What are people's experience with Mentoring Programs?

Are there different styles of mentoring programs? Which one works best?

For the past 2 years we have partnered with Everwise who provide external mentoring to our identified individuals. We find it makes the mentoring experience more authentic for our employees because there are no barriers to conversations or taboo topics

Hi Michael, We run a number of different programmes internally and with external partners. They range from informal (with guidance material provided to mentees and mentors that they can pick up and use) to formal programmes which are facilitated and structured. Our reverse mentoring programme (a formal Programme) where more junior employees mentor our more senior employees in specific areas has been well received. Another programme that receives great feedback runs in partnership with SPIES (South Pacific and Indigenous Engineering Students) whereby they are paired with a mentor in our organisation with the aim of providing mentoring and support through their final years at university.


Hi I’ve seen and run with formal and informal mentoring programs. Formal programs are very unwieldy and tend to work best with smaller companies and a culture that sees people development as part of its bottom line. It also requires an investment in somewhat expensive software due to the data management involved.

Companies that are focused on seeing its talent as simply production and/or which do not have leadership which his 100% on board with it should instead look to an informal mentoring model which is less taxing although doesn’t have the benefits of being able to measure results or ensure accounability on both ends.

I’ve seen with formal mentoring models that its not just the mentors who need to be accountable but also the mentees who can often flake. One thing to make mentoring stick - make it and similar L&D functions part of performance and compensation evaluation and a big part. I’ve seen situations where leadership says these things matter but partiicpants receive no consideration when it comes to EOY or bonuses, and as a result people follow leaderships’ actions and not words.

For a good resource on mentoring, look at this book from a mentoring leader in the Army. It does an EXCELLENT job discussing these matters at a macro and micro level.


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There are almost as many different mentoring program styles as there are companies, and there’s no one right way, as long as you set yourselves up for success from the start.

An organisation’s mentoring culture develops over time, but key questions to consider upfront include:

  • What is the core “Why?” of this mentoring program? Is it to transfer skills, build engagement, enhance retention? Or is there another ideal outcome, e.g. get more under-represented groups into leadership positions? It can be tempting to say “all of the above!”, but having a clear reason why - a #1 priority - makes program design much easier, and communication much more coherent.
  • Give the core “Why?”, whose development is the focus in this program? Often it’s the mentee, but it could also be the mentor (reverse mentoring, for leadership, empathy, cross-generational idea sharing), or the development goal could be mutual.
  • Are mentors and mentees to be matched by a central admin, or will they self-organise into mentoring relationships? When people opt in and drive their own outcomes they’re often more engaged, but equally a nudge in the direction of the right match can help. OR you might like to blend the two approaches.
  • Are you seeking to match people internally to your organisation, or with external mentors? Is it about building an internal culture of mentoring, or seeding some outside ideas?
  • Finally - given all of the above answers - how will we demonstrate ROI on our mentoring efforts. Stage 1 might be participation and engagement in the program. Stage 2 could be mentor & mentee satisfaction. But stage 3 is where it gets interesting - how do we tie our mentoring program outcomes back to a revenue or cost savings goal of the business?

How formal or informal your program needs to be will depend on your internal mentoring culture, how your people learn, and the outcome you seek. We recommend starting small - with a pilot - and quickly learning as you go. Don’t get too prescriptive upfront, as your mentoring cohort will help you define your program’s personality over time.