Coaching and Mentoring Employees in the Workplace [2024 Guide]

By 
Ben Goodey
Published on 
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
Traditional training programs often fail because they lack relevance and proper timing. The solution? Continuous, real-time coaching and mentoring. Read on to understand why, and how you can implement a highly effective coaching and mentoring program to improve employee performance.
Frequently Asked Questions

Companies spend billions of dollars on traditional training programs, only to have them fail due to irrelevant content, poor timing, and a lack of real-world application.

(Imagine telling busy employees to sit through a generic session on "effective email communication" that doesn't have anything to do with their jobs.)

Studies show that 75% of managers are dissatisfied with their company's L&D functions, and only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in these programs. This inefficiency leads to wasted resources and unmet potential.

But with 60% of employees saying they are very or extremely interested in participating in upskilling programs, it’s not that employees don’t want to learn.

They just want to learn the right things that would help them become better at what they do, and they want to learn them at the right time—not when they’re buried in work.

And that’s exactly what coaching and mentoring is for. 

Unlike rigid traditional training, coaching and mentoring programs are:

  1. Personalized
  2. Relevant 
  3. Real-time 

And when employees get to learn exactly what they want to, at exactly the right time at the right pace, they are likely to be more productive and committed to the organization. 

In fact, the Institute of Coaching found that over 70% of individuals who receive coaching benefited from improved work performance, relationships and more effective communication skills.

So, how do you actually put together an effective coaching and mentoring program? And how have other companies done it?

In this article, we walk you through: 

  • The benefits of coaching and mentoring employees in the workplace
  • A 7 step guide to build a highly-effective coaching and mentoring program
  • Real life case studies and examples 
  • Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

What is Coaching and Mentoring in the Workplace, and Does it Actually Work?

Coaching and mentoring in the workplace involve guiding employees through personalized, ongoing support to enhance their skills, performance, and professional growth.

Unlike traditional training, this approach focuses on real-time feedback and practical application, helping employees succeed in their current or future roles. 

Research shows mentoring and career counseling from a supervisor is a definitive predictor of success. Traditional training courses on the other hand fall short—not bringing any significant effects to the employee or the organization.

And CNBC reports that nine in 10 workers who have a career mentor say they are happy in their jobs and that workers at practically every level (individual contributor, manager, senior manager, and vice president) are significantly less likely to consider quitting if they have a mentor at work.

If this isn't enough to convince you, just look at these real-life examples from two companies:

But what’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? Can you have one or the other? 

Behavior and learning experts Simone Zorzi and Gilberto Marzano explain the difference succinctly

"Mentoring is a long-term process based on a trusting and informal relationship between a mentor and a mentee, whereas coaching is expected to be effective in a short period of time, and is based on a more structured and formal approach."

In other words, a coach guides you to achieve measurable outcomes, while a mentor shares experiences and wisdom for your learning.

We break down the differences between the two roles in more detail:

You can implement either a coaching or a mentoring program, but a combination of both can maximize employee development.

Coaching helps employees quickly improve specific skills and performance while mentoring offers broader career advice and long-term growth. Using both together makes for a more well-rounded employee development plan.

In the next section, we’ll walk you through 7 steps to implement an effective and continuous coaching and mentoring program for employees. 

📖Related read: 5 Best Employee Coaching Software Platforms for Managers 

How to Build a Highly-Effective Coaching and Mentoring Program for Employees [7-Step Plan]

Creating a successful coaching and mentoring program calls for careful consideration and structure.

In the following sections, we’ll guide you through a 7-step plan to build a highly-effective coaching and mentoring program that enhances employee performance, engagement, and development.

We’ll also share expert insights and examples from companies who have successfully implemented such a program.

Step 1: Define Your Program’s Objectives 

Before launching a coaching and mentoring program, you need to get clear on what you hope to achieve through this initiative. 

Are you looking to develop specific skills, improve employee engagement, or prepare high-potential employees for leadership roles? 

Knowing your why is important for two reasons:

  1. It will guide the design and implementation of your program.
  2. It will help you get buy-in from leadership 

To define your objectives, start by assessing your organization's needs and priorities. Conduct surveys, focus groups, or interviews with employees, managers, and executives to gather insights into the areas where coaching and mentoring could have the greatest impact. 

Look for gaps in skills, knowledge, or performance that could be addressed through targeted support.

Once you've identified your organization's needs, translate them into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives for your coaching and mentoring program. 

