Decoding Mentoring: Beyond the Basics
Mentoring isn’t a new concept. In fact, the first idea of mentoring is traced back to the epic Greek poem, Homer’s Odyssey, in which the goddess of wisdom, Athena, mentors both Odysseus and his son in their heroes’ journeys.
Since then, the term ‘Mentor’ has been adopted as a term for a person who imparts knowledge and wisdom.
Modern-day mentoring has evolved to take on many different forms, in formal and informal settings, in personal as well as professional relationships.
Decades of research point to the positive impact of mentoring in learning and development. A widely-cited study by the American Society for Training and Development (now called The Association for Talent Development) points out that 75% of executives give credit to their mentors for their career development.
But mentoring is no longer coincidental, or ad-hoc, depending on where you work and who you happen to meet. Companies are fast realizing the value (and seeing the impact) of organized and ongoing mentoring programs in the workplace. Because, as we believe at Together, every employee deserves a mentor to learn and grow.
Let's unpack why and how.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is when an individual commits to helping another individual learn, grow and develop, personally and professionally. In the workplace, mentoring relationships are rooted in intentionality – helping a mentee learn new skills, sharing industry knowledge, solving specific challenges, and mapping out a development path.
Throughout a mentoring journey, there’s a ton of guidance, collaboration, and nurturing, with the goal of bringing a mentee to a desired point in their career. But often, it transcends work tasks and becomes a source of support, friendship, and innovation – the not-so-secret ingredients for a thriving workplace.
Gallup, too, describes mentoring as "building a developmental relationship," emphasizing the role of human connections in nurturing talent. In organizations, when these connections are built by matching individuals with aligned beliefs and attitudes, it greatly impacts the success of the mentoring process.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides an organizational perspective, defining mentoring as a strategy for employers to encourage both individual and organizational growth. It involves pairing less experienced employees with more seasoned colleagues to offer career guidance, broaden networking opportunities, and break down silos within an organization..
Benefits of mentoring in the workplace (+ real-life examples)
Does mentoring make a real difference?
From hard stats that reveal the impact on employee engagement and retention to real-world success stories, all evidence points to mentoring as a catalyst for employee development and organizational growth.
Accelerated learning and development
Millennials and Gen Z account for a majority of the current workforce, and they don’t want jobs, they want meaningful careers. They want promotions, fair pay, and attentive bosses who are invested in their learning and development. Mentorship can fulfill this need quickly and easily, across generations.
Cruise Automation unlocked the power of mentorship by launching a program that matched junior engineers with senior staff, and quickly saw the speed at which their team members were gaining skills and knowledge. Cruise initially started with 200 engineers but the success of the program created a huge internal demand and they had to soon expand the program to 300 engineers. Since then, Cruise has leveraged mentorship to create a culture of continuous learning and internal mobility within the company.
Level-playing field for women
Done right, mentoring can impact every employee in every department, and set the ball rolling for improved performance and productivity across the organization. It’s inclusivity in its truest sense!
The Forum, an organization dedicated to women entrepreneurs, wanted to bring meaningful opportunities to their members across North America. They leveraged mentorship at scale and were able to impact the lives of a larger volume of female entrepreneurs, empowering them to fulfill their mission of “Leave no Woman Behind.”
Impressive employee retention rates
It’s not surprising that employees want to stick around if you give them concrete opportunities to learn and grow. Done well, mentoring programs can be a driving force in attracting and retaining talent, saving you precious resources and building a solid reputation for your company.
Randstad, an HR consulting firm, launched a mentoring program that translated into a 49% reduction in employee turnover! For an organization that saw 961 employees leave when they didn’t have a mentoring program in place to slashing that number to 144 after introducing a mentoring program, the impact of mentoring was powerful.
Far-reaching impact on diversity and inclusion
Mentoring has a direct impact on making employees from diverse backgrounds feel more connected and included. Most organizations today list DEIB as a priority but few are able to implement real changes. Mentoring programs have the potential to address DEIB challenges by connecting mentees from diverse and underrepresented groups with mentors within the organization who can guide them on ways to voice themselves.
