3 Types of Mentoring Relationships that Improve Retention

woman writing on table

“Will you be my mentor?”

Mentoring is one the top things to accelerates an employee’s career development. And yet, they are scarcely used, extremely difficult to set up and even harder to find a good fit. Whether you are a Millennial, Gen Xer, Baby Boomer or a Generation neutral person, mentoring has always been something that people crave. Who wouldn’t though? You get to meet with someone who can shine a way for overcoming the challenges in your career. Plus, mentoring has been shown to be an extremely good method of retain employees.

So why don’t mentoring relationships get leveraged more often with the retention challenges across all industries? Well, the short answer is that they are immensely difficult to set up. A few challenges goes as follows:

  • Mentoring Relationships need a strong buy in from both parties.
  • Many people find then formulaic and pointless.
  • Mentoring usually lacks formal structured paths.

Even with the current challenges of mentorship, there are various models you can use for different benefits. Below are three different models of mentorship that you can use and implement in the workplace:


1. Peer-Peer Mentoring

Implementation: Pairing two coworkers that are on the same hierarchical level. One has a skill that the other desires so one becomes the teacher, while the other becomes the student.

Challenges: It is difficult to enforce because both of the employees are on the same hierarchical level. Companies are also the mentor relationship’s bottleneck is the teacher part of the relationship.

Benefits: Works great for knowledge transfer and giving younger, less experienced employees a way of demonstrating their skills to a peer. This setup can also generate horizontal employee engagement that can strengthen company culture. Journal of Vocational Behavior, discovered people who have the opportunity to serve as mentors experience greater job satisfaction and a higher commitment to their employer.


2. Classic Mentoring

Implementation: A more senior individual is paired with a younger employee and the more senior does classic mentoring. Here the more senior individual is several years ahead of the less senior employee.

Challenge: The more senior individual needs to have buy in on the process. If they don’t, then the mentoring relationship will wane and become useless. In addition, if the less senior participate does not take the relationship seriously, then the company loses valuable productivity dollars by involving a senior person.

Benefits: Younger employees learn the necessary skills to improve their career path trajectory. More senior individuals get to give back, providing a fulfilling community feeling. In addition, Deloitte Research found that Millennials are twice as likely to stay with an employer who has a strong mentorship program


3. Reverse Mentoring

Implementation: Pairing a more senior individual and a less senior for mentoring. The reverse refers to how the younger individual mentors the more senior employee. Usually on the area of technology. Jack Welch, the past CEO of General Electric was one of the first executives to popularize this approach where he required all of his executives to find ‘the best and the brightest’ young employees to be their personal mentors.

Challenge: The more senior person must be willing to ask for help and be open enough to receive feedback. In addition, the less senior employee must be willing to be respectful of the older employees relationship and time. In these cases, forming a board of younger employees can also work as a way to making it less about an individual executive lacking the information in their field.

Benefits: Companies are able to leverage the decision making power and wisdom of their senior leaders while also leveraging their youth’s knowledge around today’s technology trends. For instance, horizontal rising markets where executives need to make to younger demographics, learning more about how younger individuals think is an extremely important step in mapping out the marketing campaign.


Well there you have it. Three different approaches to mentorship in the workplace. If you company does not have a formal mentoring structure, you can always reach out to employee more senior to yourself and reach out. It will usually consist of meeting them briefly at first and if all goes well, it can become a career changing routine.

Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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