Centre for Employment Innovation’s Key Learnings (2017 – 2022)


What is Mentorship?
  • Mentorship is a dynamic, two-way relationship between individuals which may have both social and professional aspects. This relationship is defined by varying levels of structure, formality, length, activity, investment, and goals.
  • It is defined as an arrangement where a person with experience, knowledge, and skills that enable them to be a good mentor (e.g., communication skills) agrees to enter a relationship with a person with less experience or knowledge in a given area. This assistance may be related to job tasks, career development, and/or larger psychosocial functions.
  • The mentorship relationship is considered a learning partnership with knowledge acquisition being a shared objective.
  • There are different experiences of mentorship including peer-to-peer, intergenerational, and cultural mentorship. 
      What are some mentorship values?
      • Mentees should be treated with respect, as professionals in their field even though they may still be new and learning.
      • Mentees should be appreciative of their mentor, conscious of their time and other work duties, and willing to bring their own unique knowledge to the table to cultivate a two-way learning experience.
      • The relationship between mentors, mentees, and the wider organization should be built upon trust and mutual respect.
      • Mentors should have a good understanding of the mentee’s personal and professional needs as well as their sociocultural background. 
          What are the benefits of mentorship for organizations?
          • Employee and career satisfaction which leads to retention of staff members 
          • High levels of organizational commitment and low turnover intentions among mentees and mentors reduce costs for organizations associated with recruiting, selection, and training. 
          • Increased teamwork
          • Mentorship can be used to transfer the soft and hard skills that are needed in an organization when certain skills have been identified as lacking within the employee base. 
          • Mentorship as an approach can make the workplace more welcoming and inclusive. 
          • Mentoring can help organizations increase employees’ cultural competence by expanding their awareness and deepening their relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds. 
          • Improved equal opportunities performance and diversity management. 
          • The mentorship relationship increases the transfer of tacit and organizational knowledge. Which helps to support succession planning within organizations. 
            What are the benefits of mentorship for mentees?
            • Rapid advancement or promotions 
            • Improved well-being 
            • Reduced levels of stress and burnout 
            • Reduced turnover intentions
            • Increased professional development
            • Enhanced organizational commitment
            • More opportunities for experiential learning as mentees are often given the chance to apply their learning by trying, practicing, and doing.
            • Increased wisdom and learning from mentor’s past experiences
            • Improved performance through meaningful feedback
            • Learning occurring within the mentorship relationship can increase mentee’s productivity and skills relevant to their role.
            • Enhances confidence from setting, working towards and achieving ambitious goals.
            • Mentorship offers mentees the opportunity to learn and benefit from alternative perspectives through working closely with their mentor as well as being exposed to the wider organization. 
                What are the benefits of mentorship for mentors?
                • Mentorship can increase a mentor’s capacity because of two-way shared learning. That is, knowledge transactions with mentees further extends mentors knowledge and skills.
                • Greater information access and social feedback
                • Enhanced transformational leadership
                • Improved career laddering opportunities
                • Provides a sense of fulfillment and inspires reflection on the knowledge acquired through the process of mentoring.  
                  What is Youth Mentorship?
                  • In relation to youth in the workplace, mentorship has the capacity to help youth through transitional phases of their life and to find meaningful employment for full-time attachment to the labour force. 
                  • Mentorship is a possible approach for building employability skills in youth, to assist them in making transitions from the school system into post-secondary and/or the labour market. 
                  • Youth bring a fresh perspective to an organization; one that is absent without youth workplace mentorship or other youth centered programming. 
                  • When youth are trained through the practice of mentorship, they are better able to engage with the work without questioning themselves and delaying tasks that need to be accomplished. 
                  • Mentoring gives youth a positive role model that provides support and advice. 
                  • Mentorship is a tool for attaching youth to the labour force. 
                  • Youth who are paired with an older mentor can benefit from the mentor’s lived experiences and knowledge (See Intergenerational Mentorship for more information).
                  • Mentorship is a means of transferring skills and knowledge from employees who hold desired skills to youth who may not have proficiencies in these areas.
                  • Youth mentorship offers young individuals the opportunity for professional development.
                  • Mentorship helps youth build their confidence and interpersonal skills and create a pathway to personal and professional growth. 

