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.

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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


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.

*See references in the whitepaper.

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