How Do Companies Use Mentoring in the Workplace?

Successful companies large and small use mentoring to tackle complex human resource challenges. In fact, according to the Association of Talent Development, workplace mentoring is on the rise with 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies offering formal mentoring programs to their employees. As the labor market continues to get tighter, more and more companies are relying on formal workplace mentoring programs to engage, develop, and retain their top talent.

What type of mentoring program is best for your organization and employees? We’ve consulted our team of mentoring experts to determine the top 5 employee mentoring programs. Read this article to learn:

  • The most prevalent workplace mentoring program types
  • How each program works
  • How companies benefit
  • How employees benefit

1. Career Mentoring for Improved Employee Career Development

Career mentoring is by far the most common mentoring program we see in the workplace. This traditional one-to-one mentoring relationship can last 6-12 months.

How do companies benefit from career mentoring?

To retain skilled employees and develop future leaders, it’s critical to understand employee career objectives and align them with organizational goals. Career mentoring enables both career development and leadership development to help employees gain new skills and feel engaged with co-workers and your organization. By encouraging a learning culture through mentoring, companies ensure that employees take an active role in spreading knowledge and best practices throughout their organization. These factors all lead to happier employees and a better retention rate for a stronger, more effective organization.

With career mentoring, you can:

  • Improve employee retention
  • Enable employees to take ownership of their development
  • Deliver cost-effective, scalable programs with constrained HR resources

How do employees benefit from career mentoring?

Employees get the opportunity for learning and development, which can help advance their careers and keep them from feeling stagnant in their roles. Offering a formal career mentoring program is a tangible way to show employees that you’re investing in their careers. The collaborative nature of mentoring develops employees and interpersonal links. Essentially, employees sharpen their skills, gain new ones, and can form friendships at work, all of which result in increased engagement.

Learn how software helps run career mentoring programs

2. High-Potential Mentoring for Leadership Development

High-potential mentoring connects rising stars with leaders, top performers, and each other. This one-to-one mentorship nurtures a company’s leadership chain.

How do companies benefit from high-potential mentoring?

High potentials are an incredibly valuable asset to any company, but they’re often difficult to retain. With careful cultivation, companies can increase retention to ensure they’ll be able to appoint suitable leaders at the top when needed, which is crucial to the health and future of every organization. It’s imperative to engage these rising stars while also exposing them to different areas of the business, developing their leadership skills, and ensuring they’re learning what they need to excel in prospective new roles. This results in improved engagement, faster time to productivity, and lower attrition costs.

With high-potential mentoring, you can:

  • Improve retention of key contributors
  • Deepen your leadership bench strength
  • Provide critical career development experiences

How do employees benefit from high-potential mentoring?

Mentoring high potentials rewards them with personal attention, guidance, and professional development. This type of mentoring enables high potentials to learn faster and prepare to take on leadership positions sooner. This type of personalized development is engaging for employees and provides tangible proof that their employer is investing in their careers.

Learn how software helps run high-potential mentoring programs

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Top 5 Workplace Mentoring Program Types

3. Diversity Mentoring for an Inclusive Workplace

Diversity mentoring has grown in popularity for companies that want to attract and retain top talent. This model pairs mentors and mentees in a one-to-one mentorship aimed at engaging and developing specific subsets of employees, and can last 6-12 months.

How do companies benefit from diversity mentoring?

Cultivating an inclusive environment where varied viewpoints are heard fosters innovation and creativity that effect the bottom line. Research from McKinsey & Company revealed that ethnically diverse and gender diverse organizations are respectively 35% and 15% more likely to achieve financial returns above average. Diversity mentoring not only helps organizations develop and retain diverse talent, but it also helps build a robust community of diverse talent for future needs. Offering a diversity mentoring program helps corporations differentiate themselves from their competitors while providing long-term support for their employees.

With diversity mentoring, you can:

  • Improve diversity in leadership or specific functional disciplines
  • Better attract and retain employees
  • Connect diverse populations with each other to learn and share experiences

How do employees benefit from diversity mentoring?

