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Mentoring involves a one-to-one personal relationship founded on mutual trust. It is a voluntary arrangement and a process in which one person helps another by listening and offering advice and encouragement to assist transition and development.

Mentoring has been shown to be a powerful intervention for 50+ customers wanting to return to work. However, it is sometimes overlooked as an option for people outside executive professional development.

  • A two-year ‘Ageless at Work’ mentoring action research project conducted by Tick Tock (a project funded by the European Social Fund) explored how mentoring can help people aged 50+ to overcome barriers to inclusion in the labour market and lifelong learning.
  • The findings showed mentoring offered a supportive environment which nurtures a sense of self-worth and personal control and recommended mentoring as a primary intervention within adult employability programmes.
  • See Resources on this page for two mentoring guidance packs arising from the Ageless at Work project.

Mentoring is frequently compared with coaching as a coach may use mentoring skills and a mentor occasionally doubles as a coach. Both are useful skills for working with 50+ customers. But coaching and mentoring are different techniques.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching Mentoring
• Concerned with task • Concerned with implications beyond the task
• Focuses on skills and performance • Focuses on capability and potential
• Primarily a line manager or trainer’s role • Agenda set by the learner
• Agenda set by or with the coach • Emphasises feedback and reflection by the learner
• Emphasises feedback to the learner • Typically a longer-term relationship, often ‘for life’
• Typically addresses a short-term need • Feedback and discussion primarily about implicit, intuitive issues and behaviours
•Feedback and discussion primarily explicit

Source: Everyone Needs a Mentor, Fostering Talent in Your Organisation, 4th Edition, David Clutterbuck, CIPD.

This case study shows how a job coach was able to help an employer accommodate the disability of her customer.

Case study: job coaching (Shaw Trust)

Our customer suffers from cerebral palsy which means that he has severe mobility limitation down one side of his body. His employer was finding it difficult to accommodate his disability in some areas of work in the store in which he worked.

We assigned to our customer and his employer a Shaw Trust job coach who:

  • Worked with the employer to look at roles available to our customer
  • Considered what the customer was able and not able to do
  • Explored ways around some of the work that it was believed could not be done which included the level of height at which he could work and weights he could reasonably carry.

We often find the skills of the job coach are really helpful in getting employers to understand that with a few reasonable adjustments it is possible to accommodate a variety of disabilities. In this customer’s case, the job coach discovered that it was possible for him to complete all of the tasks required and worked with the employer and some of the other staff to create a new area rota. This meant that he could stack things below eye level, and was designated areas where there was no glass or other fragile goods to be stacked. Overall, the employer got exactly what he would have got had this role been given to a non disabled person, without any additional cost to the business.

As a development process, mentoring has benefits for both the mentee (your 50+ customer) and for you in your role as mentor.

Benefits of mentoring

Mentee: 50 customer:Mentor
A demonstration of how the service values them" • A means to help and guide customers in aspiring to their goals
• An objective, supportive, non-threatening source of help and support • Increased job satisfaction, sense of value and status
• A means by which to explore and take new directions and make behavioural change • Wider experience in supporting change management
• Improved opportunities for personal and career advancement • Potential to develop and refresh leadership knowledge, skills and qualities
• Greater confidence and skills in positive risk-taking and decision making • Greater self awareness
• Access to someone who can broaden their perspective and ways of working • Openings for new and enhanced career prospects

Your ability to develop a formal mentoring programme will depend on the type of service delivery you offer your 50+ customers. You may need to use informal, less structured approaches. Either way, you may want to explore the different forms of mentoring:

  • E-mentoring
  • Peer and group mentoring
  • Executive mentoring

Forms of mentoring

Electronic mentoring (e-mentoring) involves the use of email, internet or telephone technology as a communication tool through which mentor/mentee relationships are conducted.

Example: a careers advisory service in the South East used a web-based portal to provide an information, advice and guidance (IAG) service to 50+ workers entering or re-entering the labour market. The organisation had not anticipated that mentoring would form part of its provision; however, it found that informal mentoring by email became a useful support for some of its customers. Informal mentoring via telephone also became a useful form of supplementary support.

A particular benefit of email mentoring was that mentees were not restricted to office opening hours to pose queries or comments so long as they had access to a computer. This provided a flexible communication tool enabling mentees to send their emails at whatever time of day they wanted, fitting in with people’s varied lifestyles. Although there were insufficient resources to provide a live response service, a regular turnaround was guaranteed.
Source: Ageless at Work – Mentoring in Action, Age Concern Training (now ‘Age UK’)

Peer and group mentoring involves 50+ customers providing support to other 50+ customers in either a one-to-one setting or in peer groups / action learning sets. This approach can also be helpful to advisers who can link in with their own peers to explore solutions.

Example: The Age Concern Slough AgeWorks project used informal one-to-one peer mentoring approaches to help long term unemployed people aged 50+ to regain and retain confidence in their ability to look for jobs. They also found that the mentors gained too, as their own self confidence was boosted by a greater awareness of their own strengths.
Source: Ageless at Work – Mentoring in Action, Age Concern Training (now ‘Age UK’)

Executive mentoring is the mentoring of executives, directors, managers and professionals. It is also a very effective personal development tool for advisers acting as either a mentor to a colleague or as a mentee receiving support from another professional or expert. Executive mentoring has also been proved successful in initiatives working with 50+ customers as it draws on their talent and experience both as mentors and mentees.

Example: PRIME (an organisation helping people aged 50+ set up their own businesses in UK) have offers a free mentoring service. It encourages experienced individuals to share their wisdom, knowledge and expertise with others wanting a sounding board to explore initial thoughts around self-employment. Non

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.