What Are Mentorship Programs? 6 Important Questions for Leaders

Sam Cook


what is a mentoring program

There are nearly 8 billion people in the world today, of which around 3.4 billion are employed. Even with that many people adding their skills and talents to the world, you’ll likely find most want or need professional development and career advancement. Thankfully, your organization isn’t tasked with upskilling all 3.32 billion of those employed workers. However, you can help your people and your organization reach their respective goals and improve employee retention by creating and scaling workplace mentorship programs. 

Let’s Get Hands-On: Book a demo to see just how visually impressive and powered up your programs could be with mentoring software.

What Are Mentorship Programs?

Mentorship programs are a type of professional development strategy organizations use to connect more experienced team members into developmental relationships with team members who want to expand their skills and/or experiences.

Successful mentoring relationship

 There are important terms that help define a successful workplace mentoring program, including (but not limited to):

  • Mentors: The more experienced guide in the relationship who uses past experience to help a mentee navigate toward completing goals
  • Mentee: The learner in the mentoring relationship who has growth areas and goals that can be positively impacted with the help of an experienced mentor
  • Mentoring Program Manager: The individual responsible for overseeing the mentoring program. Duties often include matching participants, managing relationships, establishing training criteria and programs for mentors, and tracking program metrics
  • Mentoring Goals: The skills, experiences, or knowledge that the mentee is hoping to learn during the course of the mentoring relationship
  • Mentor Matching: The process mentoring program managers use to identify the personality traits and experiences of mentors and mentees which serves as the basis for determining best-fit mentoring relationships 
  • Program Cycle: The length of the mentoring relationship for structured mentoring programs. Typically, mentoring cycles run in 3-, 6-, or 12-month cycles, but are not limited to a specific length
  • Formal Mentoring: A structured mentoring program where the matching is either done using a bias-free algorithm or manually from program managers. With formal mentoring programs, typically both the mentor and mentee follow a curriculum with pre-determined goals
  • Informal Mentoring: An informal mentoring program is one where mentees may select their own mentor (often through an Open Mentoring Program format) and are free to choose their own goals
  • Group Mentoring: A 1-to-many mentoring relationship where a mentor works with multiple mentees
  • 1-to-1 Mentoring: A mentoring relationship where one mentor engages with a single mentee
  • Manual Mentoring: A mentoring program that’s organized, run, and managed manually, typically using spreadsheet software like Excel
  • Mentoring Software: A software designed to manage mentorship programs and reduce the time and expense of running a program, allowing an organization to scale its mentoring strategy to include more programs, participants, and metrics, and a vastly improved return on investment

As you engage with mentoring programs, you’ll likely pick up a large amount of terminology. This will be even more true if plan to implement mentoring software (highly recommended if your organization wants to reduce administrative time and costs associated with mentoring program management). 

How Does a Mentorship Program Work?

Mentoring programs follow a fairly simple structure, regardless of the type of program you’re running. In general, a mentoring program will flow in a manner that’s similar to this:

Mentorship training
  1. Mentoring program administrators create the program and determine program criteria (such as who can serve as mentors or participate as mentees, mentor training requirements, and any desired goals for mentees if the program is formal)
  2. Administrators invite participants to join the program
  3. Mentors and mentees complete profiles to help administrators determine the best mentor-mentee matches. With software, this is done automatically through surveys and matching algorithms that remove both implicit and explicit biases that are hard to avoid with manual matching
  4. Mentors and mentees are matched into relationships and begin meeting
  5. The mentoring relationship progresses over the course of the program cycle. Mentors and mentees track progress toward goals, and mentoring program administrators gather data on relationships
  6. The program cycle ends and the program administrator evaluates the end-of-cycle data while preparing for the next program cycle

As you might expect, that’s a highly simplified framework. Mentoring programs can work any way that your organization wants them to. At their core level, however, they’ll involve inviting participants, matching, meeting, and then measuring (or evaluating). 

What Are 3 Types of Mentoring?

Those who are investigating mentoring programs for the first time often believe there are just three types of programs:

  • Traditional Mentoring: The 1-on-1 mentoring relationships that make up most mentoring (as described above)
  • Group Mentoring: 1-to-many mentoring relationships (as described above)
  • Distance (Virtual) Mentoring: Mentoring relationships that occur remotely and are supplemented by technology to communicate

As you might expect, there are certainly more than just three types of mentoring relationships. Mentoring is incredibly dynamic. Enterprise mentoring and corporate mentoring programs are growing at a rapid pace, with 92% of Fortune 500 companies now offering mentoring programs and innovating the approach. 

Workplace mentoring program

Reverse Mentoring, a relatively new concept, is now exceptionally popular in large organizations. With reverse mentoring, junior-level team members take the role of the mentor. They’re then paired with senior-level team members and executives in relationships where the skills and experiences they bring to the table are used to enhance senior-level members’ professional and personal growth. 

Joining a mentoring community is one of the best ways to learn about new mentoring program types, innovations within the industry, and mentoring program best practices from actual practitioners. 

What Are the Best Mentorship Programs I Can Offer?

You’ll be happy to know there’s no such thing as a “best mentorship program.” The best mentoring program you can offer is one that fulfills the unique needs of your organization and your team members. To that end, there are several different types of mentorship programs that could work well for your organization. Common programs at organizations of all sizes and within most industries include:

The type of mentorship programs you create and grow at your organization is limited only to the needs of your workforce and your creativity and imagination. 

Are Mentoring Programs Worth It?

The data speaks for itself. One LinkedIn study found that 94% of workers would stay longer at an organization if it invested in their learning and career growth. Mentorship programs can help you attract, retain, and engage your talent. This leads directly to cost savings for your company in the form of lower turnover costs. Turnover is expensive, costing organizations as much as 2X the cost of an employee’s salary, according to Gallup. 

Provide mentorship training

Meanwhile, companies that establish mentoring programs for their organizations see huge savings, especially when they utilize a software-based approach. Mentorship program participants report improving their competency (91%), productivity (88%), and desire to stay at their organization (83%). 

The satisfaction mentors and mentees have with their mentoring relationships is also a boon. 93% of mentors and mentees report relationship satisfaction while engaging in a mentoring relationship through MentorcliQ’s mentoring software.

MentorcliQ’s customers see an average 50% reduction in turnover among mentoring program participants. For some organizations, that means millions of dollars in savings. That’s what Cardinal Health discovered after it saved over $5 million as a result of implementing a software-based approach to running its mentoring programs. 

How Do I Create a Mentoring Program At My Organization?

Launching a mentoring program can be a complicated process. It involves:

  • Identifying organizational goals that mentoring can help accomplish
  • Creating a proposal for funding to launch mentoring within the organization
  • Gaining buy-in from executive decision-makers
  • Creating the structure and parameters of the program
  • Rolling out mentoring software
  • Inviting and training mentors
  • Inviting mentees
  • Matching mentors and mentees

Let’s Get Visual. Watch our Mentoring Soundbites video on 9 Steps to Creating a Mentoring Program. We drop new content like this every Wednesday at 8 AM EST, so be sure to like and subscribe!

You’ll also need to make sure you justify the expense and time of your program to your executive teams with solid ROI data. From forming your initial ideas to navigating the internal sell among your organization’s executives to launching your first program, there’s no need to go it alone.

Book a demo with MentorcliQ today to learn more about how mentoring software can help you launch, match, and measure your programs, leading to an exceptional return on investment, lower turnover, and happy executive teams.

Sam Cook