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.
Ready for a mentoring program? Chat with one of our experts!
Next chapter: Mentoring is a Learning Solution (+ Challenges and Golden Rules🥇)
Mentoring is more than an accessory in people development – it's a key player in facilitating the flow of knowledge and skills throughout an organization. Whether it’s experienced professionals sharing their wisdom with up-and-comers, younger folks sharing new perspectives with senior leaders, or colleagues building connections with each other, mentoring breaks down knowledge silos and unlocks learning opportunities.
But here's what we're digging into: Is mentoring a full-blown learning solution?
In this chapter, let’s take a closer look at how mentoring is not just a piece of the learning puzzle but a significant player in your learning and development strategy. We’ll also tackle the tough parts – the challenges mentoring faces in corporate learning, and the best ways to make it work.
Why is mentoring a learning solution?
Mentoring offers unique advantages in skill and knowledge development, alignment with business objectives, personalization and flexibility to cater to individual needs.
Mentoring programs not only support the professional growth of employees but also align with the strategic goals of the organization, making it an indispensable tool in the toolkit of HR professionals and L&D experts.
Helps employees acquire relevant skills and knowledge
Mentoring serves as a dynamic way to develop relevant specific skills and knowledge.
It goes beyond traditional training by offering personalized attention, individualized conversations, and tailored activities, which are key reasons why people increasingly seek mentorship in their professional lives.
For example, a mentoring relationship can focus on building leadership skills like strategic thinking or more technical skills such as budget planning, depending on what the mentee needs to develop.
Guides new hires to understand work culture and network
Mentors can be invaluable in helping new employees understand the company culture and develop relationships across the organization, which is particularly important as 90% of learning is informal.
Plus, mentoring serves as a platform to discuss career goals while offering development opportunities, thereby aligning individual aspirations with the organization's objectives.
Adapts to individual needs and offers flexibility
The beauty of mentoring lies in its inherent flexibility and adaptability to individual needs and goals.
Unlike one-size-fits-all training programs, the duration and focus of a mentoring relationship can be tailored to the specific development areas identified by the mentee. Whether the relationship lasts for a month or a year, the key is ensuring progress toward goals and improvement in identified development areas.
Plus, with the advent of technology, mentoring has become more flexible than ever. Meetings can be conducted face-to-face or virtually, allowing mentors and mentees to connect regardless of geographical location. This flexibility not only enhances the learning experience but also expands the possibilities of mentor-mentee pairings.
Benefits of mentoring in corporate learning
Mentoring not only enhances individual skill sets but also aligns with broader organizational goals, contributing significantly to continuous learning, adaptability, and improved business outcomes.
Fosters holistic professional development
Mentoring transcends traditional technical skill development by embracing a more comprehensive approach. It offers mentees a chance to gain practical knowledge and insights from seasoned employees, fostering growth in areas like leadership, communication, and strategic thinking. These benefits extend to mentors as well, who get to expand their professional knowledge and skills, contributing significantly to their personal and professional development.
Promotes continuous learning and adaptability
Mentoring promotes a culture of continuous learning and adaptability.
For mentees, it provides an avenue for ongoing professional development and confidence-building, along with a deeper understanding of institutional knowledge. Mentors, in guiding others, often find opportunities to reassess their own perspectives and approaches to work, fostering an environment where continuous improvement is the norm.
Impacts organizational objectives
The impact of mentoring on business results is evident across various levels.
For mentees, the guidance and support from mentors leads to increased confidence and a broader understanding of organizational workings, contributing to enhanced job performance.
Mentors gain fulfillment and satisfaction from helping others, which can translate into higher job engagement and retention.
From an organizational perspective, mentoring facilitates the development of high-potential leaders, ensures the transfer and maintenance of institutional knowledge, and fosters a more inclusive, diverse, and collaborative work environment. These factors collectively contribute to improved employee retention rates and a stronger organizational structure.
How to prepare for challenges you may encounter
While mentoring offers numerous benefits, there are challenges to prepare for, just like with any L&D strategy. But the beauty of mentoring is that once you build and launch a successful program, you have a repeatable process in place and it becomes easy to replicate and scale.
A lot depends on your approach to running a mentoring program, and whether you’re taking the manual route with spreadsheets, and have a way to monitor the process and measure outcomes from the program.
Ensuring effective pairing, maintaining engagement, navigating power dynamics, and securing commitment are vital steps in leveraging mentoring as an impactful tool for corporate learning.
Use surveys to avoid mismatched mentor-mentee pairs
The backbone of a successful mentoring program is matching the right mentors with the right mentees. It’s a delicate balance of aligning skills, personalities, and objectives. Mismatches can lead to ineffective mentorships, and hinder program goals and employee development.
Plus, power dynamics and potential conflicts of interest can complicate relationships, especially when mentors and mentees share a working department or personal connection.
Solution: In a mentoring program with few participants, you have the flexibility to personally match mentors. However, for this approach to work, you need a deep understanding of your employees. If you're not familiar with them to that extent, it’s best to use registration surveys for gathering information about your participants. This will allow you to categorize individuals based on their skills and goals, and find the perfect mentor for each mentee.
🗒️ Want a ready resource to build your survey? Get started with our Mentorship program survey questions: 28 examples
With large or multiple mentorship programs, we recommend using mentorship software, because we don’t want you to spend days poring over spreadsheets. A mentoring software with a matching algorithm can do this at scale and with remarkable accuracy based on the skills and goals of each participant.
Not just matching, a mentoring platform like Together can take more off your plate – it can actively monitor the success of these pairings with health reports, flagging any that are not meeting or have lower session scores, which helps you intervene just in time to re-align or support the pairs as needed. This systematic approach leads to a high success rate in mentorship programs (with Together, we have a 98% match success rate) while meaningful connections and providing continuous oversight and development.