Activision Blizzard, the popular gaming brand, leaned on mentorship programs to give non-male employees better opportunities to express themselves and develop their skills. It instantly helped them create a more diverse leadership pipeline. The organization matched not just mentors and mentees but also initiatied peer mentorship sessions so that colleagues could connect and network with each other.
The result? They received outstanding feedback from employees, with almost 95% of mentors and mentees saying their match was a good fit. Plus, from 34% female hires in 2018, King Gaming achieved their target to hire 40% female employees in 2019.
Engaging high-potential employees
It’s obvious why companies want to retain their top talent. High-potential employees are star performers and highly motivated, which means they need special attention from you. High-potential employees want you to invest in them because they are outperformers who bring unique talents to the workplace. It’s highly damaging when high-potential employees leave, which means you need a plan to keep them from walking out of the door.
First Horizon Bank used mentoring to fill this gap, and launched three high-potential programs in addition to their general mentoring program. With a separate pool of mentors for high-potential employees, the company saw a 25% increase in participation and glowing feedback from their top talent, who found opportunities to grow in different areas of the company.
Efficient onboarding and stronger team connections
Companies are increasingly realizing the value of team connections, but the post-pandemic shuffle of return-to-office and hybrid work trends is making it harder to streamline efforts. The key to building intentional connections lies in fostering connections right at the onboarding stage for new hires and and baking it into organizational processes. This way, employees feel connected regardless of whether they work remotely, in a hybrid environment, or in-person.
Cooley, an international law firm, did exactly this with the help of mentoring programs that connected new employees with experienced mentors who helped them quickly get up to speed in their roles. This created a win-win situation for new employees, who built meaningful connections with their mentors and became a part of high-performing teams. Not surprisingly, mentors and mentees rated the program an exceptional success, with a 3.9 rating out of 4.
🎨 An Inspiring Approach to Diversity and Retention
Avison Young, a forward-thinking commercial real estate firm, revolutionized its approach to diversity and employee retention with a dynamic mentorship program. By integrating Together’s Mentoring Software, they achieved a tangible increase in retention rates following the program's implementation. Participant satisfaction soared, with over 550 pairings rated at an average of 3.97 out of 4, and 98% of participants expressing satisfaction. This initiative not only enhanced internal diversity support but also earned industry recognition for their commitment to empowering women and other underrepresented groups.
10 Types of mentoring models
Mentoring programs can take various forms, each tailored to meet different organizational needs and objectives. Here are some common types of mentoring with the use case for each:
- One-on-one mentoring: This traditional form pairs a more experienced mentor with a less experienced mentee.
When to use: One-on-one mentoring is perfect for personalized development of each employee, and to put mentors and mentees in charge of their growth and mentoring relationship..
- Group mentoring: In this model, a single mentor works with multiple mentees simultaneously.
When to use: Group mentoring sessions are great for onboarding a batch of new employees or training a team that has shared learning needs. It encourages teamwork and collaboration, and helps build connections between colleagues.
- Peer mentoring: This involves pairing individuals at similar career stages to learn from each other's experiences. It involves an exchange of skills and knowledge, often from different functions within an organization.
When to use: Peer mentoring is great for cross-collaboration projects, and to help employees gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their coworkers. Peer mentoring is also used to strengthen connections within large organizations, helping employees get to know coworkers they might never interact with.
- Reverse mentoring: Here, junior employees mentor senior staff, often in areas like technology or current trends.
When to use: Reverse mentoring is ideal for a large, multi-generation workplace to facilitate knowledge-sharing and enable senior executives to gain valuable insight about current trends and technologies. Reverse mentoring is also a great opportunity to connect senior leaders with employees from underrepresented groups and help them gain a better understanding of their challenges and perspectives.
- Online mentoring: Leveraging digital platforms for mentoring, this type suits remote or global teams. It allows flexibility and broadens the pool of potential mentors and mentees
When to use: It is often hard to build meaningful connections in a global, distirbuted organization. Online mentoring bridges the distance and allows mentors and mentees to connect irrespective of their location.
- Career mentoring: Focused on professional growth and advancement, this type helps mentees navigate their career paths.
