Mentoring is a powerful method for personal and professional development through whereby a mentor supports a mentee in his or her personal and professional development by providing guidance and sharing expertise, experience and network contacts.

Area of application

Mentoring is an effective way of helping people to advance in their personal development and careers. In companies, universities, associations, and professional networks it is becoming increasingly popular and its potential is realized upon mutual trust and respect.

When starting a job in a new professional role or a new field, employees face new challenges, responsibilities and tasks which require adjustment. In this respect, mentoring can be a helpful and important resource to facilitate the personal development process. It can offer support and guidance for (young) employees who are in the process of growing into their new professional roles.

Corporate mentoring programs may be formal or informal and serve a variety of specific objectives, including the orientation of new employees, skills development, employee retention, and diversity enhancement.

Furthermore, future career goals of the employee (“mentee”) can be identified, which in turn would allow for the formulation of strategies of how to achieve these goals. Together with the mentor, individual opportunities can be explored.

Mentoring could have the following objectives:

  • Facilitation of onboarding
    To help new employees adjust more quickly into the organization, easily obtain information, good examples, and advice as well as to understand the organizational culture and working processes and procedures. 
  • Take up a leadership or management role
    To support especially young or new employees to grow into a management or leadership role such as a project manager (management role, dealing with complex multi-stakeholder settings, intercultural issues, etc.).
  • Planning the next career step:
    To assist the mentee to achieve their next career objective by defining the goals and supporting her or him in implementing the steps to achieve it.
  • Managing the digital transformation (Reverse mentoring)
    Senior managers or employees are mentored by younger managers or employees about technology topics, especially information technology (advances related to, for example, digital transformation).
  • Capacity development in partner organizations (e.g., QI institutions, ministries, private companies and civil society organizations).
  • Integration into international metrology or standardization networks
    With the assistance of the mentor, the mentee could access appropriate networks and build personal relationships with members and professional groups.


A mentoring relationship involves a one-on-one interaction between two individuals. The frequency and mode of interaction can vary depending on the specifics of the mentoring relationship. The target participants are staff from QI institutions, ministries, or other organizations relevant in a project context in partner countries.

A constructive mentoring relationship is a learning process that provides benefits both to the mentee and the mentor. While the mentee learns and works toward achieving his or her defined goals, the benefits for the mentor are more subtle and stem from a change of perspective as well as from personal self-reflection on, for example, his or her leadership role or communication style.
A distinction must be made between a mentoring and a coaching relationship. While a mentor passes on his/her years of professional experience and competence to the mentee, the coach has formal psychology education.  


Virtual mode

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic virtual mentoring is becoming more widespread. With today’s technology there is a suite of communication tools available for this style of mentoring, such as email, chat, mobile apps, and video conferencing.
Especially in a project context, virtual mentoring can be used as a capacity development measure in partner institutions or in other relevant organizations.
In a virtual collaboration with contact restrictions, it is more difficult to build up a relationship of trust and to understand the specific work situation of the mentee. Therefore, in virtual mentoring particular attention should be paid to building personal relationships and trust, which is key for the success of mentoring. (see “Learning Experience: Assessing the situation on the ground”).

The advantage of virtual mentoring lies in its flexibility. Scheduling a continuous exchange is easier as there is no need to travel and contact can be maintained even when one party is away from their usual workplace. In addition, mentoring could also be offered to people working in remote locations or when the workforce is distributed.

In virtual relationships, some mentoring activities such as shadowing (where the mentee physically follows and observes the mentor), role modelling and attending events together should be adapted to the virtual space (e.g., inclusion of mentees in remote-work activities of mentors, guidance by example).


In a mentoring relationship, the mentor shares her or his experience and specific expertise with the mentee who benefits from their mentor’s working and life experience. In addition, the mentor often serves as a role model for the mentee. He or she learns from observing how the mentor behaves, both in the mentoring relationship and in different work situations.

At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentee should formulate and set goals for the mentee following the SMART framework. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. Each element of the SMART framework works together to create a goal that is carefully planned, clear and trackable.

The form of cooperation and rules (such as liability, mutual respect, confidentiality, etc.) are jointly defined in a mentoring agreement.

Good communication skills are essential for the success of the mentoring relationship. This includes active listening, asking open questions and non-verbal communication.

Giving feedback is an important part of the mentoring process. Defining rules for providing effective feedback can be helpful.

Another method for mentoring is guiding through example. This entails inviting the mentee to the mentor’s (virtual) activities or meetings.




Mentoring is recommended over a period of six to twelve months. The frequency and the length of (virtual) meetings is individually agreed between the mentor and the mentee.



Mentoring programs within companies, universities, associations, or networks are usually free of charge. Unlike a coaching relationship, mentoring relationships are usually unpaid. Mentors offer their experience and expertise to the mentees on a voluntary basis or as part of their job responsibilities.



No specific tools are required. Communication via telephone or skype can be sufficient. If necessary video-conferencing platforms (preferred by PTB such as DFNconf and Tixeo) could also be used.




  • Mentor:
    the individual offering his or her expertise, experience, guidance and access to his or her network
  • Mentee:
    the individual who receives the guidance from the mentor.


Gudrun Becker

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