                  For information on an approach to mentorship that is specifically designed for youth, check out this link. 

                  There are generally two types of mentoring relationships involving youth:   

                  • Developmental Mentoring: The relationship of a caring more experienced individual(s) and a less experienced individual(s) resulting in the provision of support, friendship and constructive role modelling over a period of time. The goal is to facilitate a relationship between mentor and mentee as a way of promoting healthy development; and   
                  • Instrumental Mentoring: The primary focus is learning skills, achieving specific goals, or thinking critically about issues that may be important to the youth’s future (such as career exploration). This kind of mentoring has a specific purpose and can occur in either a group setting or in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. 

                  Peer-to-peer Mentorship

                  • Peer mentoring refers to those in similar positions mentoring one another and learning from their shared challenges and successes. This approach to mentorship offers a decrease in the power dynamic between mentors and mentees.  

                  Intergenerational Mentorship 

                  • Intergenerational mentorship is a two-way relationship between individuals from different generations. This relationship is defined by varying levels of structure, formality, length, activity, investment, and goals. 
                  • Intergenerational mentors can be crucial for engaging and collaborating with younger mentors.  
                  • This type of mentoring offers older generations the opportunity to experience trends and new information that is typically embraced by younger generations. 

                  For more information on two-way learning, check out this Framework created by CEI’s Youth Engagement Specialist, Addy Strickland that highlights the value of youth-adult partnership  

                  Developing a Mentorship Program at Your Workplace
                  Considerations for Implementing a Mentorship Program
                  • Organizational culture and climate
                  • A favourable workplace climate is one in which there are opportunities for the mentees to apply their newfound skills in a supported way, allowing them to achieve the confidence to use the skills continuously in an independent manner.
                  • It is worth taking the time to understand your workplace culture to ensure you implement the type of mentorship program your organization needs.
                  • Peer Support
                  • Peer support is required for the successful transfer of knowledge in a workplace environment.
                  • A manager’s support is also considered to be peer support and is operationalized through feedback, encouragement, assistance with problem solving, coaching, as well as the provision of supplemental and additional background information.  
                        Designing a Workplace Mentorship Program

                        Because every workplace is unique, there is no standard form of a mentorship program; however, given the intimate nature of the mentoring relationship, it is important that a mentorship program seeks to understand the specific needs of an organization while addressing the organization’s main concerns. The development of a mentoring program involves initially defining the organization’s needs for mentoring. 

