Research on Mentoring in a Spanish Context

By Dr. Rosa Soler


My research into mentoring processes grew from my interest in how to recruit and
retain talent in organizations, and in the professional and personal development of people with potential who make up an organization The reading of the book by Margo
Murray has led me to undertake research on mentoring strategy for my work towards
a Ph.D. in Pedagogy.

Research Goals and Program Identification

The goal of the research for my doctoral thesis was to analyze mentoring as a training strategy in the workplace, in the context of a national business, determining the features it is composed of, systemizing its development, and assessing the benefits
it affords the organization and participants.

I did the research at an important leading company in the telecommunications sector,
Grupo Telefónica, from April 1999 to July of the same year. Corporate Human Resources management expressed their desire to assess the mentoring program that
they have been carrying out since October 1998.

Program Description

The mentoring program’s goal is to develop the talent and capabilities of the protégés
to prepare them to become the group’s managers of the future. The protégés are high-potential young people with little or no experience in management positions, who have shown outstanding performance and are prepared to assume greater responsibilities and challenges.

The mentors are upper-level managers with the company who agree to continually guide and assist the protégés in the development of their professional career, and provide them the benefit of a mentor’s support, advice and experience so that they can take on managerial responsibilities in the shortest term possible.

To attain its goals, the duration of the program was set at three years.

Criteria for Program Success

It was determined that for the program to be a success the following key factors were necessary:

  • to establish a commitment on the part of the mentor and of the protégé to make their partnership a success
  • the partners must build a relationship of mutual trust
  • the partners should hold frequent meetings


Throughout the research process, I employed the following instruments and tools
for gathering data:

  • Semi-structured interviews, for mentors and protégés
  • Questionnaires, for the protégés
  • Observations made in field notes
  • Analysis of documents such as letters of presentation for mentors and protégés and the guide for the mentor and the protégé

The protégés completed questionnaires before the semi-structured interview. They were given thirty minutes to respond. They were then interviewed on the basis of the answers they gave. For this purpose, I drew up a matrix in which I wrote questions to ask in the interview linked to each question answered on the questionnaire.

The interview with the protégés was recorded on tape to keep a complete record of the information obtained. It should be mentioned that the fact that they were being recorded may have led some protégés to express themselves in a less than sincere manner, but through their gestures, postures and subsequent conversations outside the interview room we obtained some information that was not made explicit during the interview.

The interviews with mentors were not recorded on tape, as the company considered
that inappropriate for this group. The interviews were transcribed manually. The
questionnaire was not given to this group, as it was considered that we should not take up too much of their time, given that they are upper-level managers at the company.

Research Findings

The research study indicates that the critical factors for the three indicators
of success (described above) are:

  • Both mentor and protégé should have certain specific characteristics in common.*1
  • It is an advantage for the mentor to have some prior experience in a previous
  • The protégé should choose the mentor and make first contact.*2
  • The mentor should provide support in the initial phase and facilitate informal
    meetings, holding those meetings in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere.
  • Meetings should occur at least once a month, using the appropriate equipment.*3
  • The Mentoring Program Coordinator should demonstrate * the advantages to be gained from taking part in a mentoring program.

Recommendations Based on the Researcher’s Findings

The proposals for optimizing the mentoring process were:

  • Use it as an appropriate instrument for retaining and recruiting talent.*4
  • Use it as a development strategy for people with potential.
  • Ensure active support from company management.
  • Invest time and resources in its planning.
  • Establish a mentoring program coordinator-manager as a key component.*5
  • Ensure the constant presence of the coordinator.*6
  • Implement first with pilot groups. *7
  • Develop a plan for internal communications. *7
  • Train the mentor and the protégé.
  • Focus attention and care on choosing/pairing mentor and protégé.*8

Editor’s Comments
This article was edited by Barry Sweeny, who raises the following questions regarding
the findings and recommendations of this study (related to items marked with an
asterix and # so…*3). These questions make no judgments on this article. Rather
they are provided in acknowledgement that this summary is not the full dissertation,
and that several of these findings differ significantly from those of other researchers.
As such, readers may be left misunderstanding or unable to interpret the findings.
Readers should refer to the complete dstatements for guidance, and not try to
implement a program based on just the information found in any one article.

Editor’s questions:

*1. It is unclear which characteristics and how the study determined this finding. In fact, a number of studies have determined the opposite, stating that diversity in the pair requires training in building a successful partnership, but provides increase
learning opportunities, since each member of the pair sees things differently. A few reports do support this author’s findings. Sorry for the confusion. The difference is that people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, gender, etc. CAN work together, and probably learn more from each other, IF they are adequately prepared for these challenges and supported and held accountable for working on their relationship, and are NOT just assigned to each other.

The reader should check the “Synthesis of Research on Mentor-Protege Matching” found elsewhere in this research section.

*2. It is unclear how the study found this to be true. In fact, many programs, especially those with new proteges as this one has, have found proteges do not always know enough about the new career they seek to select appropriate mentors.

*3. It is clear from other studies that the number of meetings should be a function
of the goals of the mentoring pair and the press of their work together. However, research generally concludes that the more meetings, the better the attainment of goals will be.

*4. The summary does not explain how it is known that this goal is achieved, although
it routinely is achieved by mentoring programs.

*5. The summary does not provide data or explain how this conclusion was reached.
Such a coordinator is a typical strategy for program success, however.

*6. It is unclear what is meant by “presence”, especially given the critical necessity of a
confidential mentoring relationship. In that case, what presence is recommended? It is true, however, that most qualitynresearch agrees, instead calling such a “presence” monitoring and supervision.

*7. It is unclear in the summary how this conclusion was reached, why it is important,
and how to implement the recommendation.

*8. It is unclear how proteges can be allowed to choose their own mentors when
this recommendation is also offered. Perhaps this statement is aimed at proteges.