Mentoring can be defined as a professional relationship whereby a more experienced person (the mentor) assists the less experienced person (the mentee) to acquire and develop specific skills to enhance his/her growth (Alfred, Garvey and Smith 2008). Alfred et al. also posit that the mentoring process is founded on trust and commitment and helps both the mentee and the organisation develop their full potential. Although mentoring is closely related to coaching, it is different in the sense that mentoring is relational while coaching is functional. It is, therefore, possible for a mentor to be a coach as well, but it is not obvious that a coach can be also a mentor.
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Purpose of mentoring
The need for incorporation of newly graduated employees into an organization necessitates mentoring as an intervention for experience sharing. Besides, Transport Department of Abu Dhabi is highly globalized hence mentoring is a necessary intervention in ensuring that employees develop good networks within and without the department.
The overall goal of mentoring is assisting the mentee to achieve his/her full personal and professional potential. As such, Alfred, Garvey and Smith (2008) outline the four purpose of mentoring. First, mentoring provides a role model (the mentor) on whom the mentee can look up to when making his/her own values and decisions. Second, mentoring should directly or indirectly influence the development of the mentee in an all-round manner. Third, mentoring provides a sound board for the mentee to be able to discuss his/her experiences and ideas within a safe environment. Last, but not least, mentoring plays the role of an advocate by ensuring that the mentor offers the mentee the needed support and representation through the implementation of their decisions through the development process.
The mentor/mentee relationship is guided by the following key aspects:
Since both the mentor and the mentee have equal obligations in the mentoring relationship, it is paramount that both of them understand and take their obligations seriously (Ragins and Kram, 2007). The mentor and mentee must foster a partnership relation by providing feedback to each other as well as combining effort in some activities, such as searching for relevant resources, networks and contacts.
Since mentoring is a professional relationship, it is important for both the mentor and the mentee to foster trust between themselves as well as a team in the organisation.
Mentoring requires that the mentor and mentee work together to deliver common goals and meet set objectives. Compatibility is easily enhanced in an environment where both the parties understand each other’s needs (Alfred et al., 2008). It is, therefore, imperative that a mentor sees the mentee’s developmental requirements and the mentee, on the other hand, meets the mentor’s expectations.
The mentor/mentee relationship is much complex than can be imagined. While the mentor’s responsibility is to provide all the necessary guidance and support to the mentee depending on their developmental needs, the mentee must provide an environment that fosters mentoring. The mentees must, from time to time, be the driver of the relationship and must bear the responsibility of identifying and promptly communicating the skills and knowledge they would like to acquire from the mentor (Ragins and Kram, 2007). Hence, the relationship is such that the mentee must work hard enough for its success contrary to coaching whereby the success of the program depends on the hard work coach.
One-on-one mentoring model
This model focuses on direct matching of the mentor with the mentee. The mentor directly supports the mentee to acquire both personal growth and professional skills and knowledge. This model is advantageous since it offers a close professional relationship that allows the mentee to directly learn from the mentor. The model also enhances personal relationship between the mentor and the mentee.
In this mentoring model, a mentor works with a group of mentees, which may range in numbers up to four (Ragins and Kram, 2007). The group meets regularly to discuss various topics and experiences.
The advantage of group mentoring is that it combines both the peer and senior mentoring hence enhances the process of acquiring new skills. de Janasz, Sullivan and Whiting (2003) argue that a mentee may need more than one mentor to meet their changing and diverse needs. This model also helps the mentee to build a strong network within the organization through his/her fellow mentees.
This model involves the use of an experienced employee (peer mentor) to couch a new employee. This model is advantageous in that it saves on the costs of training new employees. The model also enhances motivation among new employees since it accords them the much needed support in their new work environment.
Benefits of mentoring
Although mentoring may seem to be mentee oriented, it is an all-round process that benefits the mentee, the mentor and the organisation. Since the mentoring process encourages the mentees to achieve their full potential, the organisation benefits from the improved performance through increased productivity in the process (Ragins and Kram, 2007). Mentoring also produces high morale among staff members as they are likely to feel more appreciated and valued as new capacities are built in them progressively. This encourages staff to remain in the organisation longer, thus reducing staff turnover costs.
The process also helps the organisation build a multicultural workforce by encouraging relationships among diverse groups and levels of employees; hence the organisation is able to draw strengths from various groups and thus improve its competitiveness in the market, as highlighted by Ragins and Kram (2007). This is particularly important in the transport industry where a diverse group of clientele is served daily.
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The mentors also find satisfaction in the relationship through sharing their expertise with the mentees. A successful mentoring programme helps every mentor develop further their career as well as identify and bridge any possible career gaps since it provides an opportunity for the mentor to keenly evaluate their own attributes even as they mentor the others.
A successful mentoring process helps the mentees to develop a sharper focus on what is required for a career growth as they are able to learn directly from those who have greater experience (Alfred et al., 2008). The process also helps the mentees to build a professional network, which enhances the chances of realizing their professional goals. The authors add that mentoring helps the mentee to adapt to the organisation’s culture since they get an advantage of understanding not only the organisation’s culture, but the unspoken rules as well.
Factors to consider when introducing mentoring to the workplace
Implementing a mentoring programme is both costly and time-consuming. An organisation, therefore, needs to carefully consider its capacity to provide the required resources without compromising the goals of the organisation. The company must also analyse the time implications of mentoring in its production process.
Alfred, G., Garvey, B. & Smith, R. (2008). Mentoring pocketbook. Hants: Management Pocketbook. Web.
de Janasz, S. C., Sullivan, S. E., & Whiting, V. (2003). Mentor networks and career success: Lessons for turbulent times. Academy of Management Executive 17(4): 78-93. Web.
Ragins, B. R. & Kram, K. E. (2007). The handbook of mentoring at work: Theory, research, and practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. Web.