Organizations spend a lot of time and money ensuring that their workforce is well-trained. This is because they realize that employees are the lifeblood of any organization, the ones who carry out its objectives and goals. Employees are often tracked into different roles through career development initiatives that consist of all the efforts and activities conducted by individual employees and the organization to help each person choose and follow the best path. Feedback on development can be provided in two ways: coaching or mentoring.
The main difference between coaching and mentoring is coaching is a short-term program that focuses on improving or developing an employee’s skills and ensuring they can satisfactorily fulfill the requirements of the job at hand. Coaching is often structured in nature, with meetings scheduled at regular intervals to tackle specific tasks such as learning a new process or practicing communicating more effectively. Coaching does more than help employees develop new skills; it can facilitate pride and confidence in the employee’s work, foster the employee's trust in the boss and the company and result in a more motivated employee who can end up coaching other team members with the tips and tricks they learned. It can also inspire more learning at work and creativity through team bonding. Some key instances when management should consider implementing a coaching strategy are:
- When a company is seeking to develop its employees in specific competencies using performance management tools and involving the immediate manager
- When a company has a number of talented employees who are not meeting expectations
- When a company is introducing a new system or program
- When a company has a small group of individuals (5-8) in need of increased competency in specific areas
- When a leader or executive needs assistance in acquiring a new skill as an additional responsibility
Mentoring involves helping a trainee develop with the objective of increasing the employee’s competencies, achievements, and understanding of the organization so they are eventually able to move on to other opportunities within the organization. Although specific learning goals or competencies may be used as a basis for creating the mentoring relationship, its focus goes beyond these areas to include things such as work/life balance, self-confidence, self-perception, and how the personal influences the professional. Having a mentor can teach the employee about the state of an entire industry, the ins-and-outs of a company’s organizational chart, policies, practices, and business methodologies as well as provide introductions to key contacts in their professional network. Management may want to consider implementing a mentoring program:
- When a company is seeking to develop its leaders or talent pool as part of succession planning
- When a company seeks to develop its diverse employees to remove barriers that hinder their success
- When a company seeks to more completely develop its employees in ways that go beyond the acquisition of specific skills/competencies
- When a company seeks to retain its internal expertise and experience residing in its baby boomer employees for future generations
- When a company wants to create a workforce that balances the professional and the personal
The cost of employee career development is an investment for companies. The process is always a team effort, as it takes input from several sources to coach employees through requirements of the initial job, mentor them to enhance their skills and ultimately to champion or sponsor them for new opportunities and responsibilities. These costs are incurred in the hopes of grooming efficient, successful employees with a strong knowledge base who will hopefully be loyal to the company. Therefore, in the end, coaching or mentoring is a win-win situation.