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The What, Why, and How of Mentoring

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • January 26 2022

The What, Why, and How of Mentoring

The concept of mentoring was traced 3000 years ago. The first forms of mentoring have been cited in Homer's Odyssey with a mentor's character. During the Trojan War, Odysseus had entrusted his son, Telemachus, to the care of his mentor while he went to fight the war as his trusted companion. However, Odysseus was away for decades, during which mentor supported and nurtured the boy. The cited reference only enables the understanding of the formal mentoring relationship.

Meaning of Mentor and Mentoring

Mentoring is a process of coaching, teaching, and supporting another person to achieve goals. Mentors can guide essential decisions that affect their mentee's life, such as academic or professional plans for future careers, etcetera. A mentor will often spend time knowing the strengths/weaknesses behind their trainee to make more informed decisions when advising on what path would benefit them both most.

A mentor is a person who is professionally invested in another's success and guidance. Mentors can come from many different backgrounds, including business or education alike. However, they all share one thing: their desire for you exceeds what others might think of as normal expectations. 

Mentorship is a crucial part of any successful professional relationship. It's the trickle-down effect, where the mentor provides the mentee with moral support and guidance to help them achieve their goals in life or work - be they career prospects, personal relationships (such as marriage), mental health issues like depression; all things that are important for success.

What does a Mentoring relationship look like in both organizational and non-organizational structures? The roles and objectives can be understood with the definitions of mentoring. 

Definitions of Mentoring

Mentoring is ideally described as when an employee is trained under the guidance of a senior, acting as a counselor, advisor, or guide to a trainee or junior. The mentor provides feedback and support as being responsible to the mentoring individual, according to

Note of clarification: The definition mentioned above is not just from a career trajectory since mentoring is not confined to just a career. Mentoring, on the whole, is also pursued from the perspective of an individual's personal life.

According to David Clutterbuck, Author of Everyone Needs a Mentor: Fostering Talent at Work, 1985, mentoring involves listening with empathy. Listening should include sharing experiences, developing insights through reflection and encouragement, and more. 

Kline, a digital marketing agency, said mentoring is for the mentee. Primarily, mentoring is for the mentee's mind. Mentoring should enable the mentee to focus on and garner the finest of independent thinking about all aspects of their life. Kline also adds that the mentor's perspective enriches the mentor-mentee relationship. It feeds, but it is not a feast. 

Looking into all the different definitions, one thing is clear; a mentoring relationship requires a mentee and a mentor. The mentee selects the potential mentor for mentoring in several scenarios based on criteria, including the mentee's needs. Some of the instances in a non-organizational structure are traced below.

  • If the mentee wants to focus on their career development or life development
  • To gain inspiration from their mentors to set career targets
  • To gain knowledge from their mentors as they are experienced and knowledgeable,
  • To expand inter-cultural ties within an organization
  • To utilize the process of mentoring for succession plans

Having such a vital role to play in an individual's professional and personal development, the process of mentoring is seen to be followed even today in different walks of life. Mentoring relationships often don't have clear boundaries set. It is due to the indifferent definitions of the mentoring process, coaching, and training. The difference between the three terms will be discussed further in the blog.

Benefits of Mentoring Relationships in The Workplace

Regardless of the location, being a mentor or mentee has endless benefits. The benefits of mentoring relationships in the workplace include

  • Career advancement of a mentee (including promotions)
  • Better salaries due to multi-dimensional output
  • Holistic development from the professional and personal point of view
  • Enhanced EQ, self-esteem and confidence, and better work-life balance
  • Heightened career aspirations 
  • The improved growth factor of networking skills. 

What Are Some of The Benefits of Being A Mentor at The Workplace?

  • Being a mentor helps recognize and prune programs that strategize improvement of resource performance at all levels. 
  • A mentoring programme helps the mentor gain newer perspectives and better insight into the faculty.
  • The potential for networking increases
  • Mutual respect and loyalty increase productivity, staff management, and development.
  • The mentor also gets an opportunity to self-reflect on personal development, giving the mentee personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Progress can be a two-way street. 
  •  Career rejuvenation also benefits the senior employee (the mentor).

