There are three differences between a mentor and a coach, and consequently between mentoring and coaching programs.
The first difference is that mentoring is non-evaluative, while coaching is based on measuring performance change, whether through company performance reviews or coaching tests. For this reason, mentors shouldn't be a direct supervisor or manager of the mentee, while coaches are often externally hired specialists or managers that are focusing on specific skill improvement areas.
When a mentee is part of a mentoring relationship, they are in the driver seat. They set the goals of the relationship and what they want to work on. They request time with the mentor, and they come to them with the problems they want to solve.
In coaching, the coach or supervisor is driving the agenda for the relationship. This stems from the fact that coaching is performance related. There’s a specific skill or goal that the coach is an expert on or can provide advice to improve performance of the coachee. Their guidance never stretches beyond helping the worker develop the skill.
In mentoring, a mentee has specific needs and needs to discuss challenges that are not necessarily tied to company-wide, top-down performance initiatives. Mentoring also carries the benefit of building your network by meeting multiple mentors and making new connections.
In coaching, a specific skill gap has been identified by the organization, and one or more coaches are selected to provide a generalized program to make improvements. Content is reused and generalized, and a coach wouldn’t typically be a networking opportunity for a coachee.
Organizations that are looking at enhancing employee engagement, performance and culture need to be clear on whether the employees would benefit more from mentorship or coaching.
If an organization is looking to generally improve performance, culture, knowledge transfer and speed of career development, mentoring is best. In this case, every mentee has different needs and a personal mentorship relationship will accomplish all of these.
If a specific skill gap has been identified by the organization, for example, complaints about new managers or middle management being inexperienced or not up to par, a coaching program might be a better fit to provide a standardized, repeatable training.
Mentoring is needed when:
Coaching is needed when: