What is the Difference Between Business Coaching and Mentoring?

Business coaching and mentoring can help to create more effective employees

Often combined together and used interchangeably, mentoring and business coaching both have a common aim that is the development and improvement of individuals in terms of their effectiveness in the workplace.

Whereas business coaching typically involves a coach acting as a sounding board and discussing the issues that are holding the employee back from achieving certain goals or maximising their potential at work, the term mentor is usually applied to someone who has more experience of certain tasks or methods and aims to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to another less-experienced person. By learning with the assistance of someone who has 'been there and already done it', the employee can learn much faster than if they had to make the same mistakes themselves over time and learn from them happening.

What Will Mentoring Give Employees?

Mentoring employees can give them a greater ability to solve issues without having to ask the manager for help each time

Providing mentoring will allow an employee to begin working and solving problems by themselves in a much shorter timeframe. This is usually highly desired by managers as they do not want to be bogged down and have time taken out of their busy daily schedule to answer questions about every minor detail of the task which the employee is currently engaged in.

One of the disadvantages to mentoring is that the person providing the mentoring will be occupied and not be able to do work themselves whilst they are providing mentoring and support to someone. As mentoring is provided by an employee who has a lot of experience, they are likely to not only have been with the company or in the industry for a long time, but also have been specifically chosen to be a mentor because they are good at what they do. This probably means that they are one of the department's top employees who usually works on the most important or complicated tasks, so having them effectively out of action in terms of productivity can have a detrimental effect on the company, at least in the short term.

Mentoring Is By No Means Perfect

Utilising more than one mentor can help to avoid bad habits being passed on

Whilst they may be one of the best employees, they are unlikely to be perfect. Mentors are liable to pass on any bad habits or incorrect techniques to those they are mentoring who will often copy what the mentor does. So whilst mentoring is highly beneficial, it also needs to be remembered that it is not perfect insofar as mistakes and bad habits can also be passed on as well as all the good stuff.

To combat this, more than one mentor can be used, taking it in turns. This helps alleviate the situation described above in which the contribution of a highly effective employee is temporarily lost whilst they perform this mentoring role, as it will be more spread out with others. However there may be a problem in that with many people getting involved showing a person how to do something, they may get confused if different people tell them conflicting information. In some cases, having one person explaining things is better than multiple strategies and opinions.