Your employees spend decades building their careers. Mentoring in the workplace is one way to support their professional goals — and in return, your organization can benefit from higher performance and stronger loyalty. Before you start, it’s important to understand the building blocks of a successful mentorship program.

Why is mentorship important?

A well-organized mentoring program is an investment that can pay off significantly over the long term. Business benefits of mentoring include:

  • Knowledge sharing. Mentors share insights, advice, and lessons they’ve accumulated over the years – that way, mentees don’t have to learn everything the hard way. It’s also an efficient way to share institutional knowledge with people who are new to the business.
  • Strong relationships. A mentorship program creates connections between lower-level and upper-level employees. Over time, those professional relationships can lead to new innovations, open communication, and a friendlier work environment.
  • Professional growth. The mentor relationship helps employees achieve faster professional growth, which benefits both the team and the company. Investing in your workers can also help build employee loyalty and reduce turnover.
  • Closed skills gaps. Mentoring discussions tend to expose skills gaps, both in terms of hard and soft skills. This process helps employees identify opportunities for improvement so they can take efficient action to shore up their abilities.

To realize the full benefits of mentoring in the workplace, you must select the type of program that best suits your business. Companies with large workforces are well-suited to one-on-one mentoring relationships. If your leadership team is too small for individual relationships, group mentoring might be a more efficient solution. Small businesses often benefit from a remote-mentoring arrangement; set your team members up with industry contacts, and encourage regular virtual meetings.

You can also utilize different types of mentors to accomplish business objectives. Common options are:

  • Career coach
  • Networker
  • Advocate
  • Confidence-booster
  • Advisor
  • Skill-builder
  • Peer mentor

Many mentors take on all these roles at some point, depending on the mentee’s current needs. When an employee is new to a company, for example, the mentor might focus on providing advice and helping create relationships. Later on, they might challenge the mentee to build new skills or go for promotions.

6 key aspects of mentoring in the workplace

Workplace mentoring programs can be dramatically different depending on the size and goals of the business. Effective programs have a few key aspects in common:

  1. Clear purpose. Every workplace mentoring program should have a defined purpose. Yours might focus on skill-building, professional development, boosting inclusivity, or providing peer support.
  2. Transparent process. Mentors and mentees should understand exactly what they’re signing up for in terms of the time commitment, participation goals, and available support.
  3. Targeted matching. A thoughtful pairing process ensures your mentees get the most value from the program.
  4. Regular meetings. A consistent meeting schedule helps build and reinforce the mentorship bond. Aim for at least one get-together per month, and encourage pairs to communicate as needed outside that schedule.
  5. Mentor resources. Consider providing mentor training to help mentors share their insights effectively. You might also offer rewards for mentors in appreciation for their time and effort. In some cases, reverse mentoring – two way relationships where mentees use their unique skills to support mentors – can also be a benefit.
  6. Measurable metrics. Track KPIs to help measure progress toward the goals of your mentoring program.

Nurturing mentor and mentee relationships

Strong mentoring relationships begin with a careful matching process. Select a mentor with experience that matches the employee’s career aspirations; alternatively, allow employees to pick their own mentors. If you’re running a peer mentoring program, your managers can help identify employees who might make complementary peer mentors. In a large organization, mentoring software can streamline the process by creating pairs based on profiles.

Like any relationship, mentoring requires regular attention. To maximize employee engagement in the program, encourage mentees to grow stronger connections by:

  • Communicating regularly
  • Establishing a tradition of honesty and openness
  • Sticking to a meeting schedule
  • Asking questions and seeking advice
  • Building skills together
  • Showing appreciation

Sharing a meal is a great way to connect with a mentor — a lunchtime meeting is low-pressure and easy to fit into a busy schedule. Whether you book a table at a restaurant or order takeout in the conference room, the act of dining together can build familiarity. Make it easier to focus on the conversation by choosing meals that are easy to eat; salads, wraps, sushi, and pizza are all good options.

How to create a mentorship program

Careful planning can help set your workplace mentoring program up for success. Whether you have five participants or 500, it’s helpful to go into the process with a clear, detailed structure. To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Define your goals. Decide what you want employees to get out of the program. Some mentoring programs are designed to help new employees integrate into the company; others support employees in their career progression.
  2. Plan the mentorship program. Determine the requirements for participation, create application forms, and decide how you’ll match employees. It’s also helpful to establish a basic structure for the duration of the program, meeting frequency, and success metrics.
  3. Accept applications and create matches. Based on applicants’ profiles, create mentor-mentee pairs.
  4. Provide food during mentorship meetings. Consider setting a corporate ordering occasions budget for meals. This will attract participants and encourage regular meetings.

Company support is critical to a thriving mentoring program; it lets participants know you’re invested in their growth. A free lunch is one of the easiest ways to treat your mentors and mentees — and with programs like Grubhub Corporate Accounts, the process is streamlined and convenient for everyone involved. To find out how a Corporate Account can upgrade your mentoring program, get started today.