                        • Defining the target audience(s):
                          • Understanding the interests and needs of your specific audience is critical to successfully defining the objectives and benefits of the mentorship program.
                            • Conduct a needs assessment (e.g., survey current members) to identify and understand what your audience want, both professionally and personally. Needs assessments should be developed with concrete, specific and measurable program goals and objectives.
                            • Organizations can use the information gained from the needs assessment to inform the development of their program objectives and benefits.
                        • Assessing the organization’s internal needs:
                          • This can be achieved by conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
                          • Here are a few questions that organizations can ask themselves before implementing a mentorship program: 
                            • What about your workplace culture would foster a successful mentorship program? What aspect could pose a challenge?
                            • How will the program affect daily processes?
                            • How will employees respond to having a mentorship program?
                            • What is the organization’s mission and how will this program fit into this framework?
                            • How will mentors’ workloads be affected by the program?
                            • Which populations will your program serve?
                            • What specific type of mentoring you will offer?
                            • Where will mentors and mentees meet and how long will the mentoring relationship last?
                        • Selecting mentors and mentees:
                          • Identify selection criteria for mentors
                            • Selection criteria may include the following factors: years and depth of experience, career progression, career/professional development goals, leadership potential, and level of commitment.
                            • Mentors need to be:
                              • Strong communicators
                              • Adaptable and flexible
                              • Trusting
                              • Patient
                            • Screening should be done for a pool of voluntary, organizationally internal, prospective mentors through recruitment processes.
                            • The selection of mentees is based upon the objectives of the program, such that the target group, and those from the target group who take part, will flow from the previously described objectives.
                            • Organizations should ensure that mentor has enough time to commit and that they are participating for the right reasons and not pressure from the top.
                        • Voluntary mentorship programs:
                          • Voluntary programs, rather than those that require mandatory participation are more successful since mentees will more likely be committed to further their careers and build their professional networks.
                        • Pairing mentors and mentees:
                          • Mentees should be paired with generally experienced mentors who have similar life and work background as the mentee, and that pairing happens through a third-party based off information from both sides.
                          • Special care and attention should be given to the matching process, with relationships formed with some input from both the mentor and the mentee.
                          • When selecting pairs, it is important to understand who is making the partner selections and on what basis or criteria are these decisions being made. Several characteristics may be used including demographic information, functional area within the organization, personality, and personal interests or hobbies outside of work.
                          • Initial training and orientation be given to the members of the mentoring relationship as a means of overviewing and outlining the relationship as well as the definitions, goals, guidelines, and objectives that will seek to guide the relationship moving forward. 

                            What are some attributes of an effective mentor and mentee? 



                            • Strong communicator and good listener 
                            • adaptable, flexible, empathetic, and patient 
                            • Effective at problem solving 
                            • Dependable and approachable 
                            • Is responsible and responsive 
                            • Is motivated to learn and gain experience 
                            • Takes an active role in their own learning and professional development 
                            • Receives constructive feedback effectively  



                            • Orientation and Training:
                              • Training should provide an overview mentoring as well as outline the program’s objectives, review roles and responsibilities of the mentor and the mentee, expectations for both and what/what not to expect, understanding the program’s limitations, and how to avoid typical mentoring problems. Some programs also offer training on listening and communication skills. The following topics may be incorporated into the training sessions:
                                • For mentees:
                                  • Career assessment and goal setting, action planning career choices, self-awareness. 
                                  • How to handle difficult situations and scenarios.
                                  • Ethics and safety in mentoring relationships.
                                  • Program requirements, policies, and procedures.
                                  • An overview of the pairing process.
                                  • Cultural competency and awareness.
                                • For mentors:
                                  • Time requirements, providing behavioral guidelines, coaching and feedback skills.
                                  • Conflict resolution, role modeling, negotiation skills, motivation techniques. 
                                  • Cultural competency and awareness.
                                  • Boundary setting and mentoring relationship maintenance
                            • Building the capacities of both the mentor and mentee to be successful in the mentorship program:
                                  • Organizations need to create a safe and supportive atmosphere in which the mentorship relationship can grow and be nurtured.
                                  • It is essential to ensure that mentors and mentees have the necessary tools and resources needed to create a successful mentoring experience.
                                  • Opportunities for professional development (e.g., training) for mentors should be encouraged.
                                  • In some cases, it may be essential to change organizational systems and structures to complement mentoring.
                                  • Leaders of organizations should develop an awareness of mentoring skills.
                                  • The workplace climate should support the mentoring relationship and give the mentees the opportunity to practice their new knowledge.
                                  • Management should schedule monthly meetings with mentors, which provide opportunities for education, support, problem solving, and networking.
                                  • It is essential to provide mentors the opportunity to to connect with other mentors in the same organization or in another organization.  
                                  • Creation of a mentorship plan:
                                    • Both the mentor and mentee should develop a proposed plan for learning certain skills with a related assessment criteria.
                                    • Mentors and mentees need to identify barriers to achieving the proposed action plan. This will include identifying actions and resources needed to ensure the success of the relationship as well as how such items will be ascertained.
                                    • A criteria for assessing the success of the mentoring relationship and activities undertaken should be established.  
                                    • Program Monitoring and Evaluation:
                                      • Monitoring of the mentoring relationship is needed to identify relationships that may be in trouble and require some sort of intervention on the part of program planners or organizers. This can be achieved through regular check-ins with both mentees and mentors at scheduled intervals.
                                      • Monitoring of the mentorship relation also provides insight on whether the mentorship program is achieving its objectives and the benefits that are arising as a result of the program.
                                      • It is essential to implement a continuous improvement process such as frequently checking in on mentoring relationships and refining program goals and objectives. Also, encouraging feedback from both mentors and mentees can help you evaluate program goals and processes in an informed and productive way.
                                      • Following the conclusion of the mentoring relationship, program administrators may wish to undertake a more formal evaluation of the mentorship relationship. This may take the form of questionnaires, interviews with the participants, or written reports. Some areas to examine when performing the evaluation include:
                                        • What worked and what did not work
                                        • The quality of the relationship between mentors and mentees
                                        • Level of satisfaction
                                        • Skills and knowledge development for both mentors and mentees
                                        • Areas of Program Improvement
                                        • Professional development as well as career progression
                                        • Financial Indicators
                                          What are the qualities of the mentorship relationship?
                                          • The relationship is voluntary and can be terminated at any time without retribution. 
                                          • Mentors are selected based on their record of helping to develop people, willingness to mentor people, evidence of positive mentorship, communication and listening skills.
                                          • Evaluation of the relationship is done through interviews and questionnaires, etc. 
                                            Stages of a Mentorship Relationship
                                            What are the stages of a mentorship relationship?

