Part-Time or Full-Time Mentoring ?

© 2001, Barry Sweeny

Generally, at the start of a new mentoring program, people do not consider this question. In fact, most mature mentoring programs never seriously consider this question. However, the possibilities and reasons for such consideration are many and everyone should consider it.

Part Time Mentoring:

Typically, mentoring is one more “duty as assigned” which is simply added on top of all the work of a mentor’s existing, full time responsibilities. When that happens, the time for mentoring is either borrowed from other tasks, which are then dealt with after hours, or the time for mentoring is pretty minimal, and
so are the resulting mentoring experience and benefits for the protege and organization.

Eventually, programs that expect greater results from mentoring must face this question and realize they must provide the daily, job-embedded professional time needed to adequately carry out existing responsibilities and to effectively mentor someone. Solutions range from reducing the mentor’s own work load, simplifying the challenges of that work by adding extra support, paying a stipend for the after-hours work time required (to allow mentoring during the day), and other creative adjustments.


Full Time Mentoring:

It may seem to be too costly to even consider full time mentoring, yet many organizations have found ways to do exactly that. When they have, these organizations have captured many of the results they expected AND they have discovered a ton of unanticipated benefits from using full time mentors. In fact, the trend is beginning to move more and more toward this solution.

Almost always and in every kind of setting and organization, there are multiple initiatives underway to drive improvements in employee performance and bottom line results. Here are some examples:

  • Teacher staff development to improve student achievement also includes work with curriculum, instructional materials, formal assessment of student progress, student learning standards, teacher evaluation, teacher professional growth in strategies and content, issues of initial and on-going certification, and alignment of all of these.
  • Leadership development of middle managers includes self, supervisor, and 360 degree peer or direct report assessments of competencies, professional growth goals and plans, issues of certification sometimes apply, and other strategic initiatives for team building, skills development, and content training.
  • Youth mentoring can include elements of character development, role modeling, skill building, academic remediation and growth, personal development and self confidence, leadership development, career planning and decision making, social skills, and spiritual development.

Each one of these individual but critical initiatives must be addressed, and each is probably crying out for more time to address it adequately. The question here really is, how many initiatives must there be before an organization will decide that more time is needed if performance and results are be to improved?

When THAT happens, consider full time mentoring to support all those initiatives.


Finding Resources to Support Dedicated Mentoring Time

This complex mix of initiatives has a direct impact on how mentoring is defined and what is expected of the mentoring experience. However, this very complexity ALSO creates some terrific opportunities. For example:

  • A narrow-thinking organization may struggle to assemble the resources it needs to support adequate mentoring time for its proteges
  • A flexibly thinking organization can see that they have resources for several improvement initiatives which can, in part, be used to support training, support groups, and a host of other development activities AND mentoring.

For example, new teacher mentoring and induction can be partially supported by technology, literacy, math-science, and other professional growth initiatives which have money because the mentors will spend a good share of their time helping new teachers with those same specific areas of need.

In other words, full time mentoring can be supported by discovering ways in which mentoring can serve the multiple existing agendas of the organization, in fact, the very areas of need for growth by the protégés in that organization.

The Factors to Consider in Full or Part Time Mentoring

Part Time Mentor & Full Work Load

Part Time Mentoring & Partial Work Release

Full Time Mentoring

> Problems finding substitutes to release mentors from work & cover for them when they are gone to help the protégé> Mentor or protégé release is disruptive of work schedules and wprk processes

> Few opportunities to coach for performance and results improvement

> Limited time for all mentor tasks means that some needed activities are not done

> Minimal protégé and mentor professional growth occurs

> Reduced work load for mentor (and protégé?)
> Minimizes cost and disruption to mentor’s own work

> Increased opportunity to coach on the job and to improve performance and results

> Mentors can give time needed to accelerate protégé growth

> A good balance between cost and results is achieved

> Most expensive option
> Mentors develop high impact mentoring skills so mentoring effectiveness soars

> Greatest improvement in employee performance and results

> Eliminates disruptions to mentor’s own work and the problems of trying to “cover” that work

> Grows positive leadership for improving performance and results