Mentoring, which is practised in many organisations today, evolved from theories of adult development. Mentoring frameworks are put in place generally to support other organisational initiatives of talent management, career development and knowledge retention.

Mentoring usually involves the pairing of a young, inexperienced employee with a much more senior person in the organisational hierarchy. The process, as a rule, takes place outside the direct supervisory or progression line relationship.

However, in many organisations, mentoring initiatives quickly unravel and wither away before its potential and inherent benefits can be realised. This is often due to mentoring initiatives being poorly understood and hastily implemented or confused with other organisational initiatives like coaching and counselling.

The success of mentoring is dependent on sustained effort and a good understanding of the principles and benefits that the process provides.

Mentoring has the following distinct salient features from other organisational developmental strategies: 

* Focus: The mentoring process is to help the mentee get a bigger picture of how the organisation works and to develop greater awareness of organisational politics and culture.

* Duration: The mentoring process takes a broad, long-term perspective. The development of an on-going mutually beneficial career relationship between the mentor and mentee generally lasts several years as the new employee grows, matures and gains confidence in positive ways within the organisation.

* Relationship: The mentoring relationship is essentially power-free as the mentor comes from outside the progression line of the mentee. There is no direct supervisory involvement of the mentor in the daily work of the mentee. The relationship is also based on the principles of mutual respect and value of individuals within the organisation.

* Agenda: The agenda for each mentoring session is usually set by the mentee. This encourages greater empowerment, involvement and commitment in the young employee in sustaining the process.

* Intervention: During the mentoring sessions, the mentor’s knowledge and experiences serve as the resource that will allow self-discovery and useful learning for the mentee through a stress-free environment and relationship.

In the process, the mentor also benefits by being able to re-examine successful problem-solving strategies against current realities of organisational and employee development.

Successful mentoring

Furthermore, a successful mentoring framework rests on the following fundamental factors:

* Accessibility: The mentor remains accessible to the mentee to sustain mutual trust and commitment in the long-term success of the process.

* Patience: The mentor exercises sufficient patience because he believes in the long-term development of the individual.

* Maturity: Anger and anxiety have no place in the mentoring relationship as the success of the mentoring process depends on the emotional maturity of the individuals involved.

* Respect: The mentor provides encouragement and shows respect by listening, questioning and providing information. The mentee reciprocates by clearly understanding that the opportunity to speak freely on issues within the context of the mentoring relationship does not lead to dependency or the mentee’s work problems ending up with the mentor.

Organisations that carefully nurture and sustain successful mentoring efforts eventually reap invaluable benefits from the process. These include speeding up the integration of new employees into the organisation or work role and fostering a greater sense of belonging to the organisation.

The process also concurrently gives greater recognition and purpose to senior and more experienced individuals who fulfil the role of mentors.