What is mentoring?

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a method or activity of providing support and advice to a younger or less experienced person, particularly within a professional or educational context.

The individual providing guidance is called a mentor, someone who shares their extensive knowledge or experience. The term itself originates from Greek; according to Homer, Méntōr looked after the son of Odysseus when he left Ithaca.

The person who learns from a mentor is called a mentee.

Definition of workplace mentoring

Workplace mentoring is a process where more experienced employees (mentors) pass on their knowledge, skills, and experience to their colleagues. Depending on organizational needs, it can take the form of:

  • Individual mentor-mentee consultations;
  • 1:1 meetings, where a manager can act as a mentor;
  • Group meetings, if the mentor oversees several people.

Workplace mentoring can be a one-time initiative, but increasingly, companies are incorporating it permanently into their employee retention strategies as a benefit.

Goals of mentoring

Depending on the goals and preferences of the participants, mentoring can focus on specific projects, overall career development, or support in difficult professional situations. In addition to gaining knowledge and experience, mentees can develop general competencies such as communication skills, time management, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.

Typical goals for mentees include:

  • Acquiring new skills, knowledge, and competencies for promotion or career development;
  • Defining personal and professional goals and choosing methods to achieve them;
  • Receiving guidance on career planning, development opportunities, and promotional paths;
  • Developing soft skills.

Mentors’ goals may include:

  • Developing their management, coaching, and motivation skills;
  • Expanding their perspectives and learning different viewpoints through interactions with mentees;
  • Feeling fulfilled and satisfied from supporting and contributing to someone else’s development.

The organization also has goals in implementing mentoring:

  • Improving overall work performance by developing employee skills and competencies;
  • Strengthening its culture by creating a learning and collaborative environment;
  • Retaining valuable experience and knowledge within the team;
  • Facilitating the onboarding process for new employees and integrating them more quickly;
  • Reducing employee turnover by increasing loyalty and satisfaction.

Benefits of mentoring programs in the workplace

Mentoring is a mutually beneficial process for all involved.

For the mentee:

  • Accelerates both professional and personal development through accessible mentoring and shared experiences;
  • Receives essential emotional support and motivation for ongoing progress;
  • Enhances soft skills like communication, leadership, and problem-solving;
  • Expands their professional network with the mentor’s guidance;
  • Achieves personal and career goals more rapidly.

For the mentor:

  • Improves leadership and communication skills;
  • Gains experience in guiding younger generations or those with less experience;
  • Experiences satisfaction from contributing to someone else’s growth;
  • Learns from the mentoring relationship, gaining new perspectives and insights;
  • Engages in self-reflection and experiences personal development.

For the organization:

  • Promotes a culture of collaboration, learning, and mutual support among employees through mentorship programs;
  • Increases employee engagement and satisfaction, which in turn boosts productivity;
  • Prevents the loss of valuable knowledge and experience;
  • Improves team retention as employees feel more valued and connected to the company;
  • Identifies and develops future leaders;
  • Maintains operational continuity and increases the effectiveness of succession planning;
  • Streamlines the onboarding process for new hires, reducing the time needed to reach full productivity.

Differences between mentoring and other forms of support

Mentoring, often confused with other forms of support such as career counseling, coaching, consulting, and psychological advice, significantly differs from them in terms of goals, methods, and the relationships between participants.

  • Career counseling primarily focuses on helping with career and job-related decisions. It is more transactional and goal-oriented, aimed at choices like selecting a career path, changing professions, or developing professional skills. Unlike mentoring, career counseling seldom involves the long-term personal development of the mentee and does not typically involve the transfer of knowledge or experience.
  • Coaching is focused on achieving specific professional or personal goals set by the client. Coaches employ various techniques to help clients reach these goals, which are centered on immediate outcomes with clearly defined results. Although coaching can include elements of personal development, it is generally more structured and focused than mentoring and does not engage deeply in personal relationships. Coaches, like career counselors, do not share their knowledge or experiences.
  • Consulting aims to provide expertise in a specific area or solve a particular problem. Consultants analyze issues, propose solutions, and may assist in their implementation. In contrast to mentoring, the consulting relationship is more formal and focused on delivering specialized knowledge rather than supporting long-term development.
  • Psychological advice concentrates on addressing emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues. It often involves deep personal matters and requires sessions in a therapeutic setting. While psychological advice can influence personal development, it has a more formal structure than mentoring and should be provided by a qualified professional in psychology, psychotherapy, or psychiatry.


Regular feedback from a mentor can help a mentee best utilize their strengths and identify areas for improvement. By adopting the mentor’s perspective, the mentee begins to approach problems in new, more innovative ways. Mentors also grow through this relationship, enhancing their soft skills.

If you aim to implement an effective mentoring program in your organization, consider using an HR platform as a support tool. This platform allows you to:

  • Match mentees with mentors based on shared interests, career goals, and skills from employee profiles;
  • Organize regular 1:1 meetings for participants;
  • Facilitate smooth communication among participants, providing access to meeting notes;
  • Collect feedback from both parties, either openly or anonymously.

An effective mentoring program will boost your employees' motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction, and strengthen the positive culture within your organization.

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