While one-on-one mentoring is likely the first kind of mentoring structure you might think of, there are many options for how you deliver mentorship through your organization. Each of these options have their strengths and weakness in the kind of relationships they build, resources and administration they require, and how they will match with your participants’ needs. None of these structures are inherently better than others, and all can be useful in designing your mentorship program.

One-on-One Mentoring

There is a reason that one-on-one mentoring is the first kind that comes to mind. When the match works between a mentor and mentee, the relationship can be powerful. The value in this structure is that the focused attention can target discussions on the mentee’s current needs and challenges. These relationships can last beyond the parameters of the program and become a foundation for a network for all participants.

One-on-one mentoring works best when:

  • You have lots of available mentors
  • Participants are looking for meaningful relationships
  • You have enough resources to administer the program

One-on-one mentoring may be less effective when:

  • You do not have enough mentors
  • Mentees need to learn basic skills
  • You lack resources to administer the matching process

Group Mentoring

Group mentoring brings together a group of mentees who are seeking help in a similar area such as the job search. They run for a set period of time at regular intervals and can be lead by a single mentor with expertise or by a series of mentors who each provide different areas of expertise. This structure provides an opportunity to learn not only from the mentor but also from other mentees. It also shares the knowledge of highly skilled mentors with more participants.

Group mentoring works best when:

  • You lack mentors for one-on-one mentoring
  • Mentees want to target specific areas of learning
  • Mentors have important knowledge that many mentees would benefit from
  • You have fewer resources to administer the program.

Group mentoring may be less effective when:

  • Knowledgeable mentors are not able or willing to commit time
  • Mentors are not experienced in running group sessions

Peer Mentoring

Peer mentoring is a form of group mentoring but there is no lead mentor. The mentors in the group come together because they fill a similar role or are looking to learn a similar skill and problem solve, learn, and mentor each other. These groups may be facilitated by someone in your organization or completely run by a group of peers. Even though they lack expertise, this can be made up from shared experience, knowledge, and training within the group. This group will especially benefit from having resources available to help them fill gaps in their knowledge.

Peer mentoring works best when:

  • You lack mentors for one-on-one mentoring
  • There is a group of mentees who is willing and able to share and learn from each other
  • You have fewer resources to administer the program

Peer mentoring may be less effective when:

  • Mentees want to learn something that requires a high degree of skill
  • There are no resources or supports to facilitate peer groups

Hybrid Structures

Your organization may choose to combine more than one structure in your mentoring program. Perhaps you combine one-on-one mentoring with group or peer mentoring to round out the experience of the participants. Or peer mentoring groups could occasionally bring in expert mentors to fill in knowledge gaps or address specific challenges. For example, ERIEC provides Intercultural Competency sessions to complement their one-on-one mentoring program.

Hybrid structures work best when:

  • One style of mentoring does not meet all the needs of your participants

Hybrid structures may be less effective when:

  • You do not have enough resources to administer more than one kind of mentoring program

Informal Mentoring

Informal mentoring is similar to one-on-one mentoring but without the organizational structure. Your organization can provide resources or forums where potential matches could meet or just encourage mentees to approach a colleague to be a mentor. This can work really well in an area or organization where mentoring is encouraged. It can be challenging or scary for mentees to approach potential mentors, so if mentoring is not strongly supported, this informal structure can fail to produce matches organically. It is possible to start a program with a more formal structure and let it evolve into something more informal if that works for participants.

Informal mentoring works best when:

  • Mentoring is part of the organizational culture
  • Mentees feel safe and confident in approaching potential mentors
  • You have fewer resources to administer the program

Informal mentoring may be less effective when:

  • When there is no culture of mentoring
  • Mentees are not comfortable approaching mentors informally
  • Mentors do not feel like they have the experience to be a mentor


E-mentoring is as much a format as it is a structure. It can be used to do one-on-one mentoring or group and peer mentoring. It simply means using online or mobile technology as a mentoring tool. This can be a complement to other types of in-person mentoring and used to communicate between mentoring meetings. It could be used as the primary method of mentoring when the participants are unable to meet in person. Or it can be used to supplement other forms of mentoring to connect a mentee to specialized knowledge that is not available in their immediate area.

E-mentoring works best when:

  • Distance or scheduling is a barrier to in-person mentoring
  • Internet or mobile connection is readily available and reliable
  • The technology offers video or voice options for better relationship-building

E-mentoring may be less effective when:

  • Language barriers may make online or voice communication more challenging
  • Access to internet or mobile connects are less reliable or not available

Create a Mentorship Program

Are you ready to create a mentorship program in your community? Contact us to start the process.