Mentors or trainers: Which one is right for your business?

By creating ways to build and expand your staff’s skills and abilities, you ensure that your company will not stagnate or become mired in inefficient processes.

Two effective approaches to staff development all managers should consider are formal mentoring and training programmes.

A mentoring programme is a good way to transfer institutional knowledge from company veterans to up-and-coming leaders.

Mentors, whether in a formal or informal capacity, focus on career growth and provide advice regarding professional development. Mentors can also help reinforce loyalty to your company – firms that invest in their employees’ professional development are rewarded with higher retention levels.

A training programme, by contrast, is more performance-oriented and focuses on changing particular behaviours through specific skill improvement.

Trainers – whether chosen from among your staff or brought in from outside the company – help staff perform their jobs more efficiently and competently.

Mentors and trainers: their roles

Before you establish mentoring and training programmes, it’s important to understand when and how to use the two.

Mentors are best for facilitating long-term development, typically acting as career counsellors, role models and trusted confidantes.

In contrast to mentors, trainers do not focus on individual staff members’ long-term professional development, but rather on short-term performance improvement. A trainer might be a staff supervisor or an outside expert hired to oversee and guide the day-to-day activities of an employee according to specific, pre-determined objectives and measurements. The relationship is therefore defined by the tasks to be improved.

Choosing the right person

When creating mentoring and coaching programmes, it’s important to choose the right candidates for these roles.

A mentor candidate has to be willing and able to invest time and energy in what could be an open-ended, long-term relationship.

A prospective trainer has to be able to focus on task and outcome, and be able to impose standards and assess performance.

Both mentors and trainers can help individual staff members and, ultimately, your business.

As these complementary roles improve employees’ performance and promote professional development, your company should see increased efficiency and productivity, as well improved retention of valuable employees.

Neil Owen is a regional director of Robert Half International.

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