Diversity mentoring empowers a wide range of employees to share their opinions, ideas, knowledge, and experiences on a level playing field. Through diversity initiatives, employees learn cultural awareness to create an inclusive corporate culture. Diversity mentoring creates an environment of trust, belonging, understanding, support, and encouragement for a diverse workforce. It gives employees an opportunity to voice their concerns, overcome hurdles, and find solutions. As a result, it inspires employees to perform to their highest ability.

See how software helps run diversity mentoring programs

4. Reverse Mentoring for Efficient Knowledge Sharing

Reverse mentoring is a modern twist on the traditional mentoring model. Reverse mentoring partners an older, more experienced employee with a younger, less experienced newcomer. Companies can implement reverse mentoring in a one-to-one or group setting. The younger employee serves as the mentor, providing senior members of the organization with up-to-date information on the latest business technologies, technical skills, and workplace trends.

How do companies benefit from reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring isn’t just an opportunity to engage and develop employees—it creates bonds between senior leaders and rank-and-file employees. By breaking down silos and connecting cross-generational employees, critical knowledge is shared, creating a more informed and agile workforce that functions smoothly.

With reverse mentoring you can:

  • Enable knowledge sharing between baby boomers and millennials
  • Deepen connections between employees and senior management
  • Engage employees more fully across generations

How do employees benefit from reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring strengthens senior leaders and executive teams by giving them insights on both millennials and the latest technologies. In fact, according to a survey by PGi, 70% of non-millennials say they are open to reverse mentoring. The benefits don’t end there. The younger employee gains visibility into the macro-level management issues and perspectives of the executive mentee. Reverse mentoring can be an excellent way to engage millennials in your organization by providing meaningful and rewarding connections to senior leaders.

See how software helps run reverse mentoring programs

5. Mentoring Circles for Collaborative Learning

A mentoring circle is a peer-to-peer format that enables employees to find peers who share common interests or learning objectives, and develop together as a group. Each circle has an owner (an employee) who designates the number of participants and sets expectations for how, when and why the circle will meet. We recommend capping membership at 5-8 employees per circle.

How do companies benefit from mentoring circles?

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement, mentoring circles have become increasingly popular. It’s no surprise why employers are adopting this model—since employees own and run the circles, this type of program is fairly admin light. Circles promote cross-departmental knowledge sharing, which expands the tribal knowledge pool. The result? Improved innovation by connecting people with varying skillsets who are interested in solving the same challenge.

With mentoring circles, you can:

  • Build intra-organizational personal relationships
  • Facilitate collaborative learning and knowledge sharing
  • Drive career development by increasing employees’ functional expertise and skillsets

How do employees benefit from mentoring circles?

Employees get to connect with co-workers who have the same interests. This helps create bonds between people who otherwise may not have interacted. And don’t discount the impact of having friends at work – Gallup actually includes the question “Do you have a best friend at work?” as part of their annual Q12 engagement questionnaire. Mentoring circles help employees find like-minded peers at work, which helps foster a sense of belonging. Circles can also serve as an extra layer of support for employees. Many organizations have circles setup for specific employee populations, such as veterans, women in STEM, LGBTQ employees, and so on.

See how software helps run mentoring circle programs

Improving Mentoring Engagement

In today’s volatile business world, it’s extremely important for organizations to engage employees both intellectually and emotionally. Through mentoring, employees identify themselves as a vital part of the organization while creating a heightened level of ownership. By improving employee engagement and retention along with other company initiatives, mentoring helps the company’s bottom line while also ensuring that employees feel committed to accomplishing their work in accordance with the vision of the organization.

Everyone can appreciate the benefits of a mentoring program. But people are also busy. Sometimes mentoring can be pushed off for a bit, and other times forgotten altogether. It’s not that your employees don’t value the program. They just might need a little nudge to get them started and keep them engaged.

