Business mentoring: what is it and how to apply it?

It is often the case that an organisation needs a person with specific knowledge to provide training, guidance and support for its employees. This is called business mentoring.

This kind of “voice of experience” is something you might need for your company. Learn more about what business mentoring is, the different types, its advantages and how to apply it successfully.


What is business mentoring?

Business mentoring is defined as a form of training in which a person with specific experience and knowledge acts as a mentor for employees in need of mentoring.

The aim is for those who receive this mentoring to broaden their training and skills with the relevant tools to develop an organisation’s professional talent.


Origin and evolution of the mentoring process

There is a long history behind the term mentoring. For this we must go back to ancient Greece, specifically to its mythology: the Mentor was a friend of Ulysses (the protagonist of Homer’s “The Odyssey”), and was the father, teacher and advisor of Telemachus, Ulysses’ son when he went to fight in the Trojan War. So much so that he prepared him to become the king of Ithaca, the land of Ulysses. 

If we follow the Greek line, we have Plato, who was Aristotle’s mentor. This was to such an extent that Aristotle, who matured his own knowledge became in many respects the opposite of that of his mentor.

Already in the Middle Ages mentoring became common and took the form of an educational relationship between a mature monk (senex) and a novice (junior). In this context, the monk instructed the young man in the rules of life and office of a cleric and, in turn, promoted him within the religious order. By the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a master of a trade accepted apprentices into his workshop so that by watching him work in his technique (with instructions and corrections), they would successfully develop that same trade,

If we move forward in the timeline to the Enlightenment, it was in French salons or English clubs that the intellectual elite of the Enlightenment met. At these gatherings, the hosts were often also patrons of some of the guests, while at the same time some illustrious guests shared their knowledge at these gatherings.

In the Modern Age, and in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, societies began to need a specialised workforce. In this scenario, the figure of the mentor lost social prominence in favour of the trainer, the company or the teacher, under an institutional educational system.

In the middle of the 20th century, the idea of mentoring was further strengthened in the 1960s, when a group of psychologists and sociologists at Yale University published a detailed analysis of the importance of mentors in supporting, guiding and guiding people in the pursuit of their dreams. This echoed particularly in the 1970s in the United States: in the pursuit of globalisation and a knowledge society, organisations began to adopt mentoring programmes so that experienced employees could transfer their knowledge to newcomers and thus strengthen companies.

This deepened and escalated into formal education, as the 1990s saw a boom in mentoring programmes for teacher training, as well as peer mentoring systems to improve integration or school success, among other education-focused mentoring models, for example.

Already at this point, and today, companies and their executives have begun to recognise the role of mentors in organisations, being used in the workplace to help their staff grow in multiple ways.


Differences between mentoring and coaching

The concepts of mentoring and coaching could be confused, but they are not the same. Let’s look at their differences:



  • Coaching is task-focused and is carried out by an expert in coaching techniques.
  • It consists of giving accompaniment and training to a person, which focuses on achieving the proposed goals.
  • In the process, they will learn to detect and enhance their skills and competences.
  • It also focuses on being able to overcome obstacles that make it impossible to reach one’s full potential.
  • The role of the coach is usually tactical.
  • The coach neither advises nor recommends, but helps the client to find his or her own answers.
  • Generally, the guidelines are given by the client.



  • It focuses on the relationship between the parties and is carried out by a qualified professional with extensive experience.
  • A training strategy in which a specialist in a given area passes on his or her knowledge and skills to another person.
  • It aims to help that person to develop in a company or organisation, and to meet its objectives.
  • The person doing the mentoring, the mentor, must have proven experience and the mentee must be open to change.
  • The role of the mentor is often more strategic and gives greater depth to the issues.
  • The mentor gives advice and recommendations.
  • Guidelines are usually given by the mentor.


Types of mentoring

There is not just one type of mentoring, but several. Here are some of them:

  • Formal and informal mentoring: In the first (formal) the organisation is in charge of determining who will participate, what process will be followed, what the objectives will be and is subject to evaluation policies; an example of this is corporate training programmes. On the other hand, the second (informal), the participants define the objectives and the process, without responding to any request from the company, as the mentor and the mentoree determine the times and processes internally, and it does not have an evaluation policy; an example of this type of mentoring is the dynamic that occurs between a leader and a collaborator, to develop new skills and competences on a day-to-day basis.
  • Peer to peer: The relationship is between people who hold the same rank, with the aim that they share their own knowledge with each other and thus complement the peer. This horizontal relationship makes no distinction between mentor and mentee. It is often used in academia, but companies also see great potential in it, as it provides an opportunity for leadership training.
  • Express mentoring: Responds to informal and circumstantial meetings between the mentor and the mentoree. Although there is no follow-up, knowledge can be transmitted. Networking, as well as congresses and conferences are examples of this type of mentoring.
  • Reverse mentoring: This would be different from peer to peer, as it is between two people with different ranks and roles, and the mentee gives back knowledge or generational perspective to the mentor by having the mentor learn from the mentee about his or her way of seeing things. This encourages their interaction to nurture the learning process.
  • Group mentoring: This is when there is a mentor and a group of people who are involved in the same project or have a common interest. Group meetings are a good way of doing this, as it invites participants to share valuable information. An example of this is external consultancies where meetings are held to follow up on specific projects or to acquire new knowledge.
  • Cross mentoring: This type of mentoring is based on the exchange of mentors and mentees. Although it usually occurs in the educational sphere, organisations and companies also carry it out, for example when exchanging collaborators between areas so that they can learn about the practices and processes of other departments that influence their work or when exchanging professionals between headquarters in different countries or regions.


What is mentoring for in a company?

Companies can benefit greatly from mentoring because the knowledge and skills of employees are managed in a controlled way. This makes it possible, to a certain extent, for employees to be more satisfied, as it enhances those qualities in them that are most valuable in the organisation of which they are a part. In turn, it also benefits both the mentor and the company.


How does business mentoring work?

Mentoring works with certain general precepts, such as:

  • Passing on the “know-how” of the mentor (with all his or her experience) to the mentee.
  • To develop the potential of the employees, by taking advantage of the knowledge transfer from the mentor (through experiences and facing real work problems) to the employees. This also makes it very practical.
  • Shorten the learning curve for employees requiring mentoring, so that they can adapt quickly to what is needed in the company, effectively.
  • To accompany employees in a holistic way, so that they also take ownership of the organisational culture.
  • Identify obstacles for the company as it provides a deeper understanding of the employees, their relationships and level of performance, making it possible to identify obstacles that limit the development of the team or the organisation.


Benefits of a business mentoring programme

In this way, business mentoring promises a number of benefits, both for employees and for the company, ranging from productivity to talent development and retention, for example. Below we will discuss in detail the advantages of a business mentoring programme.


Benefits for the company

Some of the advantages for companies are:

  • Strengthen leadership, one that is in line with the company’s strategic objectives.
  • It promotes a policy of action focused on the achievement of objectives.
  • It allows talent to be identified, retained and directed towards specific projects.
  • Increases team loyalty.
  • Productivity grows.
  • Helps save on costs associated with training new members
  • Improve internal communication and the working environment
  • Facilitates the transmission of the company’s values and organisational culture

Benefits for employees

For employees, some of the benefits include:

  • It develops new skills that are generated through the mentor’s experiences and increased practical knowledge and understanding of what is covered.
  • Improves the analysis of a situation, which is focused on decision making.
  • Identify opportunities through constant feedback and mentoring.
  • Increases the active listening skills of employees.
  • Reinforces discipline.
  • It develops creativity and the search for solutions.
  • Increase the network of contacts.
  • You gain another insight into the evolution of their performance.


How to set up a mentoring programme in your company?

This can be summarised in some general steps to consider if you want to set up a business mentoring programme:

  1. Selecting the right mentor: It is necessary to find the person who will guide the process, leaders capable of transmitting the values of your company and who will be an example for the younger ones.
  2. Check the composition of the teams: Take special care in choosing the teams that will be part of the mentoring, so that the parties fit together and so that the exchange that the organisation needs takes place.
  3. Set goals and purposes: The areas to be worked on during the mentoring programme should be clear.
  4. Make sure that everyone follows the process: This needs to be explained clearly and in detail at the outset to avoid problems in the course of the programme.
  5. Promotes confidentiality between the parties: Trust is the basis for a successful programme, so both mentor and mentee must be able to speak freely and in a safe space during the programme.
  6. Create a communication strategy: This is important so that everyone in the company understands what the objectives of the programme are and how they can be part of it.


Qualities of a good mentor

Here are some key aspects of a good mentor: 

  • Has a clear target orientation
  • You must inspire your trainees
  • It is important that you apply strategies in approaching the programme and achieving the objectives.
  • Knowledgeable about what he/she is going to address
  • Active listening should be practised on an ongoing basis
  • Humble in the knowledge that they don’t have to know everything, while putting aside prejudices and hasty judgements


If you want to set up and implement a business mentoring programme in your organisation, you can do so with the help of your HR department and Kilpatrick.