Lean on technology for an efficient matching process
People leaders often rely on a manual matching process, using spreadsheets and personally recruiting mentors based on profiles and criteria. This process is time-consuming but it can work if you have under 50 employees. Plus, even with a database with employee profiles, experience levels, and skill sets, you’d have to be careful not to rock hierarchies, or inadvertently create a mismatch.
In addition, if you’re trying to run a mentoring program with larger employee numbers, imagine trying to dig into each person’s experience, skills and learning needs in order to make relevant matches. Sounds like a full-time job? We got you covered with a solution.
A mentoring program is best run with the help of technology. Mentoring software can do in minutes what takes you days to accomplish. To show you what we mean, let’s view the example below from our ROI of mentorship calculator. For instance, if you have 500 employees that you’d like to enroll in a mentoring program, you’d have to spend 1,044 hours making mentor-mentee matches! 🤯But, with software, you can do it in 12 hours, even when you decide to scale to 1,000 or 5,000 participants.
You can also use our calculator for free and input the number of participants for your program to see exactly how much time and cost you can save with an intelligent software.
Promote your mentoring program to drive engagement and participation
A common stumbling block in mentoring programs is sustaining engagement. Employees are busy in their roles and may not realize the impact mentoring can have in their personal and professional development. A lack of engagement can diminish the impact of the mentoring relationship and ultimately affect the success of your program.
Solution: Bring your mentoring program where your employees work, in their native environment. For instance, if all their messaging and collaboration takes place in the Microsoft Teams environment, make sure your mentoring program is visible and available in the same environment with the help of integrations. This way, employees don’t have to switch between apps and can get their session alerts right within Teams.
Establish clear goals and expectations at the start, possibly formalized in mentorship agreements, and promote your mentoring program internally by sharing the benefits of mentoring for both mentors and mentees as well as success stories through email and at company-wide meetings. Provide customizable session agendas to help the relationship launch with a great start.
You can also incentivize and gamify participation with the help of session scores and leaderboards. These tactics boost engagement levels and ensure both parties remain actively involved. Share mentor and mentee handbooks to guide your employees, along with resources on making the most of mentoring relationships so that they can apply those learnings and derive the maximum benefit.
Golden rules for using mentoring as a learning solution
Successful mentoring programs are more than just matching mentors with mentees. They require a strategic approach and adherence to certain best practices to ensure they yield the best results for everyone involved.
Here’s some expert-recommended golden rules for effective mentoring:
1. Clearly define objectives and secure leadership buy-in
Effective mentoring programs start with clear, SMART objectives and strong leadership support. Well-defined goals, like improving new employee retention by a specific percentage, or boosting diversity, provide direction and justify leadership buy-in.
2. Balance structure and flexibility
While a certain level of structure is necessary for smooth running, mentoring programs also need flexibility to cater to individual learning and growth needs. This balance helps address varied outcomes sought by participants and their preferred learning methods.
3. Promote the program effectively
Beyond natural enthusiasm, promoting the mentoring program effectively is key to ensuring high participation rates. Educating potential mentors, mentees, and key stakeholders about the program's benefits is crucial for its success. You can do this with the help of weekly emails (we have free templates) highlighting the benefits of mentoring for both mentors and mentees as and appointing champions within the company who have benefited from mentoring in the past.
4. Emphasize the impact of mentoring
Building a base of mentors can be challenging, but understanding the factors that affect participation helps. Recognizing mentors' efforts and offering incentives can be motivating and help attract more mentors. A big myth about mentoring is that it is time-consuming, and that it only benefits mentees. By addressing these myths via workshops or team discussions, you can motivate employees to participate and see for themselves.
5. Prepare mentors and mentees for success
Training for both mentors and mentees about the program's goals and best practices is vital. Continuous guidance throughout the program helps participants stay focused and get the most out of their mentoring experience.
6. Ensure effective matching
The strength of the mentor-mentee match is crucial. Allowing mentees a say in the matching process and using mentoring software for recommendations based on learning needs and compatibility can enhance match quality.
7. Track and measure program success
Tracking program metrics and gathering feedback is essential to assess the mentoring program's success. Surveys can be a simple yet effective tool for capturing feedback from participants and stakeholders.
Mentoring's real-world impact on corporate learning
Mentoring transforms workplace learning by offering tailored, flexible development paths that align with both personal and organizational goals. It's this unique blend of personalization and strategic alignment that makes mentoring an essential part of corporate learning.
Let's solidify this understanding with three practical examples:
- Randstad’s leadership development mentoring program: Demonstrating the power of diverse mentoring approaches, Randstad's program caters to 1,000 participants globally. With the launch of this program, Randstad slashed their employee turnover rate by 49% and saved nearly $3000 per participant per year.
- Boeing’s organizational-wide mentoring program: This initiative emphasizes the importance of structured yet diverse mentoring opportunities. With a focus on leadership and career development, Boeing’s program integrates rotational, peer mentoring, and leadership mentoring, serving as a model for comprehensive development.
- McGraw-Hill’s comprehensive mentoring program: With a focus on achieving specific mentoring objectives and enhancing job effectiveness, McGraw-Hill's program highlights the efficacy of structured mentoring in professional and personal development. The program's success is reflected in its high recommendation rates and the achievement of mentoring goals by participants.
These examples show us just how impactful mentoring can be in a corporate setting. They're concrete proof that the right mentoring program can make a big difference in how people learn and grow at work.
UP NEXT: Mentorship and the Impact on Employee Experience
In the next chapter, we'll dive into how mentoring shapes skills and careers and profoundly influences the overall employee experience. Stay tuned to uncover the ripple effects of effective mentorship on employee engagement, satisfaction, and long-term retention in the workplace.