Mentorship Programs in the Workplace: Your 2024 Ultimate Guide

Written by Neelie Verlinden
9 minutes read

Research by the Association of Talent Development found that organizations with mentoring programs in the workplace saw 57% higher employee engagement and retention. This illustrates how impactful mentorship programs can be, not only for the company but for the employee too, in driving the employee’s motivation and attracting and retaining candidates in the business.

In this article, we’ll look at mentorship programs in the workplace. We’ll talk about their benefits, the various types of mentoring, and six steps to develop a strong mentorship program. 

What is a mentorship program in the workplace?
Benefits of mentorship programs in the workplace
6 Types of mentorship programs
Examples of successful company mentorship programs 
5 Steps to creating mentorship programs in the workplace

What is a mentorship program in the workplace?

A mentorship program can take various forms. However, there are some common characteristics across these. 

A mentorship program is often:

  • A relationship between two (or more) people that aims to transfer knowledge, skills, experience, or a combination of these, 
  • Over a longer period of time, 
  • And is based on trust. 

Benefits of mentorship programs in the workplace

Having a strong mentorship program in place has countless benefits both for employees and the organization. Reports and studies have revealed that: 

  • According to the latest LinkedIn Learning report, mentorship is ranked the no. 1 focus area for L&D programs in 2023.
  • One study showed that, while 76% of people feel that mentors are important, only 37% have one.
  • 89% of people who’ve been mentored by someone become a mentor themselves.
  • Another study found that 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed more confidence. 

There are also additional benefits for the organization and the employee when considering mentoring programs:

Employee benefits: 

  • Personal and professional growth. Both mentees and mentors learn from the interactions they have with each other, as well as from their diverse experiences and perspectives.
  • Camaraderie and bonding. Building mutual trust is an essential element of a successful mentor-mentee relationship. When trust exists between parties, it creates a stronger bond and sense of camaraderie.  
  • Increased wellbeing. The benefits of growth and camaraderie have a positive effect on overall wellbeing. Additionally, the higher levels of trust make it easier for people to open up to their mentor in case of any struggles.
  • Purpose. A mentor’s contributions to the growth and development of mentees can help them find greater purpose at work. By sharing their own experiences, they can offer valuable guidance and a clear demonstration of the impact the mentee can make.

Organizational benefits:

  • Knowledge sharing and transfer. Tacit knowledge, gained through employees’ personal and interactional experiences with colleagues, is hard to capture in a database, standard operating procedure, or formal training program. Mentoring programs are an effective way to transfer this knowledge.
  • Improve employer brand and attract candidates. Mentoring programs can be one of the reasons candidates choose one organization over another. They demonstrate a company’s commitment to the growth and development of its people.
  • Contribute to a learning culture. A successful mentoring experience necessitates an open mind, active listening, a desire to learn, and trust. Moreover, fostering a culture of learning requires these same components. Additionally, employees who learn from a mentoring relationship with a colleague are likely to extend the same openness to others to learn from and teach them. This can create a positive ripple effect throughout the organization.
  • Increased employee happiness and engagement. Mentoring programs can also lead to increased engagement and employee happiness. This, in turn, leads to better performance, higher productivity, and less turnover.  
Types of Mentorship Programs

6 Types of mentorship programs

1. Traditional mentorship

Traditional mentorship in the workplace is a structured and relationship-based approach where experienced mentors guide and support mentees in their professional and personal development. 

This mentor-mentee relationship typically involves regular meetings, discussions, and feedback sessions. The mentor draws from their knowledge, expertise, and experiences to provide guidance, advice, and constructive feedback to the mentee. 

Traditional mentorship typically focuses on individual growth, career advancement, and organizational knowledge transfer. It promotes a sense of camaraderie, fosters a learning culture, and encourages personal and professional development. 

2. Reverse mentorship

Reverse mentorship is a modern approach that challenges traditional mentorship dynamics by flipping the roles and creating a reciprocal learning relationship. In this arrangement, younger or less experienced employees become mentors to more senior or experienced individuals. 

The aim is to tap into the fresh perspectives, technological expertise, and innovative ideas of younger employees while allowing them to learn from the wisdom and experience of their senior counterparts. 

Reverse mentorship breaks down hierarchical barriers and encourages cross-generational collaboration.

3. Group mentorship

Group mentorship in the workplace is a collaborative approach where a mentor collectively guides and supports a group of mentees. Unlike traditional one-on-one mentorship, group mentorship allows for shared learning and community among mentees. The mentor acts as a facilitator, creating a structured environment for mentees to engage in discussions, share experiences, and learn from one another. 

Group mentorship offers a broader range of perspectives, diverse insights, and a supportive mentee network. It encourages peer-to-peer learning, fosters teamwork, and builds relationships across different levels and departments within the organization. This form of mentorship also enables mentees to develop their networking and communication skills as they interact with multiple individuals. 

4. Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring is typically less formal than traditional mentoring programs, and it may involve peers sharing their experiences, skills, and knowledge in an informal setting. It can take many forms, such as lunch-and-learn sessions, job shadowing, or collaborative projects. 

Peer mentoring programs benefit organizations with a diverse workforce, allowing employees to learn from colleagues with different perspectives and backgrounds. By facilitating connections between colleagues and promoting a sense of community within the workplace, peer mentoring can help improve employee engagement, retention, and productivity. 

5. Buddy system

Some companies provide a buddy system, for example, for new hires. The buddy system provides a supportive and informal approach where a more experienced employee, or buddy, is paired with a new or less experienced employee, like a new hire. The buddy acts as a guide, providing assistance, information, and emotional support to the employee as they navigate their roles, learn about the organization, and adapt to the workplace culture. 