                                            Although every mentorship relationship is unique, it is thought that a successful mentoring relationship will move through four stages: exploration, negotiation, affirmation, and termination. These four stages can have different titles. For instance, the first stage “exploration” is sometimes referred to as “initiation.” Similarly, the final stage is sometimes referred to as “termination” or “closure.”  Despite the change in wording, the outcome of that particular stage remains the same. It is important to note that the time spent in each phase will differ from one relationship to another, but the progression is constant.  

                                            1. Exploration: In this stage, both mentors and mentees start to become familiar with one another and they establish whether they are compatible. During this phase, the mentor and mentee discuss their common interests, goals, and aspirations. This stage should not be rushed as having good communication and understanding between mentors and mentees is necessary for the success of the mentoring relationship.  
                                            2. Negotiation: In this stage, the mentor and mentee have the opportunity to set ground rules, boundaries, shared responsibilities, clarify expectations, as well as establish goals for mentoring. Work plans and the frequency of check-ins or meetings are also set during this stage.
                                            3. Growth: During this stage, mentors and mentees work towards predetermined goals while learning from one another. Feedback and honest communication are essential during this stage.
                                            4. Closure: For various reasons, the mentoring relationship will come to an end. This stage offers mentors and mentees the opportunity to celebrate their successes while also reflecting on what they learned as well as what they can improve upon. Debriefing and evaluating the relationship are essential during this stage.  

                                            Check out this blog post for more information on the stages of a mentorship relationship.  

                                                  Cultural Mentorship
                                                  What is Cultural Mentorship?
                                                  • Cultural mentorship involves a mentor with the same background (e.g. cultural, ethnic, etc.) as a mentee sharing their lived experiences, and perspectives as well as offering support to the mentee. 
                                                  • It involves sharing experiences and working through issues and challenges that arise together as well as celebrating the mentees’ successes. 
                                                  • Mentors are culturally responsiveness while guiding and supporting mentees.
                                                  • Mentors should be prepared to address culturally relevant issues with their mentees – for example, addressing racism in the workplace.
                                                  • The relationship between mentors and mentees should not be structured; instead, space should be allowed for relationships between mentors and mentees to be formed and developed organically.
                                                  • Mentors play a major role in transferring knowledge to the mentees which helps the mentors learn more about themselves.
                                                  • Both mentor and mentee have strengths and assets to bring to the relationship, enabling learning for all parties.