One of the biggest problems with understanding mentoring is that too many people group it under the same heading as coaching. Coaching and mentoring are two very different beasts – while they both focus on enhancing an individual’s skills, knowledge and performance, the both seek to do so in very different ways. While Coaching focuses on direct managers boosting performance through task oriented instruction, often in the short term, Mentoring is much more focused on the long view of staff development. Mentoring relationships tend to be long term, and are usually between staff and senior managers and executives, though peer to peer mentoring is becoming more popular. This relationship is, by design, focused on providing support and advice to help staff improve their performance and steer their career progression, while also providing insight into different levels of the organisation and new ways of thinking.
Mentoring is generally seen as a win-win-win between mentees, mentors, and organisations because, when done correctly, it benefits all three parties.
For mentees, mentoring provides a unique insight into career development by offering impartial advice and encouragement, assisting with problem solving and providing professional development through exposure the mentor’s wealth of experience. Mentees also benefit from reflection on their own practice in a supportive environment, where they can brainstorm alternative approaches to incidents they are encountering, benefit from the insights of experienced professionals who may have overcome similar roadblocks, and learn the skills and knowledge that can help them perform to a higher standard. Mentoring can also increase a mentee’s visibility within the company leading to greater recognition.
Mentors similarly benefit from increased exposure, peer recognition, and greater job satisfaction, as reported in a Durham University survey on Mentoring (1). It isn’t just mentees who develop from the mentoring process: mentors also benefit by widening their understanding of different areas of their organisation, are able to further develop their interpersonal and professional skills by working with their mentees and reflecting on their past and present practices.
The benefit to organisations are numerous, as evidenced by the fact that 70% of Fortune 500 firms have mentoring programs (2). Mentoring develops a culture of personal and professional development, increases engagement, communication and staff retention, particularly with high flyers. The use of mentoring has been shown to improve morale and motivation, forging a greater shared commitment to the business. Mentoring can also enhance and expedite the induction of new hires and create and improve relationships between workers.
There are numerous different ways to structure mentoring programs, and successful mentoring programs require structure, just as there are many different ways of utilising mentoring to enhance business practices, including diversity mentoring, leadership mentoring, induction or new hire mentoring, and reverse mentoring, where the younger less experienced staff member mentors a more experienced employee. More information on structuring mentoring programs will be found in our next post.