What are the Types of Mentoring Relationships?

Mentoring relationships can be in broad ranges. But according to guider-, mentoring can be of 6 significant forms. Each of these six types can apply to both organizational and non-organizational uses depending on the mentee's need in their path. The organization might be seen having similar structures applied differently than the instances mentioned below, as the customization of mentoring plays a vital role in the mentoring program of an organization. 

One-on-one Mentoring 

The one-on-one mentoring relationship is between a senior employee and the junior employee. The program goals for this relationship are to help them achieve goals like personal growth, organizational goals and merge any skills gap and skill development the employee might be struggling with.

In a non-organizational setup, one-on-one mentoring helps achieve career goals, and other skills like leadership development are monitored in this mentoring program.

Peer Mentoring

The concept revolves around mentoring individuals under similar age gaps. Peer mentoring is executed in groups, and everyone is held accountable. The roles of a mentor and mentee are not defined, as all the peers involved are learning together and being formal support systems.

Group Mentoring

Group mentoring is an interactive process where people work together to solve problems and develop skills for success. These sessions are practiced to monitor one's teamwork skills. The team's composition is one mentor and several mentees.

Team Mentoring

Team mentoring is a process of sharing knowledge and skills between individuals within an organization who have different roles or functions. Team mentoring promotes inclusivity and diversification of opinions and thoughts placed on the table for discussion. It eliminates any chances of favoritism, which could be seen with one-on-one mentoring.

Reverse Mentoring 

The tables are turned when it comes to Reverse mentoring. In this case scenario, the roles switch up to the student becoming the teacher and the teacher becoming the student. The mentee teaches the mentor in this setup. It opens up the mentee and aids confidence to teach the mentor, and as they say, there is always something to learn. The definition of a mentor is redefined in this type.

Virtual Mentoring 

This definition of mentoring came up when the whole world went to work remotely. Virtual mentoring is far away from the traditional model of mentoring. These training programs are done through a wide range of mentoring software that helps monitor and mentor progress despite not being physically present at the office. It is much different from the formal mentoring programs but is effective, especially during these times.

These are some kinds of mentoring that companies have repeatedly used mentoring to benefit from. Some company's success stories through mentoring programs have been listed below.

Diversity Mentoring 

For companies who are looking to promote talent from diverse backgrounds, diversity mentoring programs are raising in popularity to also attract talent from diverse background and help them with career progress. 

Companies with Success Stories 


Listed under one of the world's colossal construction equipment manufacturers, Caterpillar is also a staunch believer in its employee mentoring. These mentoring programs provide knowledge and experience in varied fields while the hires connect with different leaders of different departments. Caterpillar's litigation corporate counsel head, Jaime Myers, explains that the mentors at the company walk the employee through career exploration, the culture of the corporate, soft skills development, organizational overview, and skills like work-life balance and community skills are taken care of. He further tells his readers at that mentors are allocated to the new hires for the first three years.

The corporate VP adds that engaging helps ignite the new hires with the spark of positive growth in personal and professional ways. She further adds that the new hires' reverse mentoring sessions exposed to the senior staff help them familiarize themselves with topics like geography, gender- unique or technology-informed perspectives, which helps in a better evolving workspace. 

Schneider Electric

This energy management and automation space uses AI to provide relevant mentors to the mentees. Schneider Electric is not only a leader in energy management but is also moving forward with its mentoring in the post-modern workspaces. Mentoring in Schneider Electric has been implemented as one of the central pillars of the internal mobility program. VP of talent digitization, Schneider electric, Andrew Saidy, in conversation with Josh Bersin, showed how 47% of the employees were seen leaving the company as no new opportunities were found. In these cases, tangible internal mobility can be provided to employees through mentoring. It encourages and engages talents, aids the employees' growth, and retains them.

With the implementation of AI, mentees can find suitable mentors based on their requirements. The VP added that mentorship is not restricted to any geographical boundaries as it is spread to all global employees, irrespective of their scope of work. Saidy also stated that the platform only brought in growth. With 140,000 employees spread globally, more than 75% of employees are already seen using the system.

