Statistics show that employees with mentors are promoted five times more than their peers.
Before you worry about how your organization can make room for all these raises, consider that 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.
Despite this clear evidence of the benefits of mentorship, only out of three professionals have access to a mentor. Clearly, there is room for improvement.
This article will explore the purpose of mentoring programs, examining why so many businesses overlook them despite their numerous advantages and how you can implement one in your organization.
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 the impact it’s having on your organization.
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.
What is mentorship?
Before moving on, let’s compare definitions of mentorship from a few different sources.
- Wikipedia: “Mentorship is the patronage, influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor.”
- 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 an activity in which science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals engage to help develop the next generation of STEMM professionals.“
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.
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.
Providing these opportunities is key for organizations that want to attract, retain and engage their 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 thatfacilitate coaching will give them rewards of growth and professional development while giving them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their role.
Career and professional development
Organizations that provide professionally supportive work environments can expect to attract talent and experience greater levels of retention 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.
Rather than learning new skills and being evaluated on them, employees want to grow more holistically by building relationships with mentors.
Retaining 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 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.”
The ROI of mentoring is clear both for attracting top talent and employee retention.
Increasing employee engagement
It’s widely cited that the majority of employees in the U.S. are disengaged with their work - over 50% 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.
There are 5 areas that mentorship helps with employee engagement programs:
- It provides more opportunities for training and development by tapping into the knowledge of your more senior employees.
- Mentorship gives employees a voice to speak with leadership, thus breaking down barriers to communication.
- Both mentors and mentees are given the opportunity to prove themselves by putting into practice what they discuss during their mentoring sessions.
- Engagement is closely tied with working relationships. Mentorship builds the social ties that keep employees from getting discouraged and encourages a growth mindset.
- 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.
Promoting 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 allows employees to interact, learn from each other, and grow from the experience.
Who can be a mentor?
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.
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
- 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.
How great mentors can change your life (their 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.
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 mentee, 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.
In essence, the benefits of being a mentor is that it serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience. Teaching others is the best way to learn yourself. In the same way, mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.
Here are 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. All these skills are at the top of the required list for a leader.
Become 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. Mentors will become known as advisors that are open to helping others.
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. Mentors will become better communicators and listeners by virtue of being in a mentoring relationship.
Gaining 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. This is an area where the mentee can also become a teacher, guiding the mentor to learn new skills or a new way of doing things.
Giving back and finding 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. Mentorship is helpful for both the mentor and mentee’s networks.
Types of mentors
Mentoring programs come in all shapes and sizes, with each type of mentor having their own unique “style.” 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 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.
We need peer mentors because it is often easier for someone experiencing a problem to relate to someone in the same position. Peer mentoring programs foster understanding between different generations or social circles and create a safe space for discussion.
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.
We need career mentors because they allow individuals to learn from someone with more experience than they may find in their current situation.
Reverse career mentors
Reverse career mentors are those who have advanced in their careers and can guide those just starting out. We need reverse career mentors because they can offer insight into the world of work and what it takes to be successful in a particular field or industry.
They can also help younger professionals develop vital skills, such as networking, managing difficult conversations, building relationships with senior management and staying competitive.
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.
We need life mentors because they can offer support and be positive role models that help build self-esteem and encourage personal growth.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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. Here are some other benefits you will notice.
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. This 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.
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.
Potential for promotion
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.
A mentor can be a sounding board when the less experienced employee comes up against a situation or problem that they are not familiar with or can’t see a solution to. By partnering a younger employee with a more experienced one, the mentee gets to learn from the mentor’s experience.
The more experienced employee should have a thorough knowledge of the organization, as well as any programs or training that a mentee can access to help them reach their goals. The mentor can impart wisdom developed on the job over time, information and workplace expectations or policies that will help the mentee succeed in the long run.
Who is a mentee?
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:
- 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.
- Respect: Successful mentees respect both themselves and their mentor’s expertise. This means listening intently, being willing to take advice, and implementing changes when necessary.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
By possessing these qualities, you can ensure that your mentee experience is beneficial and rewarding.
5 Steps to building a 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.
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:
Promote your 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.
Pairing 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.
Supporting 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.
Reporting 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.
Together: making mentorship easy
The purpose of mentoring is to help mentees tap into the knowledge of those with more experience than themselves and learn faster than they would on their own. It’s also an opportunity to grow their network and connect with leaders rather than only their peers.
For mentors, it’s an opportunity to prove their knowledge and leadership skills. They can validate that they’re a clear communicator and receive the intangible benefits of giving back to more junior employees. We learn best by teaching and being a mentor is an effective way to hold leaders accountable to be role models for the organization.
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.
It may be reasonable to say that in the future, companies with effective mentorship programs will be the ones attracting the top talent and generate novel innovations that lead to tremendous success. What reasons are there not to have a mentoring program within your organization?
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, Aspirational in nature, Experimental in their approach, 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.