For example, instead of simply aiming to "improve employee performance," set a goal to "increase sales revenue by 10% within 6 months through targeted coaching for underperforming sales representatives."

Make sure to document the goal somewhere where it can be easily tracked and updated. 

Bonus points if it’s a SMART goal setting tool like Mesh that can nudge you to measure it at regular intervals to ensure it doesn’t get ‘set and forget’ as goals so often do. 

Want to see how that works? Check out how the Mesh goals feature works.

We asked JooBee Yeow, Founder of Learngility and People Experience Expert, to share her thoughts on setting objectives that gets buy-in from the Leadership team. Below is her answer:

As HR leaders, we need to shift our perspective from achieving HR objectives (like increasing engagement) to achieving business objectives. 
AKA how does our initiative solve business problems and help the business win in the marketplace?

Yeow says that from a business perspective, the issues of most concern are:

  • defining where and how to compete through growing revenue profitably
  • serving customers to increase market share and NPS
  • increasing investor confidence as evidenced in market value or
  • being a contributing member of the community

She advices:

Add a ‘so that’ to your HR objectives to connect it to your business objectives. If you are not able to, then you need to revisit why you are executing on this to start with. 
So for a mentoring initiative, maybe you're linking it to capability building ‘so that’ it will help the business compete and grow revenue. 
If you can define this clearly then you won’t have to belabor the point to your Leadership team. They’ll immediately understand the impact of the initiative because you've taken the time to view it from their perspective.
JooBee Yeow, PhD, Founder of Learngility and People Experience Expert

Step 2: Get Buy-In From Leadership

Without the support and endorsement of senior leaders, your initiative may struggle to gain traction and secure the resources it needs to thrive. In fact, it may never get the go-ahead at all.

To get buy-in from leadership, start by presenting a compelling business case: 

  • Demonstrate how the program will benefit the company, using data from similar initiatives or industry benchmarks. 
  • Highlight the potential impact on employee engagement, retention, skill development, and overall organizational performance. 
  • Use specific examples and case studies to illustrate the tangible returns on investment that coaching and mentoring programs can deliver. (This article has some case studies toward the end you can poach.)

As you put your presentation together, be sure to align the program's objectives with the company's strategic priorities. 

You need to show how the initiative supports the organization's goals and values, and how it can help address key challenges or opportunities. Step 1 will prove useful here. 

By framing the program as a strategic investment rather than just another HR initiative, you'll be more likely to capture the attention and support of senior leaders.

We recommend booking time in everyone’s calendar where you’ll make your case but you may want to win over a program champion beforehand. 

This should be a senior leader who is passionate about the initiative and willing to advocate for it at the highest levels of the organization. 

We also want to highlight that leadership buy-in often involves getting them to sign off on a significant budget commitment. 

Some experts recommend securing two years' worth of funding to start, with the first year focused on testing and refining the program, and the second year dedicated to iteration and scaling.

Step 3: Design the Program Structure 

For your coaching and mentoring program to be effective and sustainable, you need to create a clear framework that outlines the program's processes, roles, and expectations.

Define the roles of mentors and coaches and decide who will fulfill those roles.

For example, will your mentors be sourced from within the company or do you want mentors to be external? Will senior developers mentor junior ones? Or will you have mentorship relationships outside of teams?

And who’s best placed to coach employees on a 1:1 basis? The obvious answer is managers. They already have that sacred time set aside in their calendars and are responsible for the performance and development of their team. 

For mentorship, you’ll also need to think about types of mentoring you want to facilitate:

Source: Mentoring in the Workplace

Establish a dedicated team to oversee the coaching and mentoring program.

If you don't have the headcount or resources to hire for this, you may need to allocate responsibilities across company levels and your current HR or L&D department. 

Remember, you already have your program champion who can provide high-level support. 

You might also have someone at the manager level who has a passion for coaching. They could start a Slack channel for managers where managers can seek advice from one another.

What’s important is to have people who can keep the initiative going even when things get busy, ensuring it’s a priority and part of the company culture.

Create clear guidelines for matching coaches and mentors with employees.

Develop a process for matching coaches and mentors with employees based on their skills, experience, and development goals. Consider using a combination of self-selection and manager input to ensure the best possible matches.

You’ll also want to establish clear guidelines for the frequency and duration of coaching and mentoring sessions, as well as the topics to be covered. 

This will help ensure consistency and effectiveness across the program.

Build the mentorship and coaching process into your employees' workflow.

As mentioned in this Harvard Business Review article, integrating learning into daily tasks and providing timely nudges can significantly improve application. 