Bain and Company

Tagging along with the "Big Three" names in management consulting companies, Bain and company have been bestowed with one of the most prestigious employers in the industry. This title comes with the company's mentoring. The company's mentoring program has enabled each of their 8000 consultants to be equipped with a mentor. Their mentoring includes connecting with every junior employee to have a seasoned manager as a mentor—the seasoned manager mentors blacks at Bain and provides professional development and additional mentoring to their mentees.

The focus on mentoring has increased over the last four years, resulting in many female employees. The company's leadership team was seen to be doubled in comparison. On developing a mentorship program, the founder and CEO, Liz Dimmoack, spoke of how the company believed in maintaining a one-to-one relationship to be and drive the change. And with this world of hyper connections and being digitally connected, Dimmoack says that individuals are often disconnected. And to stay connected, mentoring and sponsoring are ways in which individuals can shine and achieve the goals they wish.

Coaching vs. Training

Coaching, mentoring, and training all have very minute differences in their core definitions, and it might seem that they complement each other. While mentoring has been redefined and understood throughout, embracing coaching and training equally helps understand the process of mentoring better while providing a clear bifurcation between the three.


A coach provides coaching to a coachee. The significant difference here is that the coach has prior experience compared to a mentor or a trainer. Defined as a creative and thought-provoking client partnership, it inspires them to maximize their professional and personal potential, as per the International Coaching Federation. 

While training and mentoring transfer knowledge to the juniors, coaching deals with the enhancement. The coach supports the coachee in all their endeavors, enhances their current skills, and facilitates them with anything the coachee requires to excel. In the process, the coach can find the gaps and constantly work at them to drive them towards their ultimate goals.

The coaching relationship is a cycle of actions, learning, and reflection, not primarily seen in mentoring or coaching.

In workplaces, it is seen to be a part of the onboarding processes of the company, unlike their formal programs where coaching was seen to be non-essential. With coaching, employees have positive outcomes like self-awareness, self-efficiency, problem-solving and strategic thinking strategies, and quick learning of technical skills.


'The procedure of organization in which individuals adapt to knowledge and/ or skill for a definite purpose' is defined as training by Dale S. Beach. Training is the process of knowledge transfer from the trainer to the trainee in a formal and structured way. It is short-lived in work setups since they are conducted in groups. The trainee in this short period also tries the training given to them. Additional training is also given to those trainees who fail to achieve their tasks.

For example, attending a session about coffee paint would be a training received by the attendee. In this session, even though there will be multiple tips and techniques shown, at the end of the session, most of the information will be short-lived in the brain. As per the research done by learning solutions, 50% of the information is not retained by the student at the end of the hour, 70% is forgotten in a day, and 90% after a week. 

Thus, training does not aid any cemented behavioral changes that are tried to instigate in the individual in a shorter period. The one similarity between training and mentoring is it is hierarchical, meaning it is both the transfer of knowledge from a senior to a junior or, in this case, from a trainer to a trainee. 

The Need for Mentoring

Have you ever had a senior individual or anyone you looked up to as your role model? A mentor is required to guide you on the path to success and understand your skills and interests to be directed to the next decision.

A mentor is required in various life paths to provide constructive feedback on choosing their career or the skills development one might be interested in. The extensive experience that the mentee receives helps them implement it to achieve all they aspire to.

From an industrial point of view, the employees who were mentored could be promoted five times more than those who were not mentored. Any structured mentoring programs opted by the employee at the workspace or a student looking for career options or skill development when they join the workforce will only be beneficial for them to excel in their respective fields.

A mentor or several mentors need not just be appointed or searched for in times of need; they can also be sought for other purposes. It could be for third-person assistance, to gain exposure to another opinion or perspective, or when a contact's boost is required. Connecting with a mentor can help you boost the opportunities of networking along with the various opportunities they might bring. Quality mentoring relationships can give the necessary push for the individual in the right direction. 

Mentoring can be to gain a sense of direction, and the mentor helps the mentee achieve their personal and professional goals while uplifting the company as a whole. Then what is the reason for not implementing mentoring in any organization?

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