Does Offering a Mentor have a Better Impact than Training?
The answer to this question must start with “what are you hoping to achieve?”
Training is all about upskilling someone; teaching them a new skill or enhancing their ability. Therefore, if an employee needs to learn about a new piece of software or a new process, then training is absolutely the best option.
However, when it comes to softer skills, this is where the debate becomes more interesting.
- Takes place outside of a line manager-employee relationship, at the mutual consent of a mentor and the person being mentored
- Is career-focused or focuses on professional development that may be outside a mentor’s area of work
- The relationship is personal - a mentor provides both professional and personal support
- The relationship may be initiated by a mentor or created through a match initiated by the organisation
- The relationship crosses job boundaries
- The relationship may last for a specific period of time (nine months to a year) in a formal programme, at which point the pair may continue in an informal mentoring relationship
- Managers coach all of their staff as a required part of the job or secure a specific outside trainer
- Training takes place within the confines of a formal employer-employee relationship
- Focuses on developing individuals within their current jobs
- Interest is functional, arising out of the need to ensure that individuals can perform the tasks required to the best of their abilities
- The relationship tends to be initiated and driven by an individual’s manager
- The relationship is finite – it ends as an individual transfers to another role
So, in effect, it really depends on what you are hoping to achieve, however, evidence suggests that mentoring is much more successful when related to softer skills. This is because the mentee opens up about their weaknesses and focuses on areas pertinent to them, rather than following a specific course. They are able to react to and identify areas for development much more quickly and become self-critical, allowing them to strive for better performance. This tends to make them more well-rounded employees.