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The Different Types Of Mentoring and How To Use Them

January 21, 2020
Nicola Cronin

Mentoring is an established relationship for the purposes of learning and personal or career development. Formalised mentoring takes place in many organisations such as businesses, school and universities, to support and facilitate the growth of individuals.

Organisations can utilise mentoring for a wide range of purposes, and there are different types of mentoring that can help achieve different objectives. So if you're looking to start a mentoring program, it can be hard to know where to begin. In this guide we'll explain firstly the different uses of mentoring, and then the different types of mentoring you can use to achieve them.

Immediately, we have the difference of formal and informal mentoring. Informal mentoring is a mentoring relationship that evolves organically, almost like a friendship. Colleagues, family members and friends can all be informal mentors; they are people you turn to for advice or to challenge you.

In contrast, formal mentoring is typically an organised program which matches people with mentors who can help them towards a goal or target. Formal mentoring in organisations is naturally more fair and inclusive, as it relies less on senior managers or teachers 'taking a shine' to individuals and favouriting them.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on formal mentoring within organisations...

Uses of Mentoring

We know that mentoring has many benefits for both the individuals involved and the organisation themselves. Problems such as employee turnover, engagement and satisfaction can all be improved through an effective mentoring program.

But as well as this, mentoring can be used for a wide range of purposes within organisations. When starting a mentoring program, it's important to define the reason behind it from the very beginning, to ensure you can track progress and success.

Here are 10 uses of mentoring:

  1. Leadership Development – Mentoring is a great way of developing leadership skills in individuals. Standout leaders can pass on their knowledge and key learnings to somebody less experienced or somebody who is about to enter a leadership role. Sharing challenges and facilitating a support system of leaders is an effective way of training people.
  2. Induction / On-Boarding – Starting a new job can be daunting, and depending on the size of the company and number of new-starters, those first few days can end up being chaotic, confusing, and disappointing. Organisations can use mentoring to on-board their new employees, pairing them with someone who can show them the ropes in a friendly and relatable way.
  3. Graduates – Similarly, graduate specific mentoring is a highly effective way of making grads feel welcome, supported, and aspirational. This type of program is particularly relevant considering that 43% of millennials leave their jobs within their first two years. Young people have high expectations of their working lives, and so investing in their development will go a long way.
  4. Women in Leadership – Many organisations are utilising mentoring to support and empower women in their careers. With a lack of gender parity in senior leadership roles across the majority of organisations worldwide, efforts need to be made to promote upward mobility for women. Mentoring can guide and inspire women at crucial stages of their careers, helping to create a stronger career pipeline for women within organisations. Here at Guider, we are proud to be working with LVMH to help them achieve 50/50 gender balance in senior leadership roles in 2020. Read more here.
  5. Diversity & Inclusion – Similarly mentoring can support diversity and inclusion efforts within organisations. To tackle diversity imbalance, individuals from an under-represented group can be mentored and supported, which has proven to improve minority representation at management level. In addition, mentoring can help foster a culture of inclusion where everybody is equally factored.
  6. Succession Planning – Similar to leadership development, mentoring for succession planning involves identifying high performing individuals and prepping them via mentorship for senior roles within the organisation. This creates a talent pipeline throughout the business, and the potential successors receive first hand information and support.
  7. Knowledge Retention – Similarly, as the older generations in your workforce near retirement, it's important to ensure their industry knowledge and experience is not lost. By establishing a knowledge retention / sharing mentoring program, you can facilitate the passing down of this information across every facet of the business, as well as build a community in the process.
  8. Maternity & Paternity Mentoring – Both preparing for maternity / paternity leave, and then returning to work afterwards, can be really difficult. Establishing a mentoring program where senior working-parents, who have already been through the process, mentor new working-parents, is highly valuable for their mental health, job satisfaction and happiness. Similarly, connecting new parents in group or peer to peer mentoring to share experiences is very valuable.
  9. Skill Sharing – Mentoring can feed into up-skilling initiatives in organisations. If a group need to increase their skill in a certain area, they can be assigned mentors who already possess that knowledge and experience to help them get there. This is typically seen with digital skills in organisations, and within the software developer community.
  10. Transitional Periods – Another beneficial use of mentoring in organisations is really during any time of change or transition. Whether it's new management, a structure overhaul, re-distribution etc, mentoring can help re-establish a culture of community across the organisation in a short period of time.

Types of Mentoring

So there you have some of the uses of mentoring within an organisation. But there are also a number of different types, or 'models', of mentoring.

Mentoring can be implemented in different ways for different purposes, because some types of mentoring may be better than others for achieving certain objectives.

For example, where high-potential graduates might benefit most from 1:1 mentoring, those returning to work after maternity or paternity leave may gain more from the shared experience of peer mentoring.

Equally, if you're focusing on knowledge retention, reverse mentoring would not be the best model to use. However, when it comes to digital skill sharing, it could be ideal for younger employees to mentor older employees.

Here are some of the key types of mentoring to consider when starting a program:

  • One-on-One Mentoring – This is the traditional model of mentoring, where one mentor and one mentee agree to enter a mentoring relationship to help the mentee develop, improve, and achieve. In this type of mentoring, the mentor has more experience in an area that the mentee is interested in, and so can act as an advisor and guide.
  • Peer Mentoring – Peer mentoring involves colleagues of a similar age and experience level mentoring each other. They may take turns acting as 'mentor' and 'mentee', but overall, peer mentoring is about creating a formal support system, learning together, and holding one another accountable.
  • Group Mentoring – This style of mentoring involves one mentor working with several mentees in a group. Group mentoring helps reach and impact more mentees in a short amount of time, and is particularly useful if organisations are short on good mentors – helping to promote a culture of inclusion. Practising mentoring in a group setting also helps improve everybody's teamwork skills.
  • Reverse Mentoring – Exactly as it sounds, reverse mentoring is when a more junior person mentors a more senior person. All one-on-one mentoring relationships have the potential to utilise reverse mentoring, as there is always plenty we can learn from one another. However, a reverse mentoring program formalises and makes this process more accessible. Read our Complete Guide To Reverse Mentoring.
  • Team Mentoring – More like in sports, team mentoring involves a group of mentors and mentees who carry out mentoring sessions as a team. This type of mentoring can help to promote diversity and inclusion, as it creates a space for a number of different people, with different opinions and perspectives to come together and learn from one another. As with group mentoring, this is good for teamwork, and eliminates any potential of favouritism or elitism that can sometimes be associated with one-to-one mentoring.
  • Virtual Mentoring – Finally, with remote work becoming more common and necessary, virtual mentoring is another type of mentoring that businesses can utilise. Just because your people are not all in the office, doesn't mean mentoring programs have to get put on hold. Using a mentoring software means mentoring can still take place and make an impact. Read: Virtual Mentoring: How To Make It Work

These various types of mentoring are all valid, and can serve different purposes within your organisation. It might take some trial and error until you find the best type of mentoring for your people and your goals, but all of them will help contribute to a culture of learning and knowledge sharing.


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