So as you design your process for mentorship and coaching, think about how employees can be ‘nudged’ to follow through on coaching and mentorship tasks. 

Tools like Mesh can be valuable here as they provide nudges and reminders to help employees stay on track with their development goals. 

Mentors and coaches could set up goals that hold them accountable while mentees and direct reports can be held accountable to the learnings and goals they set off the back of their sessions.

Step 4: Select and Train Mentors and Coaches

You already know the type of people you want as mentors and coaches. Now you need to identify who those individuals are. 

Your coaches are likely going to be your manager cohort, so think about what they need to become better coaches. 

Performance enablement and people development software like Mesh are useful here. 

Mesh gives managers the structure, insights, and support they need to coach their employees to higher performance. 

It surfaces performance insights they can use to inform conversations in 1:1s, allows them to give continuous and timely feedback, and helps them set goals in collaboration with their direct reports.

In 1:1s:

  • Managers go into coaching conversations armed with insights and data to make the conversations more meaningful and specific

Continuous feedback:

  • Managers can give praise and advice when and where it’s needed to point their direct reports in the right direction

When it comes to mentors, there’s more flexibility. But you definitely want to select people who are experts in their fields and have strong interpersonal skills.

When it comes to recruitment, you have two options:

  1. Ask employees who are interested in becoming mentors or coaches to apply for the role. This ensures that you have a pool of motivated and willing participants.
  2. Identify high-performing employees with the necessary expertise and approach them about taking on a mentoring or coaching role. This allows you to target specific individuals who you believe would excel in these positions.

Mentors will need ongoing training and support too. 

Consider:

  • Regular workshops or webinars on topics related to coaching and mentoring
  • Peer support groups where mentors and coaches can share their experiences and learn from one another (like that Slack group we mentioned before)
  • Access to online resources and training materials

Step 5: Match Mentors and Mentees

We’ve already established managers will coach direct reports.

But who mentors who? That’s the question you next need to answer as part of building an effective coaching and mentorship program. 

To answer it, you need to create a thoughtful matching process that ensures compatibility and maximizes the potential for successful outcomes.

One effective way to match mentors and mentees is to use assessments. These can include:

  • Personality assessments: Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the DiSC assessment can help you understand an individual's communication style, preferences, and work approach. Pairing mentors and mentees with complementary personalities can foster better understanding and collaboration.
  • Career goals: Ask mentees about their short-term and long-term career aspirations. Match them with mentors who have experience in those areas and can provide relevant guidance and support.
  • Skill needs: Identify the specific skills each mentee wants to develop and pair them with mentors who excel in those areas. This ensures that mentees receive targeted support to help them grow and advance in their careers.

Before you start the matching process, take some time to see if there are already informal mentor-mentee relationships happening within your organization. Employees may have naturally gravitated towards certain colleagues for guidance and support. 

If these relationships are working well, consider formalizing them as part of your program. This can help you build on existing successes and create a more organic mentoring culture.

Step 6: Launch the Program (And Get People Excited)

The success of your initiative depends on if your employees adopt it. To increase the likelihood that they do so and do so with enthusiasm comes down to education and awareness.

A well-executed rollout will achieve that.

Start by hosting a kick-off event to introduce the program to your organization. This can be a virtual or in-person gathering, depending on your company's size and structure. Use this opportunity to:

  • Explain the benefits of coaching and mentoring, both for individuals and the organization as a whole
  • Outline the program's structure, including the matching process, meeting frequency, and duration
  • Introduce the program team and any key stakeholders or executive sponsors
  • Share success stories or testimonials from pilot participants to build enthusiasm
  • Encourage employees to sign up and get involved

Make the event engaging and interactive by including activities like Q&A sessions, breakout rooms, or networking opportunities. You want attendees to leave feeling energized and eager to participate.

To keep the momentum going, you'll need to keep participants informed and engaged.

Consider:

  • Email newsletters with program updates, tips, and resources
  • Intranet or Slack channels dedicated to coaching and mentoring
  • Regular check-in meetings or progress reports
  • Surveys or polls to gather feedback and ideas
  • Tools like Mesh that support implementation and help managers become effective coaches

This resource will be useful as you support the implementation of your program into your organization: 6 Ways to Influence Coachability in the Workplace

It explains why coachability is important and how to influence coachability so that your program can achieve what it’s set out to. 

Step 7:  Measure and Adjust the Program

It’s launched but the job’s not done. If you want it to work well, you need to continuously evaluate its effectiveness and make data-driven adjustments. 

