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Being a mentor. This is how it works!

Would you like to make a significant contribution to the development and learning of your colleagues? Then get started with being a mentor. On this page you will find all kinds of tools that are important in your role as a mentor during the entire process.

Getting started with mentoring

As a mentor, you play an important role in the learning process of your colleague. The mentor role is the result of Schouten & Nelissen’s vision of learning. In learning, we distinguish between formal and informal learning:

  • 80% we learn through experience (informal learning)
  • 20% are learned through a structured training program (formal learning)

Informal learning

You have been engaged in informal learning since birth. Think of the times you built a block house. Informal learning is about learning by doing in practice. For example, by exchanging knowledge and experience with colleagues, asking for feedback yourself or taking on a challenging new job. In this context, informal learning means that the employee does not consciously have the intention to learn, there is no defined learning goal.

Formal learning

Unlike informal learning, formal learning is all about the structured and systematic form of learning. You learn within an environment designed for learning. The goal is to obtain a recognition, certificate or degree.

The power lies in the combination

We believe that informal learning and formal learning can reinforce each other. This increases the efficiency of informal learning and strengthens organizations. We do this by bringing formal and informal together in integrated learning.

More so than classical learning, integrated learning is geared to the individual and the questions that arise in his or her work. But always with the organization's objectives as the starting point. The strength of integrated learning is above all the continuity of the learning process in the individual's own work environment. We do this by:

  • Putting the individual learning question central
  • Making the link between learning and one's own practice in each assignment
  • Making the learning process more continuous and less time and place bound
  • Adding the mentor in the workplace. He plays an important role in the reflection and translation of learning insights to the own workplace.
Man en vrouw bespreken wat met elkaar op een laptop achter een bureau.

The importance of your role

When you take a training course, you want to experience the results of it and see them back in your workplace. Studies on the translation of learning to the workplace show the great effect of support in the work environment by the supervisor and colleagues (source: Learning Transfer System Inventory). So your role is important in actually improving your colleague's performance. You do this by discussing the learning goals with your colleague, providing feedback, encouraging practice and offering your help when things are not going well.

Man en vrouw zittend aan tafel achter laptop bespreken iets op papier.

Your colleague is in the lead

The most important person in the learning process is the person doing the learning. This means that your colleague will be in the lead during the learning process. Of course, Schouten & Nelissen will give your colleague guidance for taking on this role. This means therefore that your colleague will take the initiative to schedule discussions with you. However, there may always be reasons why your colleague does not (as yet) take the initiative. Don’t wait for it to happen and ask after it.

Learning objectives and opportunities

The participant formulates personal objectives. Help him/her to make those as specific as possible: what will this colleague do differently/better after this training?

The improvement of the performance in the workplace requires the opportunity to use the newly acquired knowledge and skills. This can be done in a meeting, by giving a presentation, by managing a project or by having a discussion with a colleague, for example. Fact is that there are more occasions that allow us to practice than we are aware of.

The power of repetition

Depending on the duration of the mentoring process, we ask that the mentor provides at least one-hour mentoring time every two weeks.

It takes approximately 40 days for new knowledge and skills to really become ingrained. It is therefore important to repeat the newly acquired knowledge and skills during this period. A simple question such as: ‘What have your learned during the meeting and how are you going to apply this?’ is already helpful in strengthening the knowledge and skills.

Continuous learning

After the training, you will still have a role in the development of your colleague. Together you will look at the opportunities to continue to apply the acquired skills in the workplace. An enthusiastic and inspiring attitude can already be enough.

The return

During the learning process, you will have made agreements with your colleague on the follow‑up steps. Apart from these agreements, you can of course make a few suggestions to increase the return on training:

  • Reminders

Now and then ask your colleague how the acquired skills are going. This helps to embed that what has been learned. This can be done in person, by having a chat in the corridor for example but can of course also take place by e-mail. Make it easy for yourself and put reminders in your diary up to six months after the training.

  • Exemplary behaviour

Your colleague will continue to learn from you even after the training. So continue to be aware of your exemplary role towards your colleague.

  • Opportunities

Sometimes an opportunity arises that is perfect for your colleague so they can continue to develop him/herself. Be alert to this and give him/her some extra encouragement to seize the opportunity with both hands.

  • Practical exercises

After every meeting, your colleague schedules an appointment with you. Together you will look back at the past week during which your colleague has practiced those skills. What is going well and what can be improved?


Depending on the length of the program, we require the mentor to spend a minimum of 1 hour per 2 weeks mentoring. Good luck with your mentorship!