When to use: Career mentoring is a great tool for L&D leaders looking to improve employee retention and foster internal mobility. It is an ideal solution for succession planning and to build a leadership pipeline.
- Diversity mentoring: Aimed at supporting underrepresented groups within the organization. Avison Young’s program for women, LGBTQ+, and Black professionals is a prime example, contributing to an inclusive work environment and improved retention.
When to use: Diversity mentoring is an effective way to introduce and improve DEIB initiatives within the organization, and to amplify the voices of minority groups.
- Flash mentoring: A short-term version of mentoring, it involves one-time meetings or discussions focused on specific topics.
When to use: Flash mentoring is an effective method for addressing immediate challenges, problem-solving, brainstorming, or networking.
- High-potential mentoring: This type of mentoring is targeted at employees recognized for their potential to take on leadership roles.
When to use: High potential mentoring is a great way to upskill from within and create leaders within the organization. In turn, it helps you retain your top performers.
- Skill-based mentoring: This focuses on the development of specific skills, where mentors provide expertise in particular areas. It can be seen in organizations where technical skills or specialized knowledge are crucial for career advancement.
When to use: Skill-based mentoring is best used to fill skills gaps and address training needs based on company goals and objectives.
The mentor-mentee relationship
A good mentor-mentee relationship is built on mutual respect, clear communication, trust, and a commitment to growth. The best outcomes are achieved when both mentor and mentee actively contribute and engage in the relationship, each bringing their unique qualities to the table.
Effective and open communication is key to setting clear expectations, providing meaningful feedback, and discussing progress. Trust and confidentiality form the bedrock of this relationship, creating a safe space for sharing challenges and sensitive information.
The relationship should be goal-oriented, focusing on achievable objectives that align with the mentee’s career aspirations. Flexibility and adaptability are important, as both mentor and mentee should be willing to adjust their approach as the mentee’s needs and goals evolve. A shared commitment to the mentee’s development is essential, necessitating regular meetings and consistent effort from both sides. Importantly, the relationship should also offer reciprocal learning opportunities, benefiting the mentor as well.
Qualities of Effective Mentors
- Experience and expertise: A good mentor possesses significant experience and expertise in their field, which they are willing to share.
- Good listening skills: They should be excellent listeners, showing empathy and understanding towards the mentee’s perspective.
- Ability to provide constructive feedback: They should offer honest, constructive feedback that helps the mentee grow and improve.
- Patience and encouragement: Patience is key in allowing the mentee to develop at their own pace, coupled with consistent encouragement.
- Role model: A mentor should also be a role model, demonstrating professional behavior and ethics.
🤘😎 Read our handbook on How to be a Great Mentor
Qualities of Effective Mentees
- Eagerness to learn: Mentees should have a genuine desire to learn and grow professionally.
- Openness to feedback: They should be open to receiving and acting on feedback, even when it’s challenging.
- Proactivity: A proactive approach in seeking advice, setting goals, and following up on tasks is vital.
- Self-reflection: The ability to reflect on one’s own progress and areas for improvement helps in maximizing the benefits of the mentoring relationship.
🤘😎 Read our handbook on How to be a Great Mentee
The transformative power of mentoring amplified by Together
With Together, you get more than a platform. You get a partnership. This approach is rooted in our belief that mentoring is more than just a process; it's a journey of shared wisdom, mutual growth, and creating pathways to success. From enhancing staff performance to fostering leadership, mentoring casts a wide net of benefits, touching every aspect of organizational life.
Yet, the true potential of mentoring is unlocked when it's managed effectively. This is where Together steps in, acting as the catalyst that transforms the raw potential of mentoring into tangible outcomes. By addressing the common challenges of resource allocation, mentor selection, and program management, Together not only simplifies the implementation of mentoring programs but also elevates their impact.
With Together, organizations can confidently navigate the complexities of mentoring. Whether it's matching mentor-mentee pairs, tracking KPIs, or measuring ROI, Together offers a streamlined, intuitive solution. It's the bridge that connects the wisdom of experience with the enthusiasm of learning, fostering an environment where both mentors and mentees thrive.