To keep your mentorship program on track, here are our best practices to increase and maintain engagement in your organization’s mentoring program.

1. Utilize Targeted Emails.

With every mentoring program, you’ll have an initial rush of people who can’t wait to get started. That’s fantastic! These are the people who will become your program’s ambassadors. You’ll want to send emails to congratulate them on their successes and remind them to evangelize your program.
However, sometimes there’s people who will need a few additional reminders. This is where targeted email campaigns can be useful. Use emails to remind them to sign up for the program or start seeking a mentor or mentee. For signing up, we recommend the following sequence:

  • An email that lists all the benefits of the mentoring program
  • A reminder email to sign up
  • An email that profiles a successful mentoring pair and the benefits they’ve experienced

Good mentoring software will enable you to set up these emails and automatically trigger them if, for example, you have a new mentee who enters your system and doesn’t send match requests within the first two weeks. Don’t have mentoring software? You can still manually send out mass email blasts to participants. As with any email campaign, it’s important to make sure you don’t overwhelm them. We see the best success with one email per week.

2. Provide Guided Workflows with Tasks and Milestones.

Assign workflows with tasks to your mentors and mentees to keep your program moving forward and productive. We know that life gets busy. Because of that, it’s important to retain momentum. We’ve found that mentoring program participants receive significant value out of the program if they have a guided process to follow.
By setting up workflows with specific steps such as “Reach out to setup your first meeting with your mentor this week”, you’ll remind participants to accomplish their goals. We also recommend specifying a time limit for those tasks so you can pace the goals to a productive conclusion. That limited amount of time provides participants with a sense of urgency so they’ll want to get moving faster.
For the best results, set up these guided mentoring connections before launching your program.

3. Gather Feedback from Participants

As with any program, once you launch you’ll discover improvements you can make along the way. Participant feedback helps with this process. Leading mentoring software will make gathering participant feedback easy for you but even if you don’t have a built-in system, you can still utilize external tools like SurveyMonkey or Google forms to gather feedback and comments. We recommend asking questions around:

  • How successful they felt the relationships were
  • What facets of the program they liked or didn’t like
  • Ideas for the future improvements

Knowledge is power! Learn what’s working and what’s not in order to fine tune your program and improve overall engagement.

4. Offer Mentoring Program Incentives.

Everyone loves recognition, so we suggest offering people incentives to track their progress throughout the mentoring program, to complete the feedback surveys we just mentioned or whenever they complete a mentoring engagement.
Here are some top incentives our customers have successfully used:

  • Gift cards
  • Award lunches
  • Spotlight in the next company newsletter or internal email
  • Completion certificates

Be creative! Make it a fun exercise—it doesn’t need to be pricey, but make sure it’s something your participants would truly value.

5. Make it Easy to Engage Anywhere, Anytime.

It’s important to make participation as simple as possible for your mentors and mentees. Perhaps you have traveling salespeople or field technicians. Or maybe you’re running a reverse mentoring program with senior leaders who are always on the go.

Ensuring that your program is mobile-friendly or integrated with your company-wide communication tools is something important to consider because it allows your participants to engage no matter where they are. A smart mobile mentoring app will encourage people to shop for a mentor, check off tasks, and see what’s next. With integrations in your communication tools like Slack, they can keep up whether they’re waiting to catch a flight or spending a few minutes in the company break room.

Allow mentoring to fit into their schedule. This will increase engagement and productivity in mentoring relationships, making your mentorship program more impactful and successful.

See how software helps increase mentoring participation

Conclusion

In today’s volatile business world, it’s extremely important for organizations to engage employees both intellectually and emotionally. Through mentoring, employees identify themselves as a vital part of the organization while creating a heightened level of ownership. By improving employee engagement and retention along with other company initiatives, mentoring helps the company’s bottom line while also ensuring that employees feel committed to accomplishing their work in accordance to the vision of the organization.

REFERENCES
*See references in the whitepaper.

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