For many, mentoring, coaching and counselling are interchangeable terms. However, their function within the workplace setting is becoming increasingly separate from each other. Each serving their own specific purposes towards the overall goal of performance improvement.

But what are those specific purposes in relation to the workplace? Are they always beneficial?

How Mentoring, Coaching and Counselling Work in Practice

It’s probably best to break down their individual definitions first before assessing their effectiveness. Starting with coaching.


Coaching helps employees to improve their behavioural performance for both personal and professional success. The end result of coaching is to achieve a specific goal set and agreed by both the employee and the coach.

That goal is reached through non-directive collaborative leadership from the coach. Listening to employee questioning and then providing feedback on those questions to help an employee achieve their desired goal.  

The coach often has little to no knowledge of the inner workings of a company and instead focuses on improving individual behaviours to improve outcomes for an employee. 


Mentors perform more of a support and advisory role than coaches.

Mentors usually take the form of individuals who do know the inner workings of the company or a certain career trajectory and are therefore in a great position to pass on knowledge, skills, and wisdom learnt through treading the same path as the mentee at an earlier stage.

The goal is usually overall career progression and in some cases direct succession. Sometimes the relationship will be directive, whereas at other moments mentors simply provide a resource for the mentee to lean on.  


Counselling and coaching have the same goal of performance improvement, but they come at it from different angles. Counselling usually helps those who are performing below expected standards, which can be due to a variety of reasons such as poor mental health.

This role is very much directive, offering solutions to the problems employees face when trying to perform their best. For that reason, counselling may not last as long as coaching and mentoring, since once problematic behaviour and poor performance has been addressed, the goal has been achieved.

What are the Benefits Associated with These Services?

Coaching has been shown by many studies to improve employee performance. According to the International Coaching Federation 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills.

Furthermore, 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more. 

When it comes to mentoring, a five-year study carried out by research firm Gartner revealed that 25% of employees who enrolled in a mentoring programme had a salary-grade change, compared to only 5% of workers who did not participate.

The same study uncovered that mentees were also promoted five times more often than those not in a mentoring programme. Whilst retention rates were higher for both mentees (22% more) and mentors (20% more) than for employees who did not participate in a mentoring programme.

Counselling has been proven to be no less effective demonstrated by a 2010 systematic review of available research evidence. It showed that workplace counselling interventions have been found to reduce employee sickness absence rates in organisations by as much as 50%, saving them thousands of pounds a year.

What’s more, a similar study found that workplace counselling led to “significant improvements on most attitude-to-work factors: opportunity for control, skill use, job demand, clarity, feeling valued, interpersonal contact, competence, work spill-over, adequacy of pay and job satisfaction”.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Using These Types of Services?

Whilst there’s no doubting all three can be impactful, there are just a few instances where these services could prove detrimental to employee performance.

When it comes to coaching, particularly in high-pressure environments, the constant expectation to improve performance can leave some employees feeling physically and emotionally drained.

Some environments would benefit more with counselling as opposed to coaching to help those individuals deal with issues such as stress management.

Mentoring can also have similar issues whereby a mentor wants a mentee to follow a certain path or perform certain tasks in a certain way because that’s how they did them. Everyone is different, and sometimes a different approach is required to achieve the same outcome.

What’s more mentors are sometimes part of the workforce themselves, meaning they have little time to dedicate to nurturing younger talent within the organisation.

Improve Employee Performance with a Range of Support Services

Coaching, mentoring and counselling all have their place within a company looking to improve employee performance. You may choose to have just one or all three, depending on your desired outcomes.

Health and wellbeing is key to a productive workforce. With DocHQ we can help you to support your employees through any issues they are experiencing through our mental health counselling service. We can also provide a range of additional health benefits including annual health checks, wellness seminars, and sick note administration support.

To speak to a member of our team about creating your own tailored employee benefits package, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

DocHQ Ltd is a Health Tech company improving choices. We help you connect efficiently to health support and advice whether you are at home, work or travelling. See our website for our services or call us on 0330 088 0645.