, mentoring, coaching, and sponsoring are different. Mentoring is a relationship focused on guidance and support, while coaching involves facilitating growth with active listening and questioning. Sponsorship is an individual providing advocacy for their colleague's career development. Mentoring can be viewed as a learning experience, whereas coaching is more of a teaching style.

3. What is an information-based mentoring relationship?

An information-based mentoring relationship is when a mentor offers resources, advice, and enlightenment to their mentee based on their needs. They share relevant experiences and techniques to help the mentee grow in their work life.

4. What is an advocacy-based mentoring relationship?

An advocacy-based mentoring relationship is a type of mentoring that focuses on developing interpersonal behaviors. The mentor helps the mentee assess their current abilities and plan learning activities, provides feedback on performance, and serves as a guide, consultant, and sponsor for the mentee's development.

5. I'm just starting a mentoring program. What are some great goals to set for a mentoring program and mentoring relationship?

When setting goals for a mentoring program and relationship, use the REAL development goals format. This means your goals should be Relevant to you or your organization's objectives, Experimental in their approach, Aspirational in nature, and Learning-based. Ensuring your goals are realistic and meet your needs will help ensure they succeed.

6. How do I start a mentoring program?

To start a mentoring program, begin by researching if one already exists. Survey your employees to gauge what kind of program is desired. Identify objectives that will benefit from a program, such as cost and software management. Create an outline with goals, participants, length, and pairing methods. Lastly, provide data on the value of mentoring for executive leaders to present your proposal.

7. How do I find a mentor?

To find a mentor, you can start by exploring your personal and professional networks. Ask friends and family or use social media to identify potential mentors. You could also join an online mentoring service or look into existing programs within your organization. Consider joining employee resource groups (ERGs) for guidance and reach out to peers and senior leaders with more experience.

8. We're ready to start a mentoring program, but we've got a huge number and cannot match participants manually. What do we do?

Our mentoring software solves the challenge of manually matching participants in large mentorship programs. Together’s tracking, matching, and scheduling tools facilitate communication between mentors and mentees over extended periods, allowing employees to continue learning and developing their skills.

9. Why should I mentor?

Mentoring is a mutually beneficial experience. It gives mentees access to support and opportunity, and mentors also gain the chance to build lasting connections and positively impact their organization and community.

10. Why create mentoring programs?

Creating mentoring programs is like planting a garden. It enables organizations to provide employees with the right environment for growth, leading to increased job satisfaction and engagement, as well as fostering the inclusion of all employees. A mentorship program is an effective strategy for demonstrating care and commitment towards employee development.

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