Mentoring in the Workplace: What Each Side Brings to the Table

May 26, 2023・6 mins read
Mentoring in the Workplace

Imagine: An entry-level employee wants to grow and develop their career but does not see any viable options to do so in their current position. A senior employee wants to develop and demonstrate their management skills but lacks the support to do so. In this situation, a workplace mentoring program may benefit both the less-experienced and experienced employees while also benefiting the company overall.

The costs of employee turnover is continuously rising and employee engagement has never been more important . Mentoring programs can help a company retain both top and diverse talent as well as empower employees to achieve personal and professional growth.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of mentoring in the workplace, the types of mentoring relationships, and the attributes each side may bring to the table.

Benefits of Mentoring

Implementing a mentor program as part of a strategic HR plan can provide many benefits to both mentors and mentees. Here are a few ways in which program participants are positively impacted.

Career development

Mentorship programs help employees develop their skills, gain new experiences, and expand their knowledge. It can help them achieve career goals, especially less experienced employees who are trying to make career progress. This is part of the reason that workplace mentoring helps with employee retention.

Personal growth

Workplace mentoring programs can help individuals develop personal skills, including communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. These skills can help less-experienced employees become more well-rounded and adaptable.

Increased job satisfaction

When employees feel supported and empowered, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. Mentoring programs can encourage a positive workplace culture and support efforts toward building rapport. This helps a company increase job satisfaction and improve employee retention.

Types of Mentoring Relationships

Depending on a company's needs and goals, several forms of mentoring relationships can be instituted.

Formal mentoring program

These structured mentoring programs may match senior employees with less-experienced employees. Formal mentoring programs often have specific learning objectives and are led by program managers. They are typically designed for career progression and skill development. They also might include specific programs that focus on diversity initiatives or minority representation.

Informal mentoring

Informal mentoring relationships are less structured and can occur organically between employees. These relationships can be more flexible and can focus on personal development.

Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring relationships involve employees of similar levels or positions mentoring one another. This type of mentoring relationship can be beneficial for skill-sharing, collaboration, and even mental health.

What Each Side Brings to the Table

A mentoring relationship is not a one-way process. Both sides should consider an understanding of the expectations for personal and business goals. Both also should come prepared to conduct themselves properly as active participants. In fact, it's an excellent practice to have written rules for how your mentoring program will be conducted.

Positive attitude

Bringing a positive attitude to the relationship can help create a supportive and encouraging environment that fosters personal and professional development.

Mentor. Mentors with a positive attitude can create a safe environment for their mentee by providing encouragement and guidance to help the mentee meet their goals.

Mentee. A mentee with a positive attitude can better understand feedback and is more open to learning. They make it clear that they are willing to take on new challenges and are more motivated to grow and develop.

Good communication skills

Both the mentor and mentee must be ready to communicate their needs, goals, and expectations.

Mentor. Mentors with good communication skills can convey their knowledge and expertise clearly and provide constructive feedback to help the mentee. In fact, part of the mentorship might include development of communication skills—for both parties.

Mentee. Mentees with good communication skills can effectively state their goals and progress, ask questions, and provide feedback to their mentor, which strengthens the mentoring relationship.

Willingness to learn

All parties must be willing to learn. This can lead to reverse mentoring, which is when colleagues from different seniority levels pair up to learn from each other, bridging hierarchical gaps.

Mentor. Mentors should be committed to their own professional growth and be open to learn new things—including from their mentee.

Mentee. Mentees also need to be committed and willing to learn, especially when it comes to learning from mentors.

Ability to give constructive feedback

Feedback is important, and it can be presented in a constructive manner that builds a person up rather than bringing them down.

Mentor. It’s important for helping the mentee grow and develop, especially when addressing areas of weakness and providing guidance.

Mentee. Mentees also need to provide constructive feedback, especially to help their mentor understand their needs. It might feel a little uncomfortable, but they can be prepared to give feedback on the mentorship process.

Openness to feedback

Equally as important is the ability to receive constructive feedback.

Mentor. Openness to feedback allows a mentor to understand mentee's needs and goals, which is essential for making the mentorship program effective.

Mentee. It’s also crucial for understanding the mentor's perspective and implementing any provided guidance.


Working proactively in their respective parts of the relationship will help both sides keep it moving forward.

Mentor. Proactive mentors come to every mentoring session prepared. They send reading materials to their mentees in advance. They don't spend the first 10 minutes of a session reading their notes from the last session and planning the current one. They take the role seriously.

Mentee. Likewise, mentees do their assigned homework from the previous meeting. They are prepared with questions and concerns. They speak up if things seem to be drifting off course. They show up for sessions on time. They treat the program and mentor with respect and try to maximize the opportunity for growth.

Mentoring in the Workplace Isn't Easy

Despite the numerous benefits that mentoring can bring to a workplace, it's not always easy to create and maintain a successful mentoring relationship. Challenges may arise.

  • Finding the time to dedicate to the relationship is often a challenge. Mentoring requires a significant investment of time, and both parties should be willing to make the commitment.
  • Personality conflicts can also be a constraint. While it's essential to consider things like leadership skills and experience when matching mentors and mentees, it's also important to consider their personalities. Not every personality may work well together, and it's important to recognize when a pairing may not be the right fit.
  • Mismatched expectations can also lead to problems in mentoring relationships. Both parties should be clear about their goals for the relationship and what they hope to achieve.

TriNet can help small business owners with a successful mentorship program so the business can grow and invest in its workforce. We can help you create a truly enjoyable employee experience with our full-service HR solutions.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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