Mentoring is a supportive form of employee training that many experts believe should be independent from other training activities.
Mentoring usually takes place outside the conventional top-down employee-manager relationship.
Instead, the mentee sets the agenda based on their own development needs, with the mentor providing guidance to help the mentee achieve their goals.
Although coaching and mentoring can overlap, they perform different functions.
Coaching is aimed at developing a person's skills and knowledge in a specific area of work leading to achievement of an objective and is:
- generally on a short term basis focusing on performance at work
- based on the coach directing the learner
Mentoring is the long-term provision of guidance to someone less experienced in order to support their general development at work and involves:
- a reactive approach with the mentor guiding the mentee
- the mentor listening, offering advice and making suggestions that can help the mentee develop
- a broader view of the person - personal issues can be discussed
- an informal and less structured provision - meetings take place as and when the mentee needs guidance
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) provides further guidance on the differences between coaching and mentoring.
Try to avoid a situation where an individual is mentored by their immediate manager. This is because combining the management relationship with the more personal and equal nature of the mentoring relationship could damage the former.
However, for smaller businesses, it may be more difficult to avoid immediate managers being mentors. In these situations, you could consider external mentors.
There is another form of mentoring - business mentoring - that focuses more on the overall needs and goals of a business, rather than an individual's personal development. To find out more, see the benefits of business mentoring.