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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions.

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What does a mentor do?

The following are among the mentor’s functions:

  • Teaches the mentoree about a specific issue
  • Coaches the mentoree on a particular skill
  • Facilitates the mentoree’s growth by sharing resources and networks
  • Challenges the mentoree to move beyond his or her comfort zone
  • Creates a safe learning environment for taking risks
  • Focuses on the mentoree’s total development

What are the benefits of mentoring?

Mentoring benefits the organization, mentors, and mentorees. A successful mentoring program benefits your organization by:

  • Enhancing strategic business initiatives
  • Encouraging retention
  • Reducing turnover costs
  • Improving productivity
  • Breaking down the "silo" mentality that hinders cooperation among company departments or divisions.
  • Elevating knowledge transfer from just getting information and to retaining the practical experience and wisdom gained from long-term employees.
  • Enhancing professional development.
  • Linking employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
  • Using your own employees, instead of outside consultants, as internal experts for professional development
  • Supporting the creation of a multicultural workforce by creating relationships among diverse employees and allowing equal access to mentoring.
  • Creating a mentoring culture, which continuously promotes individual employee growth and development.

Are buddy systems and mentoring programs the same?

No. Buddy systems are initiated by organizations to help new employees adjust to jobs during their first few months of employment.

Buddies are most often peers in the same department, who assist new employees for short periods of time and require no specialized training as a buddy.

Mentoring is a more complex relationship and focuses on both short- and long-term professional development goals. Though a mentor may be an employee’s peer, most often a mentor is a person at least one level higher in the organization who is not within the mentoree’s direct supervisory line of management.

Why do organizations implement formal mentoring programs?

Interest in mentoring has varied over time and has been affected by economic and social factors.
Organizations recognize that workforce demographics have changed dramatically in recent years, as women and members of different minority groups have joined the workforce in greater numbers. In addition, technology has automated traditional employee functions and continues to affect on-the-job performance, altering the way people see themselves within the corporate structure.

With these changes, organizations are finding it difficult to recruit and retain qualified personnel. As corporate downsizing continues, organizations are also experiencing a flattening of their organizations, challenging them to provide sufficient growth opportunities for employees.

On the plus side, organizations find today’s employees exhibit a more flexible approach to work. On the minus side, employees may feel less loyalty to the organizations for which they work.
Organizations now look to mentoring to implement a strategic game plan that includes:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Professional development
  • Development of a multicultural workforce

Does mentoring happen naturally?

Absolutely. Informal mentoring occurs all the time and is a powerful experience. The problem is that informal mentoring is often accessible only to a few employees and its benefits are limited only to those few who participate. Formal or structured mentoring takes mentoring to the next level and expands its usefulness and corporate value beyond that of a single mentor-mentoree pairing.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person
(the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will
enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.

Are mentoring and coaching identical?

No. People often confuse mentoring and coaching. Though related, they are not the same. A mentor may coach, but a coach is not a mentor. Mentoring is “relational,” while coaching is “functional.” There are other significant differences.

Coaching characteristics:
  • Managers coach all of their staff as a required part of the job
  • Coaching takes place within the confines of a formal manager-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
  • Relationship tends to be initiated and driven by an individual’s manager
  • Relationship is finite - ends as an individual transfers to another job
Mentoring characteristics:
  • 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 mentoree’s area of work
  • Relationship is personal - a mentor provides both professional and personal support
  • Relationship may be initiated by a mentor or created through a match initiated by the organization
  • Relationship crosses job boundaries
  • Relationship may last for a specific period of time (nine months to a year) in a formal program, at which point the pair may continue in an informal mentoring relationship

Note: Mentoring is not the same as therapy. If you need to resolve an issue from your past, have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or have recently experienced trauma or loss, please seek the professional help from a qualified therapist or social worker right away.

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