This system helps new employees to accelerate their integration into the organization. Buddies help the person they have been paired with on practical matters, like answering questions, clarifying procedures, and providing insights into day-to-day operations. They also serve as a friendly resource for social integration, offering the mentee a welcoming and approachable presence. 

6. Micro-mentoring

Micro-mentoring is a relatively new form of workplace mentoring that is short in duration and usually occurs in the shape of just a few hours over a few days. It’s a great way to transfer knowledge about a specific topic or skill.  

Mentees can connect with different mentors on a project-by-project basis or for specific skill acquisition. Micro mentoring allows for diverse perspectives and knowledge sources, enabling mentees to receive targeted guidance and insights from experts in various fields. 

It can take various forms, from brief meetings to informal discussions or virtual interactions, and is often driven by specific questions or challenges. It is a valuable tool for professional growth, as it allows mentees to gain more specialized knowledge.

Examples of successful company mentorship programs 

Mastercard: Mentorship as part of a successful merger

Mastercard’s Uplift – a global mentoring program, brings together small groups of Black executives and employees to enable them to share their challenges and provide mentoring guidance on identifying and seizing opportunities to grow their careers.

The program was so well-received that Mastercard would be rolling it out to include more employees across the organization and bring in further mentors to grow the program. 

Testprep: Multi-generational mentoring 

Online education company, Testprep paired senior employees with junior employees. Senior executives shared their knowledge about professional development and goal setting in this intergenerational mentorship program. At the same time, juniors mentored the seniors on new areas of development, such as the latest technology trends. 

Microsoft: Remote mentoring to onboard new hires 

Microsoft runs an onboarding buddy program for new employees. Since the company works in a hybrid environment, its buddy program also is (partially) remote. The aim is to make new hires feel welcome and to ensure they have someone – their buddy – to turn to if they have any questions, concerns, etc.  

5 Steps to creating mentorship programs in the workplace

This section will examine five steps to create a strong mentorship program in your organization. 

Step 1: Identify the program’s goals and objectives

As with any new initiative, start with the goals you want to achieve with it. As with coaching, mentoring is part of your talent management practices, specifically your performance management. Therefore, your goals should be aligned with your talent management strategy. 

Step 2: Selecting the right type(s) of mentoring program(s)

Depending on your objectives and the available resources, determine the type of mentoring program – or programs – you want to develop. For example, opt for a peer mentoring program to increase the transfer of tacit knowledge. If, on the other hand, you want to upskill an entire team on a certain number of specific skills, you may choose group mentoring or micro-mentoring. And if you want to increase your new hire retention rate, you should consider developing a buddy program.

Step 3: Select mentor and mentee participants

What makes a good mentor, and what makes a good mentee? These are questions to consider – and answer – before rolling out a mentoring program. Also, give employees the option to sign-up as mentors or mentees. More than any criteria you can think of, a person’s willingness to be a good mentor or mentee plays a role in the success of a mentoring trajectory.

Think of ways for people in the company to volunteer as a mentor and a mentee. You might be surprised by the great candidates this will bring about. A straightforward way to do this is by sending out a simple survey.

Step 4: Create a program structure and guidelines 

As the HR and/or L&D department in charge of your organization’s workplace mentoring programs, you must create a program structure and specific guidelines.

Things to keep in mind when doing this are:

  • What is the purpose of the mentorship program, and what do mentors and mentees expect to get from it? 
  • Practical elements like how often people have a mentoring session, who contacts who, whether in person or online, etc. 
  • How and when is feedback going to be collected?     

Try to provide people with a ready-to-use framework so that they can get started immediately once they’ve answered the various questions that come with this. If, however, people want to work with a different structure, that should be possible too. Ask them to communicate the goal of their mentoring journey, their expectations, and their feedback so that you can keep track of these.  

Step 5: Evaluating and refining the program

As with every new initiative, keeping track of how it’s doing is essential. When it comes to mentoring programs, you can gather feedback by: 

  • Sending out a short survey to participants 
  • Regularly gathering feedback from mentors and mentees
  • Collecting feedback. You could ask questions about your onboarding buddy program in a survey, for example. 

You can further finetune your workplace mentoring programs based on the information you will gather. 

HR tips
Creating a successful mentorship program

  • Give people a say: Involve employees in choosing mentors and allow them to have a say in how they structure their mentor-mentee pairs.
  • Communicate about the program(s): Regularly communicate about the program in newsletters, Slack channels, posters, and other relevant platforms.
  • Be mindful of the pairing of people: Not everyone will be a good match. To reduce the risk of a mismatch, involve employees in the mentor/mentee selection process, and consider using technology to match pairs based on capabilities and ambitions.
  • Get everybody on board: It’s also crucial to get everyone – including leadership – on board with the mentorship program. Ideally, the company’s top leaders would participate in the mentor programs. 
  • Be available for support: Make sure to provide support and resources to employees in need and communicate how they can get in touch with the HR/L&D team for assistance. 

Key takeaway

Mentorship programs at work can be a great way to support your employees’ growth, drive the organization’s business, and attract new candidates.  HR and/or L&D departments have an essential role to play in creating strong mentoring programs. The examples and tips in this article can help with that.

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Neelie Verlinden

Neelie Verlinden is a digital content creator at AIHR. She’s an expert on all things digital in HR and has written hundreds of articles on innovative HR practices. In addition to her writing, Neelie is also a speaker and an instructor on several popular HR certificate programs.

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