This involves setting clear KPIs, regularly collecting data, analyzing outcomes, and iterating based on your findings.

Start by defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure the success of your program. These might include:

  • Participation rates: What percentage of eligible employees are actively engaged in coaching or mentoring relationships?
  • Retention rates: Are employees who participate in the program more likely to stay with the company long-term?
  • Promotion rates: Are program participants more likely to be promoted or take on leadership roles?
  • Employee satisfaction: Do surveys show increased job satisfaction and engagement among participants?
  • Skill development: Are mentees making measurable progress towards their learning and development goals? (This is something you could track easily in Mesh)

Then, determine how often you'll measure these KPIs – quarterly, semi-annually, or annually – and stick to a consistent schedule.

If you find that certain aspects of the program aren't delivering the desired results, don't be afraid to make adjustments. This might involve:

  • Refining the matching process to create more compatible mentor-mentee pairs
  • Providing additional training or resources to support mentors and mentees
  • Adjusting the frequency or duration of mentoring sessions based on participant feedback
  • Broadening or narrowing the focus of the program based on organizational needs

Case Studies & Examples of Coaching and Mentoring in the Workplace

Here are some real life examples* of companies who have launched coaching and mentoring programs to great success:

*These examples were sourced from research conducted by the Women’s Empowerment Principles Report on ‘Mentoring in the Workplace’. They primarily focus on helping women develop in the workplace but serve as excellent examples of the power mentorship can have at any organization, for any group. 

Enel Group: Empowering Women Leaders

Enel Group, a multinational energy company, has implemented mentoring and shadowing programs as part of their diversity and inclusion policy. 

These initiatives aim to support the succession planning process by focusing on ensuring that women make up one-third of potential successors in senior manager roles. 

While we don’t have the exact figures, Enel Group has shared that the impact of this program is successful with the percentage of newly appointed women managers being consistently higher than the percentage of existing women managers in recent years.

Facebook: Fostering a Culture of Continuous Learning

Facebook, the global social media giant, has been leveraging mentoring for employee development for over a decade. 

Their in-house mentoring program pairs junior engineers with more experienced employees, providing them with guidance and support as they navigate their careers. 

Facebook has also been instrumental in establishing online mentoring groups across various sectors and supporting ‘Lean In’ mentoring circles, which offer small-group mentoring to women in the workforce.

RELX: Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Tech

ELX, a leading provider of information-based analytics and decision tools, is using mentoring and sponsorship to tackle the structural barriers that prevent women from reaching senior roles. 

Their mentoring program now connects women technologists with role models within the company, helping them develop cross-business partnerships and be exposed to potential career paths.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

As you build and run your coaching and mentoring program, you’re bound to come up against common pitfalls. Rather than let you discover them on your own, we’ve outlined them below. 

And what’s more, we’ve provided solutions. 

Pitfall #1: Poor Matching

Pitfall: Matching mentors and mentees based solely on availability or random selection can result in incompatible pairings and unproductive relationships. 

Solution: Use a thoughtful matching process that considers factors such as skills, experience, personality, and goals to create compatible mentor-mentee pairs.

Pitfall #2: Mentors and Coaches Don’t Want to Mentor Employees to Be More Successful than Them

Pitfall: Some mentors and coaches may feel threatened by the idea of their mentees surpassing them in success, leading to a reluctance to provide full support and guidance. 

Solution: Foster a culture that values growth and development, and emphasize the importance of mentors and coaches playing a key role in the organization's overall success. 

Recognize and reward mentors and coaches for their contributions to employee development, and ensure that they understand that their mentees' success is a reflection of their own effectiveness as a mentor or coach. 

Pitfall #3: Insufficient Training

Pitfall: Assuming that mentors and coaches inherently possess the necessary skills can lead to inconsistent or ineffective guidance.

Solution: Provide comprehensive training for mentors and coaches, covering topics such as active listening, goal setting, and providing feedback.

Pitfall #4: Lack of Support and Resources 

Pitfall: Failing to provide ongoing support and resources can cause mentoring and coaching relationships to fizzle out or fail to reach their full potential. 

Solution: Offer regular check-ins, additional training opportunities, and access to helpful resources to keep participants engaged and supported throughout the program.

Other Resources and Tools to Help With Workplace Coaching and Mentoring

If you want to learn more about coaching and mentoring in the workplace, here are some of our favorite resources:

They’re a mix of video, books, podcasts and articles because we know everyone likes to consume content differently.

About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
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