How to Improve Mentoring at Your Organization

Almost half of organizations (46%) believe developing workplace mentors is an important or very important part of their business and talent strategies; 30% believe the quality of mentoring is good or excellent.

Coaching and mentoring are often mentioned together, but the requirements of each are separate and distinct. Brandon Hall Group identified six qualities for strong mentoring. Most organizations (86%, on average) agreed that the attributes are important but, on average, only 40% said mentor training included these behaviors. 

Key Mentor Attributes: Essential vs. Training 

Employers tend to be dysfunctional when it comes to mentoring. Brandon Hall Group asked about its importance in several studies because it relates to learning, performance management, leadership development, employee engagement and more. Between 50% and 75% of organizations consistently rate mentoring as important or critical. But when it comes to developing mentors, matching mentees with in-house mentors and enabling mentoring, many organizations struggle. 

Learning Resources Provided for Mentors 

Developing Effective Processes for Mentoring 

We believe this reflects the ongoing difficulty organizations have in offering learning opportunities beyond events or courses. Our research on learning and leadership development consistently shows that learners need opportunities for feedback and applying learning to practical situations. 

Mentoring offers both and goes beyond work performance to career development, managing relationships, leader development, work-life balance and more. It provides employees an opportunity to have meaningful relationships with organizational leaders and for the mentors to develop their own skills. 

However, recruiting and developing internal mentors, creating strong mentee-mentor matches and sustaining the program takes time and resources that many employers — especially small and mid-size organizations, but also some enterprises — don’t have or fail to effectively leverage.

  • How can mentoring help us improve learning, performance, engagement and other processes that can produce a positive business impact? 
  • How can we build a culture of mentoring? 
  • How can we improve the way we prepare employees to be great mentors? 
  • Can we leverage mentoring virtually so it can be optimized in a hybrid work environment? 
  • Should we be considering external resources for mentoring? 

Here are five high-level strategies that will help build a culture of mentoring and improve mentoring across the enterprise. 


Mentoring, while often grouped with coaching, has a different function and purpose, so employers must understand the differences and the specific skills and capabilities needed by each. This is how Brandon Hall Group defines mentoring: 

  • A flexible, ongoing relationship that is long-term, open-ended and can take on new or shifting objectives over time 
  • Mentoring is between someone seeking advice and counsel related to their personal and career development. 
  • Mentors are people who have greater experience than the mentee and share their experiences. 
  • Mentoring objectives are set by the mentees, who drive the process and evaluate their development. 


Mentoring is not a “build it and they will come” proposition. If mentoring is not already part of your culture, you can’t start a program and expect it to resonate without a strategic communication campaign. Even if mentoring is somewhat developed, communication and reinforcement are important. Strategies to consider include: 

  • Develop and publicize guidelines for effective mentoring (in different situations) for both the mentors and mentees. 
  • Create topic-specific communication campaigns to recruit mentors and draw interest from employees. For instance, one financial services company we interviewed focused mentoring on career development and promoted it to potential mentors (at VP-level and above). Separate email campaigns were launched to employees at various career levels (entry-level, individual contributors, front-line leaders, midlevel leaders, etc.). 

Communicating About Mentoring 


Matching is the secret sauce for a successful mentoring program. Just because a leader has an interest in mentoring and an employee has an interest in advancing her career does not mean a mentoring relationship will work. 

Employees and mentors must develop profiles and each should have a firm understanding of what they want from mentoring. In even relatively small organizations, trying to create these matches through manual or semi-manual processes can be overwhelming. Technology is critical for developing, scaling and sustaining a viable mentoring program. 


If mentoring is delivered inconsistently and there is a wide variance in quality, it will fail. Mentors must be trained and have just-in-time resources, such as templates, checklists and tip sheets, to help them. Online training — both self-paced and topic-specific interactive learning — should be provided. 


Starting and sustaining a strong mentoring program is not easy. But it is a critical strategy for employee development and engagement. As more organizations realize the value of mentoring and the viability of leveraging technology, more organizations are considering external virtual mentoring services.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.